From Powerwolf headlining a sold-out night at the legendary Roundhouse in London to Blind Guardian going back-to-basics on The God Machine, 2022 was a big year for power metal. The genre may not have figured much in the official Metal Hammer end of year list - which you can read in our brand new issue - but there were still plenty of albums that could soundtrack an epic day's adventuring.
That in mind, fill up your drinking horns, grab your plastic swords and dig in to the best power albums of 2022.
10. Fellowship - The Saberlight Chronicles
Symphonic power metal has always been the most euphorically positive of all metallic subgenres. So this new Essex troupe are bang on the money with their open-hearted self-empowerment agenda. Expressing themes of vulnerability and selfdoubt via epic fantasy, Fellowship’s emotional pull is precociously strong, as is the songcraft. But although the earnestness and conviction are undeniable, be warned: the Cheese Force is strong with this one. CC
9. Power Paladin - With The Magic Of Windfyre Steel
This Reykjavik sextet’s debut strikes an enjoyably wobbly balance between shamelessly embracing all of power metal's cheesiest clichés and injecting some fresh Icelandic personality into the form, so that even the more audaciously familiar-sounding material has some new twist and distinctive energy. Although the atmosphere is incredibly bright and perky, the occasional unsettling death growl and sinister chord takes the edge off the sugary jubilation. CC
8. Avantasia - A Paranormal Evening With The Moonflower Society
After eight instalments of overblown classic melometal, you’d expect Tobias Sammet’s rock opera project to be creaking under its own weight. But fans know what to expect: crowd-pleasing hard rock anthems with a cast of vocal collaborators to take it to the next level.
The biggest star to drop into the studio this time is Nightwish’s Floor Jansen, who sounds completely at home among bellowing choirs and soaring guitars on Kill The Pain Away and the Broadway-ready bombast of Misplaced Among The Angels. Once again, Avantasia prove that, sometimes, more is definitely more. DL
7. Stratovarius - Survive
After an unprecedented gap of seven years, the aptly named Survive is effectively a comeback album for Finnish power metal champs Stratovarius, and it’s a textbook exemplar of the form.
All the band’s trump cards are pulled – the scampering twin guitar runs; the epic symphonics of organ legend Jens Johansson; the impassioned dexterity of Timo Kotipelto’s voice; the anthemic songwriting; the elegance and panache; the socially conscious lyrics; the cinematic sound – and everything is nailed. Although Stratovarius’s influence can still be heard in most modern prog-power metal, the OGs have been missed. CC
6. Windrose - Warfront
If the initial instinct is to sneer or snigger at Wind Rose’s prop axes and fur-trimmed armour, it doesn’t take long for Warfront’s strident melodies and rousing choruses to take effect. By the end of the galloping Army Of Stone you’ll be gladly taking up hammers and swearing vengeance upon orcs.
Although steeped in grandiloquent symphonic orchestration, Wind Rose’s strongest suit is their invigorating rhythmic stomp and the gruff, Stentorian storytelling of Francesco Cavalieri. Of course, Italians are past masters at this sort of high-gloss, epic martial fantasy concept malarkey, but this ‘dwarf metal’ combo bring their own highly distinctive identity to the form. CC
5. Bridear - Aegis Of Athena
Over a decade in, the technicolour blitzkrieg these high-octane Japanese mavens ply their trade in continues to explode. Bridear’s fifth full-length, Aegis Of Athena, showcases J-metal with a sonic grandeur that’s lovingly offset by its endearing charm and lyrical sincerity.
As comfortable with the twinkling restraint of Lodestar and the succinct hard rock bluster of Greed as they are with their more overtly elaborate material, Bridear seem to be doing this all by a combination of instinct, virtuosity and wild-eyed passion. The result is an album that not only flows beautifully but punches equally hard, and it’s those genre-splicing curveballs that convince you to repeatedly venture deeper down the rabbit hole. SM
4. Hammerfall - Hammer Of Dawn
Having almost single-handedly kickstarted a late-90s European power metal movement that continues to flourish today, Hammerfall should be more frequently and more loudly celebrated than they often are. Hammer Of Dawn sounds like the work of a fired-up, united front with a point to prove. Hammerfall’s 12th full-length feels bigger, bolder and more bombastic, and is also blessed with some of the best songs the band have written in years.
Exhibiting a sense of urgency that belies their veteran status, Hammerfall sound newly engaged and up for the fight here. Gleefully pompous and pointedly uplifting, songs like the closing No Mercy aren’t merely the work of a bunch of battle-worn diehards. They also showcase the sound of an inveterate class act, whose collective love for heavy metal in its purest form has, it seems, grown ever stronger in recent times. DL
3. Battle Beast - Circus Of Doom
Circus Of Doom is filled to the brim with epic metal that fires on all cylinders. The eponymous opening track is classic Battle Beast, and then some. Thundering into the spotlight with the sort of ironclad grooves that wouldn’t be out of place on a Lamb Of God album, then topped with Turisas-esque bombast and expertly penned vocal hooks, this first taste is a tremendous start to the album.
Some tracks, like lead single Master Of Illusion, hit a home run, harnessing Battle Beast’s cinematic escapism like an Eye Of The Tiger for the power metal generation. The same vibe can be felt on The Road To Avalon, pulsating with flecks of Dragonforce and Bonnie Tyler while Eye Of The Storm, an admittedly brazen repurposing of Nightwish, is fortified by Noora’s towering vocal brilliance. Even gratuitously cheesy moments like Russian Roulette, which drips with disco synth and fiery riffs, is so over-the-top it’s irresistible. After the years we’ve had, this is just the shot of exhilaration the world needs. HW
2. Blind Guardian - The God Machine
A perennial benchmark for power metal excellence, The God Machine has clearly been designed to remind the faithful that no one can touch this band when they’re on top form. Seven years on from the last ‘proper’ Blind Guardian album, Hansi Kürsch and his comrades have located a generous supply of the elixir of youth and have each chugged a few pints of it. Their 11th album is an outright, spine-shattering triumph as a result.
Free from any conceptual trappings, …Machine keeps it straightforward and startlingly brutal. These are all ornate and explosive heavy metal anthems – some with overtly progressive leanings and an abundance of drama and dynamics, some with a simple agenda of crushing skulls and exposing everyone else as lightweights. The best Blind Guardian album since Imaginations From The Other Side. DL
1. Sabaton - The War To End All Wars
Could there be any doubt? Swedish power metallers Sabaton have carved a lucrative, ludicrous niche penning odes to military conflict, soldiers and historic events across nine full-lengths; their 10th succeeds 2019’s The Great War, recounting more valour and grief from World War I. Most of these 45 minutes are spent delivering crystal-clear, Maiden-level singalongs and Priest-ready leads.
If people heard Dickinson or Halford belting out that ‘They strike at zero hour / With overwhelming firepower / They’re fuelled by the fear in their enemies’ eyes!’ refrain from Stormtroopers, they’d be bowled over. But Sabaton have to work twice as hard and twice as much because they’re ‘The Tank Band’, and it’s bollocks. These Swedish nerds are the biggest power metal band on the planet because they’ve put the hours in. The War To End All Wars is a celebration of heroes and heavy metal. Get your camo on or get fucked. AC