It’s that time again! As is typical, July was more lean than previous months, but there was still plenty to check out!
10. TraumeR – History
Even though it’s already been out in Japan for just over a year, TraumeR’s third record, History, is finally ready to be heard by the international power metal community. While it doesn’t venture too far from the power metal norm, History will still be a hit for any fan of the genre. Soaring vocal lines, tight rhythm section, fast-paced double kicks; at the end of the day, these are the things that are looked for in a power metal album, and on this front, TraumeR deliver.
9. Mind of Fury – The Fire
If you haven’t already listened to The Fire, then I’ll give you the following advice: start with the third track, and then come back to listen to the first two if you so desire. Seriously. I nearly gave up on this album because the first two songs are pretty rough. However, the other eight songs are really good, so I’m glad I gave the rest a chance.
Mind of Fury is a heavy metal band from the US with a brand of metal that is a solid mixture between catchy hard rock hooks, fast-paced power metal beats, and a classic metal aesthetic that gives the whole thing a gritty, rugged feel. There’s a really good amount of variety among the tracklist, including a phenomenal instrumental, ‘The Champion’. It’s also worth mentioning that there are only single-tracked guitars, so the bass actually has to hold the foundation during solos (which are fucking awesome, by the way), which it does very well.
8. Velesar – Dziwadla
It’d been a while since I’d heard a really good folk metal album, so you can imagine my excitement when I first heard Velesar’s debut a couple weeks ago. Dziwadla incorporate various European folk melodies into its three main leads: throaty vocals, flute, and violin. The backing guitars and drums keep the energy flowing. This is by no means a unique folk metal makeup, but the execution and songwriting keep Velesar fresh and well above other bands in the space.
7. Valis Ablaze – Render
Valis Ablaze’s sophomore record Render is primarily made up of groovy riffs and fluid pop-punk vocals. You’d be hard-pressed to find a passage that isn’t driven by some intricate 16th-note groove, so if you’re a fan of bouncy, djenty prog metal that you can feel in your stomach, this one’s definitely for you.
While Render‘s sound isn’t necessarily unique, Valis Ablaze offer a certain intensity that separates them from the crowd. This is a kickass album that demands the listener to move with it.
6. Mind Key – Mk III – Aliens in Wonderland
After a decade of absence, Mind Key’s comeback album is a prog metal powerhouse. Mk III – Aliens in Wonderland is full of power metal and 80s pop influences, making the album’s music as pleasingly colourful as its album artwork. Mind Key also favour a clear, cohesive sound over too much flare, which allows for a steady balance throughout the album.
5. Desert – Fortune Favors the Brave
The third album by war metal warriors Desert is a harsh attack of heavy/power metal. With the highlight of this record being the incredible guitarwork, the rhythm section has nearly as much to offer in terms of ferocity. Fortune Favors the Brave manages to legitimately earn the title of “war metal” through a unique, raw sound that’s driven by a huge guitar sound, clashing riffs, and badass lead vocals that push the music with backbreaking force.
4. Turilli / Lione Rhapsody – Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution)
Zero Gravity (Rebirth and Evolution) is the latest brainchild of the aforementioned multi-instrumentalist and composer, Luca Turilli. As such, it’s (as expected) full of cinematic orchestrations, destructive synth lines, huge riffs, and vibrant arrangements. Oh, and we can’t forget about those ridiculous, facemelting, virtuoso guitar solos. Along with Turilli’s magic fingers and Lione’s pipes, Zero Gravity also features other members of the Rhapsody universe: guitarist Dominique Leurqui, drummer Alex Holzwarth, and bassist Patrice Guers. These Rhapsody-ers, with all of their combined might, have created a monster of an album.
These next three albums took longer to figure out that the entire rest of the list. So, rather than read them “3, 2, 1”, it’s actually something closer to “1.3, 1.2, 1.1”.
That’s the same thing, you say? Whatever. Just know that they’re all really close in ranking.
3. Control the Storm – Forevermore
Forevermore came way the fuck out of nowhere this month. I was actually in the middle of making this list when I chanced upon it, and I had to bump another album off. But you don’t care about any of that; you just care whether or not it’s worth listening to.
And, let me assure you, this album is incredible: female-fronted power metal at its finest. Behind the versatile lead vocals, orchestrations, keys, and vocal harmonies fill the spaces, alongside a killer rhythm section. The arrangements are dynamic and exceptionally written and, if that isn’t enough for you, the guitar solos are just ridiculous. If you haven’t heard of them before, you need to go listen to Control the Storm’s stuff right now.
2. ShadowStrike – Legends of Human Spirit
Legends of Human Spirit is probably the strongest power metal debut of the entire year. It’s insanelyfast, vibrant, true power metal to the core. It’s really as simple as that. ShadowStrike, hailing from New York, have busted out of the gate with a DragonForce-influenced sound that manages to steer clear of being too derivative, delivering a unique, shredtastic album.
Part of the driving force of this individuality is the band’s tasteful use of symphonic elements (I would never consider this album “symphonic metal”, though) as well as sophisticated song arrangements. With nothing short of excellent on the record, ShadowStrike have quickly become one of my favourite power metal bands, ever.
1.Sabaton – The Great War
Amidst the salvo of excellent albums this month, Sabaton’s The Great War stands above the rest. While I did only score this album an 8.5 (mostly because of some reusage of older material that’s typical of Sabaton), for myself, this album is a 10; it’s everything I want in a Sabaton album, plus more. On top of that, compared to any other album on this list, it’s the one I’ll relisten to the most.
With ten pounding, ultra-anthemic heavy metal tracks and a beautiful choral closer, there’s a fair amount of variety (by Sabaton’s standards, anyway) that will especially please the diehard fan. There’s also a hefty dose of epic choirs, as well as some classical details that add some sophistication to the album. Combine this all with the best drumming that’s ever been seen in a Sabaton record and you’ve got yourself a seriously strong album of the month!
Let me know if one of your favourites didn’t make the cut. Maybe I missed it!
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