Let us be honest here. I have not kept up with power metal as much as other genres in 2014. For whatever reason, be it time spent with black and death, or writing to many classic horror reviews, power, progressive, and some traditional metal went unnoticed until the end of the year. Instead of combing through other lists and writing sneaky retrospectives of albums I only listened to once or not at all, I thought it would be more honest if I acknowledged all the really cool things that were finally made clear in the late hours of December.
I have often discussed with others the role of power, progressive, and traditional metal in the realm of greater heavy metal. From certain angles, it seems that black, death, and doom have had the largest crossover successes and celebrated records on non-metal specific sites and lists. I have always felt power, progressive, and traditional are more insular genres, with their own triumphs celebrated by their fans. This may be the skewed perspective of an outsider, but end of the year lists are always teeming with great records that seemed to have escaped detection. Here we go…
NOBLE BEAST – Noble Beast
Released: March 22nd, 2014
One of the most discussed records in 2014 was the debut of Noble Beast. One of the reasons this debut took over was not because it was another good record by an established band with legacy but rather the opposite. The music on Noble Beast, while soaring and majestic, did not come with layers of gloss and shine. The production was similar to something you would hear in a small club. This humble production, aside from the double kick and choral vocals, made the bad seem approachable, leading to a record that seemed to just be having the time of its life. Take well crafted melodies and stellar songwriting and add a feeling of celebration rather than replication and Noble Beast becomes more and more desirable and easier and easier to praise. Out of everything, this is the record I am most pissed that I had pass me by.
EPICA – The Quantum Engine
Released: May 2nd, 2014
In terms of large bombastic power metal, it is difficult to fault Dutch outfit Epica for falling into this very expected role. The things I mentioned about Noble Beast, and even what I am about to say below for Triosphere, does not apply here as The Quantum Engine is very traditional in, at least, what people expect from power metal. Soft female vocals that float over an endless glossy landscape, segmented by gruff male vocals and instances of operatic support. All of this would be incredibly boring if it were not so goddamn fun and well operated. By the track “Sense Without Sanity ,” The Quantum Engine positions itself as one of the most enjoyable experiences of the year. This is especially interesting coming from a style that has been mired in dullness. The Quantum Engine is a cinematic experience that may not represent everything power metal is capable of, but shines out its most popular qualities.
TRIOSPHERE – The Heart of the Matter
Released: November 7th, 2014
I believe one of the first things I noticed about Triosphere was the fact that it was fronted by the very talented Ida Haukland. Female vocalist in power, progressive, and traditional metal are not unique, however Haukland does not assume the role of the solo vixen seen in other bands but takes the very unflashy role of commanding singer and bassist. Haukland’s throaty cries anchor Triosphere’s newest record and command The Heart of the Matter as a competent and confident power/progressive record. The Heart of the Matter does not succeed solely because of Haukland’s modest role as Triosphere seems to be a fully operating unit rather than a flashy production, which leads to a great album with subtle but commanding
VIATHYN – Cynosure
Released: October 7th, 2014
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that power and progressive metal exists without major label support. This was one of the qualities that made Noble Beast so interesting above. Viathyn is a another example of a band that seems to be doing alright for themselves with self produced products and merchandise at small show prices. This is all slightly surprising, as Cynosure has a deep production quality that exhibits some solid craftsmanship in terms of recording and execution. Viathyn soars on the wings of speed and Canadian fury with this self produced album, and gives me hope for a future underground style of DIY power metal. Combine this with the breaout success of Noble Beast, with the past accolades for bands like Pharaoh, and power metal may have the potential for crossover success.
FALCONER – Black Moon Rising
Released: June 6th, 2014
When Falconer was reviewed by Luke Maudsley it confused me because I thought I kept up with this band. Black Moon Rising is difficult to forget as its album cover is a flaming bird. Additionally, the band’s embrace of masculine speed metal combined with delicate care in their theatrical vocals makes the album an enjoyable explosion of avian fire. Falconer has also been consistent for nearing 15 years with little change in their output or dedication at traveling over the speed limit. If this band seemed at all familiar, it is only becasue their music feels comforting and something that I would have already picked up and been enjoying for years.
CRUACHAN – Blood for the Blood God
Released: October 7th, 2014
This pick (reviewed here by fellow Hollywood Metal writer Luke Maudsley) is traveling more towards the dark horizons of black metal but the folk atmosphere in Cruachan’s 7th record is enough to allow it to fraternize with the others on this list. Folk metal, whatever it is, usually associates more with power, progressive, and traditional than with black metal audiences. Blood for the Blood God has its share of raspy vocals, but the folk elements make up the largest portion of this record. With all of that said, the style and atmosphere that Cruachan strives for, in addition to their utilization of an under represented style like Celtic metal, is something notable. However, they also have some really fun outfits. I sort of enjoy folk metal when it sounds like frozen soil and leather armor.
DYNAZTY – Renatus
Released: March 28th, 2014
Dynazty is a perfect example of a style of music that is somewhat similar to others but is done with such forceful conviction that it is difficult not to get excited. With the entire record running in 5th gear, Renatus is enhanced by deep production and electronic elements. This may sound unappealing but, never fear, Dynazty is a group of young and vibrant musicians who seem to be making music without much thought to their audiences expectations. Dynazty represents a potential in making that one record which is going to wow people. I do not think it is this but may be one day they are going to get the glory they have been working so very hard for. With all of that said, Renatus is a servicalb eand decent record which showcases a group of fine and talented musicians. Lets us hope for a different color scheme for the new album.
EDGUY – Space Police
Released: April 18th, 2014
Edguy as an entity has stayed relatively in tact since the 90’s. This is about as much as I can comment, as I sort of lost track of the band after Mandrake. Space Police, at least from the cover, looks incredibly pulpy and only entertaining if there is at least one good song on the record. The fact that Space Police is consistently fun and entertaining only makes this record more enjoyable and suprising. This is after looking at the tracklist and finding song titles like “Do Me Like A Caveman, ” and a cover of Falco’s “Rock me Amadeus.” If you spend any time with me, you will know I love cheesy space shit and Edguy isn’t embarrassed at the amount of fun they are having on Space Police. The fact that it is above average in terms of quality is a godsend. I love space shit.
XANDRIA – Sacrificium
Released: May 2nd, 2014
You are here for a reason. You are here because you want slightly heavy symphonic power metal that is mostly focused on a melodic center with female vocals. This is why you are here for Xandria. Though this band is entering in their 6th album, Xandria seems to be entering into it with the vigor of a debut. Xandria falls into the vixen led power metal camp, but this trope seems to be muted by the fact that their music works so well together. You would not be here if you were not expecting this sort of sound so I can not see you being upset with the product. Until the end of time, there will always be a band like this and for now, Xandria is doing just fine filling this role.
WHISPERED – Shogunate Macabre
Released: February 7th, 2014
You see, you were doing so well and then you done fucked up. I am actually glad these gentlemen are from Finland. Melodic death based around Samurais and “far east” flair seems more digestible when done by outsiders, only because the world created is no where close to reality. Like most fantasy, Whispered travels through the land of the “Orient” where revenge, honor, and the divinity of gods reign supreme. Shogunate Macabre is an above average melodic death record that just so happens to have underused the seasonings, which makes it more interesting. This is the few times when costumes could swing the music in its favor. The fact that their overall presentation is boosted by so little makes Whispered at least commendable for going to other countries and being ridiculous. I mean, where else are you going to hear a Koto in metal?