-Folk- Coming Soon
-Doom Metal- Coming Soon
-Experimental- Coming Soon
While these subgenres of metal are often combined with each other, power, symphonic, and folk metal all had very different years. Power metal was well represented and included a return to form by one of the genre’s biggest fans. Symphonic metal had, well, Nightwish, and folk metal had a number of outstanding releases in 2011.
Instead of hiring a new vocalist after the departure of the second singer, the progressive power metal band has decided to let bassist and backing singer Henrik Fevre handle lead vocal duties. It may seem like a strange choice, but it’s probably the right one for Anubis Gate going forward. Fevre has a strong voice, albeit one without a ton of range, and he works well with the melodic riffs and fast solos on the band’s self-titled release. There’s not as much variety here as on other Anubis Gate albums, but the sound that the band works with, a pretty even mix of progressive and power metal, is entertaining throughout. If you like melodic metal, Anubis Gate’s latest is definitely worth a listen.
Charred Walls of the Damned
Cold Winds on Timeless Days
Featuring three former members of Iced Earth, including ex-vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, Charred Walls of the Damned are a power metal band with a surprisingly heavy and original sound. Their guitars are fast, the vocals are as powerful as fans of Owens have come to expect, but there are some a number of extreme metal elements that make Cold Winds on Timeless Days more than an Iced Earth-esque album. There are times when the band will break into pure thrash metal, and even borderline death metal. This makes their sound harsher and far more varied than their contemporaries, and that combined with the talent of the musicians make this one of the best power metal albums of 2011.
There is something about Middle Eastern folk that just works with heavy metal. Russian metal band Dukhi Predkov embrace a wide variety of folk influences, and make use of a number of different instrumentals. Throughout the course of the album, the usual metal instrumentals are accompanied by string and woodwind instruments, as well as the mixing of both male and female singing and extreme metal growling. The sound can be overwhelming at times, and there are some segments that move on too quickly, but fans of folk metal looking for something new in the genre can’t do much better than Terra Usorum. This is as unique and varied of an album as anything folk metal has seen in years.
Maybe the biggest surprise of 2011, Iced Earth have returned with a new vocalist and their best album in over a decade. Stu Block, former Into Eternity frontman, is an incredibly talented singer who’s chaotic style makes him a strange fit with a power metal band stuck in the 90’s. The combination works though, as Block as helped inject some life into Iced Earth’s sound. Instrumentally, there isn’t a whole lot that’s changed. The band still knows how to play their instruments, and there are some solid riffs, but for the most part its predictable without quite treading into boring territory. Again though, Stu Block, is the reason to listen. His vocal performance makes Dystopia into a far more unpredictable record, and one that is more entertaining than it has any right to be. It’s interesting to hear Block sing and scream over more steady and typical power metal, and Dystopia finds the right balance between familiar and experimental. It’s easily the best and most listenable album Iced Earth have put out in years.
Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa
Epic, heavy, and beautiful all at once, Moonsorrow’s Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maass is another great release from one of folk metal’s finest bands. There are essentially four songs here, all of which are over 10 minutes in length and are connected by unnecessary interludes. The songs all feel epic and incredibly powerful by the time they end, although it’s somewhat overwhelming to listen to the album as a whole. Each track sounds like the closer of an album, or even a full album condensed into 12-16 minutes. The music here is also noticeably heavier than most other folk metal, especially in the vocals. The vast majority are black metal growls, and there are moments where the music turns into pure atmospheric black metal. Those segments are the most memorable, but that’s in part because Moonsorrow build up to them so well. The folk influences are such a staple part of the sound that when removed in the middle of a long piece of music makes the pure black parts all the more powerful. The production is also influenced by black metal, namely in its lo-fi approach. This is unfortunate, as the non-black metal parts sound too constrained with that style of production. Finding the right way to produce is always tricky when combining so many different styles into a single track. So while it’s unfortunate, it’s easy to forgive and consequently recommend Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa.
If there’s one thing Nightwish cannot be accused of, it’s doing the same thing over and over again, contrary to what many of their fans want. Anette Olzon is the still the vocalist, and much like on Nightwish’s last album, she gives a solid but unspectacular performance that works for the direction the band has taken. This would be very different music had the more operatic Tarja Turunen stayed with them, and I admit that I’d be curious to hear what Imaginaerum would sound like with her. The focus here is less on the vocals, however, and more on the arrangements. This is some of Nightwish’s most ambitious work to date, and while it doesn’t come close to reaching its full potential, the strong moments outshine its shortcomings. Few other metal bands have the resources necessary to pull off an album like this one, as there are orchestras, choirs, and plenty of instruments not usually found in this type of music. Tuomas Holopainen has the vision to create a full orchestral album in the style of heavy metal, and this is more his work than any Nightwish album before it. Some of the non-metal elements are over-the-top and stick out too much to fit within Imaginaerum’s narrative, and as such it doesn’t flow as seamlessly as it could have. Still, there are moments when this ambitious piece of theatrical music works, and those moments make Imaginaerum worth listening to.
Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand
Primordial only continue to evolve. The folk metal band mixes atmospheric black metal into their sound to create to epic and varied metal songs, and their sound only continues to become more refined with each new album. Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand is a powerful record that is both heavy and melodic, and has a beautiful dark atmosphere. The vocals are harsh while still being clear, and the instrumentals are varied and almost progressive at times. Taken as a whole, this is an epic and even breathtaking album, and it takes its folk metal influences seriously. You don’t need to be a fan of folk metal to appreciate this album, and anyone with an interest in atmospheric music should give it a listen.
More Symphony X is never a bad thing. After a string of outstanding albums, Iconoclast is somewhat tame by comparison, but even Symphony X at their least progressive still makes for an incredible listen. The talent in this band is unreal, but they avoid simply showing off. The mix of progressive, symphonic, and power metal continues to work brilliantly, and Symphony X have a great deal of variety. The songs are fast and heavy while remaining melodic and even catchy at times. There are more keyboards than on their last album, Paradise Lost, but for the most part Iconoclast stays close to the sound of the that album. The first and last tracks are long epics, but nothing quite on the level of early Symphony X. That may disappoint prog fans, but anyone with an appreciation for power and symphonic metal, or even just heavy music with an insane amount of technicality will find a great album here.
The Lay of Thyrm
With power metal, there is a fine line between epic and cheesy. Týr is a band that has belonged to both categories, but The Lay of Thyrm lies fully in the former. This is an epic power metal album with fast and melodic riffs, tons of great solos, soaring vocals, and badass lyrics that blend fantasy and Norse mythology. This is the soundtrack to marching into a Norse battle, and it’s a hell of a ride. There are also strong folk elements here, and Týr does a great job of incorporating them into the epic power metal core without overdoing them. The Lay of Thyrm is an album that begs for headbanging, and it’s a reminder that fantasy themed power metal with high-pitched vocals can be epic and brutal.
Vintersorg’s Jordpuls is the a perfect example of what folk metal should be. It’s fun without being silly or over-the-top, and it’s catchy without being poppy. This is an album that puts an emphasis on both the “folk” and the “metal,” the latter being especially noticeable in the main riffs. Vintersorg also established himself as a more than capable singer, and he is a competent growler as well, but his real strength is as a songwriter. He takes most notably from black metal, but also from more melodic metal, and of course there are plenty of folk influences. Jordpuls is an album that a wide array of influences, and it never does the same thing twice. This is a largely unpredictable album, but not a chaotic or overwhelming one, and it’s easy one to recommend to metalheads.