The Best Power Metal Album - Metal Storm Awards 2017





Beast In Black is so slammed with melody that they almost count as a pop revisionist band more than a metal act. We nearly put them in the Heavy/Melodic category, but this cheese stands alone even among fellow power metal artists. With a title like Berserker coming from a band called Beast In Black, though, you'd hope the parties responsible could deliver on the promise of wicked, ungodly heavy power metal when push came to shove, and if these explosive performances teach us anything, it's that Beast In Black is already synonymous with raw, insane power.

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DragonForce underwent a real renaissance a few years ago, but enjoying the newfound respect of peers and fans alike apparently hasn't reduced the band's hunger or spirit, because Reaching Into Infinity rides as hard and fast into the realms of ludicrously grandiose power metal as its predecessors. Frédéric Leclercq's increased influence over songwriting has brought DragonForce into darker, heavier, more progressive pastures that frame the band in contexts more impressive than "really quite fast"; if they keep producing albums like this one, then "reaching into infinity" is just what they're going to do.
Elvenking layered Secrets Of The Magick Grimoire with untold details, hundredfold and thousandfold layered with waves of lead and accompanying instrumentation, every second of music marked by multiple intertwining melodies and scores of vocal lines. 2000s Amorphis heavy/folk, late-'90s Blind Guardian progressive power, and the old, familiar Elvenking sound blend together in an all-too-short hour of woodland magic. This is the most fascinating piece of art to come out of Italy since Michelangelo looked up and noticed the chapel ceiling was looking pretty bare.

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After his departure from Ozzy Osbourne's band, guitar wizard Gus G is now free to focus on Firewind, and it shows in this inspired concept album about the glory of Sparta. While fans of the band have been worried since the definitive voice of Firewind, Apollo Papathanasio, left the band in 2013, and disappointed when his live replacement, Kelly Carpenter, didn't join the band full time, metal's journeyman Henning Basse fits right into the band. Brilliantly composed and performed hymns of battlefield resistance sound off a new, fresh era for Firewind - it feels as if they're back home after a long and arduous journey.

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You don't get to be the biggest American power metal band since Manowar by sitting on your hands and humming a merry tune; the only way forward is to open fire with Jon Schaffer's inimitable riffing and a host of glorious, thrash-filled, aggressive tracks about stuff like brotherhood and historical battles and pirates. This is the third album in Iced Earth's Stu Block cycle and the band sounds more comfortable and cohesive than it has in two decades. "Clear The Way (December 13th, 1862)" is the "Gettysburg" sequel you've been waiting for - but everything leading up to that climax is just as inspired.

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40 years in the game and Harry Conklin's operatic, clarion cleans still justify the title of "Tyrant"; 34 years after Ample Destruction, Jag Panzer is as much an unflinching heavy metal machine as its namesake. The Deviant Chord is full of the unique rhythmic mindset and vocal patterns that set Jag Panzer apart from their contemporaries and progeny alike, applied liberally to the most consistent array of songs this band has produced in years. And, hey, no one has to thrown around the weight of longevity and reputation just to prove Jag Panzer's quality - their work speaks for itself - but the fact that they're the most veteran act in this category and are still pushing strongly for the #1 spot does make you think, doesn't it?

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It took 10 long years to release a new album, but now the Swedes prove that they've still got it. With Phoenix, the band went the softer, melodic route and shed the rougher sound of the past. Jonny Lindqvist's vocals still demand attention, and while some might dislike the symphonic tidbits on the album, most probably welcome the lighter touch. Nocturnal Rites - welcome back to the world of power metal.

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Gunmen is part entertaining fantasy about cowboys and vampires, part straight-up the most depressing power metal album you've heard in a long time (maybe ever; it's not exactly in the nature of the genre). Leave it to Orden Ogan to create an album as emotionally fraught and stirring as it is brutally heavy and impossibly catchy. Menacing hardcore power binds sonic weight to the trademark OO leads and sing-along choruses, while Seeb Levermann's vulnerable entreaties pull a human element into the music. An odd mix, certainly, but one that Orden Ogan are used to employing for the purpose of launching masterpieces.

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This is the first album after the band's brief break-up and with new vocalist Ashley Edison, and it's clear that Power Quest wasted no time to reclaim their fame as one of the best power metal bands coming out of the UK. Yes, the revolving door of musicians can sometimes be negative for a band, but with the release of Sixth Dimension, Power Quest have stayed true to their sound, random keyboard interlude and all, albeit now a bit faster in the guitar department.

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Most of the world got to know Unleash The Archers as "that uber power metal band with that woman who can really belt" a few years ago. Apex sheds the excessive shreds and confusing transitions in favor of mature, epic compositions with a compelling sci-fi narrative and makes us all excited about power metal once again. Marrying the high-flying glory of Lost Horizon and song-building lessons from Iron Maiden and Helloween, Unleash The Archers can do no wrong on this album. When Brittany Slayes sang "Will you follow me, follow me to Apex" we really felt it.

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