Future generations will look back on 2019 as the Year of Power Metal. With very few exceptions, every major power metal band released new material this year, most of which was nothing short of excellent.
However, power metal wasn’t the only dominating force this year. Most of the big prog, heavy, and folk players also released albums, as well as bands that I don’t give a shit about like Slipknot, TOOL, and pretty well everything on the extreme metal side of things.
Anyway, the following features twenty five of the best “melodic” metal albums of the year! The competition was steep; of the 380+ albums I listened to this year, almost seventy of them were serious contenders for this list.
Also, you might notice that, despite a few placements in my monthly Top Tens and my scoring in general, some albums listed here are higher or lower than they “should” be. The main reason here is that, surprise surprise, opinions can change with time, and so can music.
Regardless, you can be damn certain that the following 25 metal albums are the best to come out of the monster than was 2019!
25. Elvenking – Reader of the Runes – Divination
Elvenking’s tenth album, Reader of the Runes – Divination, kicks all sort of ass, pagan-style. Fans will be pleased that Divination still retains the core Elvenking sound: a primarily-pop/punk vocal style, folk melodies, proggy song structure, and a power metal energy. Conversely, though, the album is as much a breath of fresh air as it is an Elvenking album, as it takes the band in two directions that they haven’t really explored in depth before; the road of Divination is generally darker and heavier than their previous material, and it also brings a whole concept that tells of a journey into a mystical world of runes and magic. It’s not the band’s best, but it’s really fucking good.
24. HammerFall – Dominion
Since their founding in 1993, heavy metal templars HammerFall have fought to continue the legacy of 80s heavy metal, smithing more than ten full-length records and establishing themselves as Sweden’s and Europe’s premier heavy metal masters. Their latest album, Dominion, is an epic powerhouse that easily contends with their early material in terms of quality and heart.
23. Rhodium – Sea of the Dead
Sea of the Dead is the latest offering of Greek power metal (think Firewind, Diviner, stuff like that). Featuring an almost all-new lineup, the album drives forth with exceptional guitarwork and even more impressive vocals, which sit somewhere between the usual, coarse Greek power vocals and higher Euro power norm. This is one hell of a sophomore album and is more than strong enough to earn spot on this list.
22. Chaos Magic – Furyborn
Caterina Nix’s second installment of Chaos Magic is, quite simply, amazing. Written alongside Chilean musician Nasson, Furyborn is a far cry from its predecessor and exchanges its typical symphonic metal sound for a more original, albeit poppy, take on melodic metal. It’s full of sick guitars, killer melodies, and boundless attitude. This “pop” metal album blows all other pop metal albums out of the water.
21. Frozen Crown – Crowned in Frost
Frozen Crown have solidified their sound in a heavier, grittier, more diverse power metal offering than their debut. This female fronted (or should I say, “female fueled,” due to vocalist Jade Etro as well as eighteen-year-old southpaw shredder Talia Bellazecca) powerhouse has created an exceptionally refined record that blasts forth with elements from harsh death metal, traditional heavy metal, and everything in between. Pair that with elaborate guitarwork and numerous vocal styles and you have yourself one ferocious album!
20. Finsterforst – Zerfall
Furious German folkers Finsterforst are back with a fifth backbreaking album, complete with lengthy arrangements, chanted melodies, and intense orchestrations. Zerfall is a very unique take on folk metal, combining keyboards, orchestras, and heavy guitars with elements of death metal and folk melodies (sorta like Wintersun but heavier). The choruses have a slight ring of Orden Ogan to them that amplifies already-huge atmospheres, so it’s safe to say that you’re in for a poundingly heavy ride with this one.
19. Amulet – The Inevitable War
Blasting forth with a fresh lineup, Amulet’s sophomore record is an exceptional work of classic metal. The Inevitable War takes the band to new heights and is the best classic metal album of the year.
There’s really nothing to dislike. The mixing is flawless, the band is exceptionally talented, and the music simply bleeds energy. Each anthemic chorus hits with a similar impact as classic Manowar, and the galloping rhythm section chugs away with the likeness of Iron Maiden. Get your fix of the classics with this very new release.
18. Control the Storm – Forevermore
This album is incredible: female-fronted power metal at its finest. The overall atmosphere is bright and energetic, and it’s fueled by symphonic components, folk elements, and rich vocal harmonies. Plus, the arrangements are dynamic and exceptionally written. If you haven’t heard of them before, this album is all you need to get excited about Control the Storm.
17. Manegarm – Fornaldarsagor
In their best album in probably a decade, Manegarm have something grand in Fornaldarsagor. While primarily a coarser folk metal work, there’s the usual inclusion of impending black metal elements, as well as some female and clean male vocals. While the formula of Fornaldarsagor is typical of Manegarm, far more care has been taken regarding the songwriting that the past three albums.
16. ShadowStrike – Legends of Human Spirit
Legends of Human Spirit is probably the strongest power metal debut of the entire year. It’s insanely fast, vibrant, true power metal to the core. It’s really as simple as that. ShadowStrike, hailing from New York, have busted out of the gate with a DragonForce-influenced sound that manages to steer clear of being too derivative, delivering a unique, shredtastic album.
Part of the driving force of this individuality is the band’s tasteful use of symphonic elements (I would never consider this album “symphonic metal”, though) as well as sophisticated song arrangements. With nothing short of excellent on the record, ShadowStrike have quickly become one of my favourite power metal bands, ever.
