Power Metal: Herman Li's Essential Picks

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So you’ve discovered power metal, but where do you start? Herman Li presents the ten albums you need to own to join the club.

Helloween

Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts I and II (198788)

“I can’t decide which is better. Those were the first power metal albums I heard, I was at school and some older kid said, ‘All this stuff you hear nowadays is rubbish. Check this out!’ And he lent me these two. I couldn’t really get into it too much the first time because the vocals were so high it was crazy! These days I live for these kind of vocals.”

Blind Guardian

Imaginations From The Other Side (1995)

“When Helloween stopped doing the Keeper stuff, this is the band that carried it on but sounded really different. This is such a great album, really cool, so much energy, and kind of an uncompromising album from them. But what do I know? People change their music style as they go along. Oh wow, this is really strange. I just got an email with the subject title ‘Blind Guardian’!”

HammerFall

Glory To The Brave (1997)

“The second album’s better musically for me, but the first album wins for regenerating interest in this kind of scene. After Helloween’s Keeper album, there were bands doing it, but no one was really paying attention; this music had kind of died off it seems. Then when HammerFall came out, they were young and they had so much energy and conviction it really brought people’s attention back to this style again.”

Gamma Ray

Somewhere Out In Space (1997)

“That was a big album for Sam [Totman, guitar] and I actually, another one that got us into the whole power-metal thing. Great songs all over the place, I love the ballad Shine On, and lots of great Kai Hansen guitar solos. It’s almost like Helloween weren’t doing the Keeper Of The Seven Keys stuff any more, so Gamma Ray were doing it.”

Stratovarius

Visions (1997)

Episode in ‘96 was the first album I got into, but this is my favourite – well, it’s either this or _Infinite _[2000]. But Visions was the biggest influence on me and Sam forming the band - well, this and _Destiny _[1998]! It also really defined that Finnvox production, that really bright, really loud mastering sound. That’s something that inspired me in terms of production. It always sounded so great.”

Rhapsody

Symphony Of Enchanted Lands (1998)

“I thought the first album, Legendary Tales, was incredible, I hadn’t heard anything like it before, but this is the one that made the biggest impact. It’s the way they put the whole symphonic thing together; the producer Sascha Paeth was just phenomenal. And all the songs on the second album were just so powerful and over the top. Fabio Lione’s voice is just wow. So amazing.”

Labyrinth

Return To Heaven Denied (1998)

“Probably my favourite out of every single one on this list. The whole thing – songs, solos, vocals, production – is amazing. I remembering hearing this right before doing the DragonForce demo and Sam said, ‘Check out Labyrinth’ and I was like, ‘My God, everything is amazing on this record!’ I went to Wacken in 2000 mainly to see them. The singer [Rob Tyrant] goes even higher than Fabio Lione! Ridiculous range.”

Sonata Arctica

Ecliptica (1999)

“There’s not many young bands that come out with a debut like that. They’re not very power metal anymore, they’ve changed their sound a lot, but I like that they’re a band that keeps on going. Maybe not that much of an influence on us, but every single song on it is really good – and they were playing fast a lot of the time, which we like!”

Angra

Rebirth (2001)

“I always thought Angra had more ideas than most, they were never stuck doing one thing and nothing else. They had quite a lot of room to move on this album; they were on the edge of prog, and they always kept incorporating more elements as they went on. And of course they always had two of the best guitarists in this kind of music: Kiko Loureiro and Rafael Bittencourt.”

Lost Horizon

Awakening The World (2001)

“They’re one of the bands that really kept the scene going at that point. Daniel Heiman’s such a great singer I wanted him to join DragonForce when we split from ZP [Theart, original vocalist]. He was my first choice. He was really nice about it, but he had his own thing to do. Such a good clear production on this, we talked a lot about that in the studio; great melodies deserve a great production.”

Power Metal: The Genre That Refuses To Die!