Essential Power Metal Albums

The power metal genre as a whole really took off in the late '80s with help from bands such as Helloween and Gamma Ray. The '90s continued this momentum, thanks to Iced Earth, Blind Guardian, Hammerfall, and Dragonforce. Metal fans became infatuated with the speedy solos and soaring vocals, along with lyrics describing mystical creatures, magic, and vast fantasy worlds.

Throughout the years, there have been a few key albums that have defined power metal and brought a growing spotlight on the genre.  This is a list of albums those new to power metal can listen to and get a good representation of the genre.

Blind Guardian - 'Nightfall In Middle Earth' (1998)

Blind Guardian - 'Nightfall In Middle Earth'
Blind Guardian - 'Nightfall In Middle Earth'.

The album that defined Blind Guardian’s career, this concept album was based on J.R.R Tolkien's “The Silmarillion.” While heavy on the interludes, Nightfall In Middle Earth is a strong listen that has its twists and turns.

Meant to be listened to in whole, Blind Guardian’s sixth studio album is arguably the band’s greatest work to date. Some of the strongest songs include "Into The Storm," "Mirror Mirror" and "Thorn."

Crimson Glory - 'Transcendence' (1988)

Crimson Glory - 'Transcendence'
Crimson Glory - 'Transcendence'.

A band that is largely forgotten in the annals of power metal history, Crimson Glory never got the recognition for helping to mold and shape the genre. Their sophomore album is one of the most underrated albums in power metal, a powerful collection of material that perfectly balances aggression and beauty.

“In Dark Places” is a brooding epic, while the band had a hit single in “Lonely” and a wonderful acoustic ballad in the title track.

Dragonforce - 'Valley Of The Damned' (2003)

Dragonforce - 'Valley Of The Damned'
Dragonforce - 'Valley Of The Damned'.

Before their sudden rise in popularity due to the success of “Through The Fire And Flames,” Dragonforce were a young band with technical prowess and a knack for catchy melodies.

Their debut album is proof of that, as Valley Of The Damned brought a fresh sound that would grow increasingly stale as Dragonforce’s career went on. The guitar work from Herman Li and Sam Totman is outstanding.

Gamma Ray - 'Land Of The Free' (1995)

Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free
Gamma Ray - Land Of The Free.

When former Helloween guitarist Kai Hansen formed Gamma Ray in 1989, nobody had any clue that the band would rise to the same prestige as Hansen’s past band.

Land Of The Free is the quintessential Gamma Ray album with a fantastic opener (“Rebellion in Dreamland”), an anthem (title track), and a low-key ballad (“Farewell”). Hansen and company would come close several times to top Land Of The Free, but nothing would surpass this seminal album.

Hammerfall - 'Glory To The Brave' (1997)

Hammerfall - Glory To The Brave
Hammerfall - Glory To The Brave.

Most debut albums are where a band searches to find their sound, usually taking a few albums for everything to click. Hammerfall didn’t have this problem, as Glory To The Brave was an engaging and highly entertaining start to what would later become a long and fulfilling career.

The title track was the first great masterpiece from the band, and the rest of the material is still strong after all these years.

Helloween - 'Keeper Of Seven Keys Part 1' (1987)

Helloween - 'Keeper Of Seven Keys Part 1'
Helloween - 'Keeper Of Seven Keys Part 1'.

Helloween’s second album Keeper Of Seven Keys Part 1 definitely avoids the dreaded sophomore slump, and in essence, helped to define what power metal would later become.

The band took NWOBHM and added melodic elements to the sound in order to sound more grandiose and lively. “Halloween” is a classic, while the ballad “A Tale That Wasn’t Right” is cheesy without being too over-the-top.

Iced Earth - 'Horror Show' (2001)

Iced Earth - 'Horror Show'
Iced Earth - 'Horror Show'.

Picking the essential Iced Earth album can be quite a tall task, and while some may point towards Burnt Offerings or The Dark Saga, one only has to look at Horror Show to see the band at its finest.

With Matt Barlow giving the performance of his career, Jon Schaffer cranking out memorable riffs, and the godly Richard Christy pounding away at the skins, Horror Show is the sound of a band firing on all cylinders. The epics “The Phantom Opera Ghost” and “Damien” are personal favorites, as well as the Iron Maiden cover “Transylvania.”

Primal Fear - 'Jaws Of Death' (1999)

Primal Fear - 'Jaws Of Death'
Primal Fear - 'Jaws Of Death'.

Another band that is largely ignored by the mainstream power metal fans, Primal Fear have been toiling away since the '90s, cranking out albums at an unrelenting pace (one every year or two).

Their sophomore album Jaws Of Death is basic, fast, and heavy; in other words, the perfect power metal soundtrack. “Final Embrace” kicks the album off with a bang, with a strong ending in the form of a rousing rendition of Rainbow’s classic “Kill The King.”

Stratovarius - 'Dreamspace' (1994)

Stratovarius - 'Dreamspace'
Stratovarius - 'Dreamspace'.

What Stratovarius accomplished with their third album Dreamspace is to take power metal and add a progressive touch to it. The songs were relatively short, none going above the six-minute mark, but the band packed a lot of content into that time.

Not only did Timo Tolkki have a set of pipes on him, but his scorching guitar work wowed a lot of people. Some of the strongest tracks on the album include "Eyes Of The World," "Tears Of Ice" and the title track.

Theocracy - 'Theocracy' (2003)

Theocracy - 'Theocracy'
Theocracy - 'Theocracy'.

Compared to the rest of these bands, Theocracy are the spunky kids with a head full of ideas. Formed in 2002 by Matt Smith, he did all the instrumental and vocal work on the band’s self-titled debut album.

For a one-man project, Theocracy is a hell of an album. Smith holds nothing back, with three songs past the 11-minute mark and a positive message. The guitar and keyboards intermingle and work around each other, and Smith actually has a wide range that he utilizes several times.