While new albums from legends and modern greats helped, power, symphonic, and folk metal were all plagued in 2010 by copycats and unoriginal new albums. It gets a little old listening to identical album after identical album, all ripping off the same few bands. Symphonic metal in particular had an off year, although that’s to be expected in year without albums from Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation, and other major bands. Outside of the garbage, however, there were ten albums that made the cut for this list.
The Wicked Symphony / Angel of Babylon
Avantasia released not one, but two albums this year. Both are concept albums that continue the story of The Scarecrow from 2008. This means that two of the best power metal albums of the year can be purchased in the same package, and nerds like me who enjoy Avantasia’s epic fantasy stories should rejoice. Even if you aren’t a power metal fan, the music on these albums is really pretty accessible. Songs like “Dying for an Angel” wouldn’t sound out of place in a playlist of 80’s metal, and there’s a variety of talented vocalists that differ from the usual power metal affair. The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon are two incredibly entertaining releases, and any fan of metal should give them a listen.
At the Edge of Time
At the Edge of Time is typical Blind Guardian. That is to say, it’s to say it’s an album that takes an overdone power metal sound and somehow makes it fresh. There are songs on At the Edge of Time that are just plain epic, and purists should rejoice in knowing that there are no pop-influenced tracks like “Another Stranger Me” from their last album. Even the single “A Voice in the Dark” is fast and heavy, while still managing to be catchy. Vocalist Hansi Kürsch is once again the highlight of the band, as his soaring vocals continue to redefine what’s possible in heavy metal. With albums like this, it’s no wonder that so many power metal acts continue to copy Blind Guardian. However, no one can pull it off like the original, and At the Edge of Time is farther proof of that.
Dark Moor is a band that keeps getting better and more original with each release. Back in 2000, they were a power metal group with a ton of potential, and ten years later they’ve released one of the best symphonic and power metal hybrids since Kamelot’s The Black Halo. The melodies are catchy and memorable, and there are genuinely progressive moments as well. There are even a few songs written in Spanish, which isn’t exactly common with power metal. The point is, Dark Moor are paving their own path. Ancestral Romance is a strikingly original and memorable album, and it’s a great listen for any power or symphonic metal fan.
Everything Remains as It Never Was
Eluveitie is the band for metalheads who wish Korpiklaani was a little more heavy and serious. Everything Remains as It Never Was is a folk metal album that proves the genres can be mixed in a serious and artistic manner, and without adding in a barrage of other genres (i.e. Agalloch and Negura Bunget). Eluveitie is pure folk mixed with pure heavy metal, and the result is a solid album that can appeal to just about any metalhead. The album’s only major flaw is that Eluveitie will occasionally recycle ideas from their last album, Slania, and for that reason I would point newcomers in the direction that album first. Still, Everything Remains as It Never Was is a worthwhile album that is very different from most other records in its genre.
Red Silent Tides
If there’s one band that proves why power, symphonic, and folk metal are grouped together on this guide, it’s Elvenking. After trying their hand at traditional folk music, Elvenking have returned to their power/symphonic/folk metal roots. It’s kind of more of the same, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While most power metal bands continue to copy Blind Guardian and Helloween, it’s still refreshing to hear a band in the genre with an original sound. Red Silent Tides is worth picking up if you’re a fan of either power, symphonic, or folk metal.
Equilibrium have added a significant symphonic element to their sound on Rekreatur. This can make their growled vocals seem a little forced at times, but for the most part Rekreatur marks a step in the right direction for one of metal’s most interesting folk groups. The atmosphere is closer to Korpiklaani than Eluveitie, as the band has the same type of fast party sound as the former, but the music is creative enough to warrant praise outside of just being fun and catchy. This is really well made folk metal, and it’s worthy of standing beside Equilibrium’s masterful Sagas from two years ago.
These legendary power metal musicians don’t do much in the way of innovation these days, but neither do most power metal bands. Helloween’s classic sound is still widely copied by their contemporaries, and sometimes a new album from the band that created the sound and still does it the best is just what the genre needs. If you aren’t already a Helloween fan, 7 Sinners won’t do much to change that. However, fans of the band are genre should know what they’re getting into here, and chances are they’re going to like it.
Manticora’s Safe is anything but what the title suggests. This may be a return of Manticora’s less experimental side, but it’s also the best album the band has released in some time. This is hard hitting power metal with heavy riffs and dark ambience. The vocals may be high pitched, but the instrumentation is more technical and original than all but the absolute best power metal albums. Safe is an album that can appeal to metalheads who usually avoid modern power metal, as it distances itself from the trends of the genre. However, the traditional power metal elements that it does have are executed brilliantly, and it’s one of the best and most original power metal records of 2010.
More folk than their usual offering, Vîrstele pămîntului is another solid album from one of the most interesting black/folk bands of today. There are moments of beautiful instrumentation, as well as heavy blackened sections. The two mix quite nicely, and it never gets tiring hearing the folk sections build into their heavier counterparts. Vîrstele pămîntului is one of the heaviest folk metal albums of the year, and it’s recommended to any fan of the genre willing to give something a little more brutal a try.
Gravity of Light
Tarot may not be Marco Hietala’s most famous band, as he’s best known as the bassist for Nightwish, but this power metal band has quietly been one of metal’s most consistent acts since the late 80’s. Gravity of Light is no exception, as it’s another solid album with strong hooks, heavy riffs, and Marco’s trademark vocals. He’s often overshadowed by Tarja Turunen and Anette Olzon in Nightwish, but Hietala really is a strong vocalist. His voice is much lower than the typical power metal singer, but that makes his vibrato stand out even more. Songs like “Gone” and “Satan is Dead” are great examples of this, as his speaker rattling voice gives the songs a powerful edge. Gravity of Light isn’t exactly new territory for Tarot, but it’s another collection of quality songs from one of metal’s most overlooked bands.