RockStory - Heavy Metal: Power Metal
Power Metal: had the arrangements and high vocals of traditional HM beefed up with sharper/more metallic riffs

Power Metal

By Fredrik Nilsson


The LA scene was prominent in the early 80’s, but it was only one side of the coin.

Many bands wanted to take the Judas Priest sharp metal style into the new decade, instead of going more melodic.

Some bands would take it even further (Thrash Metal), and what was to be called Power Metal was the stepping stone for that.


Power Metal had the arrangements and high vocals of traditional heavy metal beefed up with sharper and more metallic riffs. Power Metal would therefore in the mid 80’s worked as a definition for the bands that played a style somewhere in the area between traditional heavy metal and thrash/speed metal.

The scene was mostly American, but some bands like the english Raven (from the NWOBHM) and the german Accept is closely connected in sound and were very influential on the scene.



Savatage was formed by the Oliva brothers, Jon (vocals) and Chris (guitar).

The band name actually doesn’t mean a thing, it was just a continuation of their previous name Avatar.

The debut album Sirens was released in 1983, and received rave reviews in the metal community. And it was indeed excellent, sharp riffs throughout and high screaming but yet gruesome vocals.

The following mini album Dungeons Are Calling and full length album Power Of The Night was in the same style, but with improved production. After the disappointing album Fight For The Rock, the band in 1987 released what was probably their strongest album ever (Hall Of The Mountain King).

The following album Gutter Ballet saw a more mature style, with some more melodic parts with piano mixed with their own specific brand of metal.

This new more progressive style would follow into the next decade with similar style albums, and Savatage are one of the bands that best kept the high quality of their outputs throughout the 90’s. Unfortunately their great guitarist Chris died in -93, and some of the Savatage original spirit and sound died with him.

Metal Church

Metal Church shocked many with the quality of their self titled debut album. It was in the Judas Priest-vein, but even more uptempo and with a knife sharp sound.  Songs like “Beyond The Black”, and the title track still sounds fresh today, and the band were never quite able to top this excellent album.

They came close though with the follow up called The Dark, but unfortunately their singer David Wayne quit after that album.

The new singer Mike Howe was equally competent, but not as original and interesting as David.

The next three albums were all good, but the band never captured the magic that they created in the mid 80’s.


The Canadian band Anvil had the very eccentric front man Steve ‘Lips’ Kudlow, who early in their career shocked the women’s rights movement by playing slide guitar with a vibrator.

Their second album Metal On Metal from 1982 was heavy beyond belief, and songs like “666” and “Mothra” were very important for influencing the thrash-scene that would arise a year later.

The follow up album Forged In Fire was just as brilliant and the band was believed to become one of the biggest acts of the 80’s.

But unfortunately a bunch of legal problems would put the bands career to a halt, and they would not release another album until 1987 (Strength Of Steel). But by that time they were yesterday’s news, and in spite of releasing solid albums up to this day they never fully recovered.

Armored Saint

Armored Saint were a somewhat misunderstood band because they were from Los Angeles, but sound wise they didn’t fit the norm of that scene.

After a legendary demo, which received a rave review in the british Kerrang (the biggest metal magazine in the world at that time) they released the debut album March Of The Saint in 1984 and it was great.

And the follow up album Delirious Nomad was even better, and absolutely one of the best pure metal albums of the whole decade.

The singer John Bush had a perfect voice, and Metallica tried to steal away from the Saint’s without any luck. The 1987 album Raising Fear was a little weaker, and after that the main songwriter and guitar player Dave Prichard died of leukaemia.

But on the album Symbol Of Salvation (1991) released after his death he was still responsible for writing most of the songs. It would prove to be a great swan song, and their second best album after Delirious Nomad.

After that John Bush became the new lead singer for Anthrax, and despite some brief reunions later, the band is to a large extent inactive.


