Power Metal is a generally up-beat metal genre consisting of fast guitar hooks and catchy tunes, often associated with neo-classical metal and progressive metal, and occasionally glam metal.
The earliest influences of power metal are traced back to 1976 when the musical group Rainbow(led by Ronnie James Dio) released the track, "Stargazer". The track is widely considered the first power metal song. The genre achieved widespread popularity through Helloween's 'Keeper of the Seven Keys' albums. Helloween, with artists Blind Guardian and Stratovarius, are considered the pioneers of the genre.
Power Metal is often divided between two types. Helloween and Blind Guardian led the more guitar orientated power metal (see speed metal), while Stratovarius set the tone for a more melodic variant of the genre. These two streams of power metal are not too far apart and power metal bands are very commonly seen with influences from both types. American Power Metal acts are more often of the guitar orientated type, while in Europe both streams are well represented.
The early 90's saw the rise of the bands Gamma Ray, Angra and Iced Earth, which still have a solid fan base today. In 1997 the genre's popularity experienced a big boost by Hammerfall, Rhapsody and Edguy all releasing debut albums. At the turn of the century, the genre gained even more popularity due to the rise of mainstream acts like Nightwish and Dragonforce.
The general aspects of power metal are fast drums and fast bass riffs, often in 16'th or 8'th notes, but a slow change of guitar chords, resulting in an harmonic sound. Guitar solo's are present in virtually every song. Most power metal bands make use of a keyboard. This is more often seen in the more melodic power metal bands, in which they are used mostly for orchestration. Most power metal bands have two guitar players and a vocalist who is mostly not playing another instrument in the band. Mostly power metal vocalists are male tenors singing in a very high range. Notable exceptions to this are Roy Khan of Kamelot and Joakim Broden of Sabaton. The lyrics are mostly about fantasy themes and glory and sword-era battle, though almost any subject is possible for a power metal band.
Key persons in the development of Power Metal:
Kai Hansen (Helloween, Gamma Ray)
Michael Kiske (Helloween)
Hansi Kursch (Blind Guardian, Demons & Wizards)
Timo Tolkki (ex-Stratovarius, Revolution Renaissance)
Andre Matos (ex-Angra, ex-Shaman)
Jon Schaffer (Iced Earth, Demons & Wizards)
In USA, the term was originally used somewhat differently and referred to the bands that would have been described as "speed metal" in modern terminology. See American power metal. .