THE KEEPERS OF THE SEVEN KEYS
In the late 80's, Helloween invented a distinct brand of power metal with fast twin
guitars, epic chorus', high-pitched vocals, speedy drums and inspirational lyrics on their
early "Walls Of Jericho" and the "Keeper Of The Seven Keys" albums.
With today's power metal scene crowded with symphonic, progressive, and thrash
reincarnations of early bands like Helloween, the scene is starting to become stale. Few
bands today have the resolve and know-how to carry the genre into the next millennium and
do it with a sense of dignity. Few bands have the respect and honor to hold one of the
"Seven Keys". We thought it would be a great idea to look at who is carrying the
torch for this genre today and who deserves to be a power metal "key holder".
Helloween are a metal mainstay, practically inventing power metal. After three eras
(Hansen, Kiske, Deris) and 20+ years, the band is still active in the power metal scene.
Few bands can put out great albums consistently and still keep their sound intact.
Helloween have never wandered from that sound, yet every record can be looked at
differently from the others. Great albums, great music, and great fans. Thats the
reason Helloween's torch never fade.
Another German metal mainstay, Gamma Ray's career closely resembles Helloween. With two
different voices through their career, Gamma Ray have stuck to their power metal roots. No
synths or keyboards needed, just plenty of fast twin guitar, soaring vocals, breath taking
leads, and an undying support for the metal underground. Kai Hansen and company have
proved year after year they can still create unique music and keep up a touring pace that
rivals KISS. The "hardest working" band in the business just keeps getting
A revolutionary force in power metal, Blind Guardian have come full circle. Starting out
in 1991 with German speed metal, the band has put out some of the greatest records of the
genre. Blind Guardian took the epic chorus that Queen invented and added the fast fury of
Helloween, making a sound that only Blind Guardian can lay claim to. After 12 long years
the band are just now reaping the rewards of a stellar career thus far.
Another great German pioneer, Running Wild are considered the Iron Maiden of Germany. For
over twenty years Running Wild have been putting out great records. With their
"pirate metal" themes and fast twin guitar gallops, Rock N Rolf has crafter a
superior power metal sound unlike other bands of this genre. Anyone who mentions Helloween
as an influence has to mention Running Wild as well. The band has been a prime force for
metal and shows no sign of the white flag yet.
Probably my favorite band of the German power metal scene, Rage has had a rip-roar ride
thus far. Starting out under the name of Avenger, Rage have released some of the best
records to ever come out of Germany. Founded by Peavy Wagner, Rage has seen several different
lineup changes, and many different "incarnations" of the band. But no matter if
Rage does speed metal, thrash, orchestra, or down and dirty heavy metal, the band is truly
a class act.
Gravedigger is simply incredible. Much like Rage, the band has had several different
sounds throughout their career. Whether it was hard rock, commercial rock, thrash, or
power metal, Grave Digger were always entertaining. With the rough vocal style of Chris
Boltendahl, many say Grave Digger are the bastard child of power metal. With classic
albums like "Heart Of Darkness", "The Reaper" and the epic "Tunes
Of War", Grave Digger have put their mark on metal. With their newest album hitting
shelves this summer, the German act shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.
Edguy will probably always be considered the new kids. Emerging with their debut record, 1997's
"Kingdom Of Madness",
Edguy proved they had the raw ability and talent of seasoned veterans. Rookies to the
business, Edguy put AFM Records on the map, a record label that has been very influential
in the success of power metal in Europe.
Tobias and his merry crew have put out five solid records, carrying forth the epic Blind
Guardian style and putting their own spin on it. Edguy is a band that will
forever stay within the power metal universe, and with more great albums to come the band
has a very bright future ahead.
Frank Hill'S PICKS
Still going strong over the years. From the early speed metal to the influential Keeper
albums to the current stuff, their body of work has seen them rise and fall. All the
others should takes notes on writing melody lines from them. Having a key is a given.
With the genius of Kai Hansen of Helloween they carved their own path from their elders.
It's a wonder Helloween didn't die from losing Kai.
Currently, they may be the most popular band on this list. Aggressive, powerful and
audacious. They have the biggest choruses of them all and aren't afraid to stretch the
boundries of the genre.
Though they are moving away from the power metal sub-genre discussed in this column, they
have enough songs in their catalog to give them my vote...for now.
Although they don't tread any new paths with their sound, they walk as proud and as
triumphant as anybody. This band has their backs straight and their heads held high.
Just for "Titan of Our Time" they make my list. It's probably the most perfect
power metal song ever.
Although I sometimes feel an emotive lack in their songs, they wear the armor of metal and
fly the metal flag high.
"Until Kingdom Come" is pure beauty. Death and despair never sounded so glorious
and poetic. If I can hear more from them, I may just have to revise my list.
The spirited and original guitar work from their first cds gave these guys a sound that
was similar yet unique within the genre.
They could be the closest to knocking one of the others off the list. A key is
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