Manowar was the creation of bass player, songwriter and metal fanatic (some would say lunatic) Joey DeMaio. He worked as a roadie on Black Sabbaths Heaven And Hell-tour, where he met guitar player Ross The Boss who played in the opening band The Dictators.

Together with singer Eric Adams and drummer Donnie Hamzik (who was replaced in time for their second album by Scott Columbus) they formed Manowar.

Their debut album Battle Hymns (1982) was testosterone rock of the highest level, or as themselves would call it “true metal”. The band were wearing leather and animal skins, and they were waving with swords onstage.

The theme would be kept throughout their whole career, and they released some solid albums throughout the 80’s in the form of Hail To England (1984), Fighting The World (1987) and their best ever Kings Of Metal (1988).

Looked upon as a novelty act by outsiders, but worshipped by their fans the band never strayed away from their original style and has survived up to this day.


On the Other Side
On the other side of the atlantic ocean bands like Accept (Germany), Raven (England) and Yngwie J. Malmsteen (Sweden, but living in the states) were releasing great music.


Accept were formed in the late 70’s, and sported the small eccentric front man Udo Dirkschneider. The played very heavy music with clean cut precision, and with rasping vocals by Udo.

Their best albums were Breaker (1981), Restless & Wild (1982), Balls To The Wall (1983) and Metal Heart (1985).

Together with Scorpions they are Germany’s biggest metal act ever, but they don’t exist as a band anymore. Udo still has a solo career though, and he still plays heavy metal in the classic Accept-vein. 


Raven were probably the fastest and most brutal band of the NWOBHM.

Their first three albums were excellent (Rock Until You Drop, Wiped Out and All For One), and their self dubbed style Athletic Rock would be highly influential on the thrash/speed metal movement.


Yngwie J Malmsteen 

Yngwie J Malmsteen changed they way guitarist approached the instrument just like Ritchie Blackmore, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads did before him.

His debut album from 1984 was mostly instrumental, and showed influences from classical composers such as Bach and Paganini. It took the metal community by storm (especially guitar players), and his unparalleled speed amazed everybody.

Though releasing a couple more solid albums throughout the decade, this time with more vocals (Marching Out, Trilogy and Odyssey) , he was often accused of being a diva, not having any real “feeling” and lacking in the songwriting department.

Some of the accusations were probably true, but most of them were undeserved and Yngwie remains one of the most important metal musicians of the whole decade.


A slice of Progressive mixed with Metal


In the northern part of the states, Seattle to be exact, the band Queensryche released an EP in 1983 that turned many heads.

The style was unmistakably power metal, but their first full length album was rumoured to be more progressive. And indeed it was, the album was called The Warning and it fused the heaviness from the power metal scene with the progressive elements of Rush.

The following album Rage For Order (1986) was even better, and defined the whole genre progressive metal.

But the real breakthrough of the band was the concept album Operation Mindcrime released in 1988, which completely overshadowed Iron Maiden’s attempt at a concept album the same year (Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son).

The storyline about Nikki who gets brainwashed by Dr. X to start a fascist revolution was intriguing, all the songs had hit potential, and the musicianship was impeccable.

It was by far the best album released that year, and one of the biggest masterpieces in the history of heavy metal.

Queensryche would go on releasing two more great albums (Empire and Promised Land), but the albums after that was unfortunately rather forgettable.

But in hindsight it is clear that Queensryche were one of the most important bands of the 80’s.

Crimson Glory and Fates Warning

Crimson Glory and Fates Warning were two bands that followed in Queensryche’s footsteps.

Crimson Glory released two great albums in 1986 and 1988 (the first self titled and the second was called Transcendence), both in the progressive metal style that Queensryche more or less invented.

Fates Warning peaked with their third album (Awaken The Guardian from 1986), their last one with original singer John Arch. He was replaced by Ray Alder and the band would continue realising great albums throughout the whole decade.



Following their footsteps were a band called Dream Theater, who released their debut album (When Dream And Day Unite) in 1989.

They would prove to be the next masters of progressive metal in the following decade.