15. Noveria – Aequilibrium
Italian proggers Noveria don’t fuck around. As soon as it starts, Aequilibrium explodes into high-intensity with a death metal atmosphere and epic choirs. Through the rest of the album, we encounter sick riff after sick riff (not the least of which can be found in ‘Awakening’ and ‘Broken’) in all their beefy, syncopated glory, as well as beautiful interludes and pulled back sections. Another aspect that makes Aequilibrium stand out is the fact that, while there’s a dark tone to most of the album, it’s never depressing and it’s always energetic.
14. Scimitar – Shadows of Man
Canadian pagan metal warriors Scimitar have been around for just over a decade. Early on in their career, they released their debut album, Black Waters, but the band took a bit of a break soon after. Now, nine years later, the band have finally unleashed their sophomore album. Shadows of Man is gritty, furious, and packs way more variety into it than I would have ever expected. With a sound that’s in the realm of Ensiferum and Vanir (although far less refined, production-wise), Scimitar’s combination of death, black, and folk elements will be welcome with any fan of the dark side of folk metal.
(Yeah, I know this is, like, the third melodeath/folk metal album on a “melodic metal” list. Deal with it. This is MY house.)
13. Brymir – Wings of Fire
Brymir is extreme metal for the power metal fan and Wings of Fire is no exception. If it weren’t for the rough vocals, it’d be epic symphonic power metal through-and-through.No, I shouldn’t say that. It’s way too epic to be just that. It’s the kind of epic that’ll make you believe that you can crush mountains and fly through the sky as the bringer of life or death, sole judge of the universe, with all of the power of the gods in your hands, under your hands, through your hands, about your hands (but not over your hands). It’s that. Fucking. Epic.
12. Sabaton – The Great War
This year saw the release of Sabaton’s ninth record: The Great War. Despite a lengthy career of two decades, the Swedish metal heroes are showing no signs of slowing down, and they prove that they’re here to stay by delivering their biggest, boldest, most bombastic blast of metal in years. Other than slamming the epic pedal down to the fucking floor, The Great War separates itself from Sabaton’s prior works by hanging a darker atmosphere over the music, as well as putting more emphasis on classical scales, especially in its guitar solos.
11. Majestica – Above the Sky
After six years of hiatus, power metal cheeseballs Majestica (formerly ReinXeed) are back with their seventh album, Above the Sky. Aside from a drastic name change, Majestica’s sound has grown more mature, despite their lyrical content becoming more juvenile than ever. Of course, these are perfect qualities to have in a power metal album: bullshit, nonsensical lyrics over technically impressive music.
10. Galneryus – Into the Purgatory
The finest neoclassical power metal band east of the Silk Road have unleashed yet another album of facemelting ferocity. Into the Purgatory is the twelfth album to come from the mighty Galneryus and, despite such a long career, it lives up to the band’s glory, and then some. A slice of Galneryus’ neoclassical edge has been swapped for a bit more of a progressive influence this time around so, while you can still expect a melodic work of shred insanity, it’s different enough from their other albums to keep things feeling new.
09. Moonlight Haze – De Rerum Natura
Formed by ex-Temperance members Chiara Tricarico and Giulio Capone 2018, Moonlight Haze is a symphonic metal project that combines the talents of musicians from Elvenking, Sound Storm, and Epica to create a melodic, emotionally dynamic, technically-pleasing work of female fronted metal that stands high above your typical Delain or Nightwish ripoff. Complete with countless folk and world music elements, De Rerum Natura is as unique as a symphonic debut could be.
08. Wind Rose – Wintersaga
Dwarf metallers Wind Rose are back with a rugged sound in their fourth album, Wintersaga. As usual, the Tolkien themes are strong, as is evident in half of the song titles. Additionally, the album is split into two sections; the first contains the fun, catchy party tunes, and the second, which encompasses the final three songs, features a more power prog approach that hearkens to the band’s earlier works. However, the core sound of Wind Rose has shifted as a whole from their progressive power metal roots to settle upon a more bombastic, anthemic sound.
07. Twilight Force – Dawn of the Dragonstar
As you can expect from Twilight Force, Dawn of the Dragonstar is full of unlimited, overblown storybook energy. With the exception of maybe two moments, the album is consistently happy and heroic from the very first seconds of the galloping ‘Dawn of the Dragonstar’ into its final piano notes. This hyper-melodic, smile-demanding work isn’t just sheen and shine, though; there’s an absolutely staggering degree of talent and proficiency to behold in every track.
06. NorthTale – Welcome to Paradise
NorthTale was born of vocalist Christian Eriksson (ex-Twilight Force), drummer Patrick Johansson (ex-Yngwie Malmsteem) and guitar maestro Bill Hudson with the dream of bringing back the glory of late 90s/early 00s power metal. Whether you’re in the mood for that golden-age power metal, anthemic stadium metal, or even a vegan happy meal, Welcome to Paradise delivers all that and more, complete with facemelting solos, exciting diversity, and catchy melodies. This is one of the year’s best power metal albums and is as technically impressive as it is fun.
05. Eluveitie – Ategnatos
Eluveitie have hit their peak in their eighth record, Ategnatos. It’s fantastically fluid for such a diverse folk metal album, and, while it retains the trademark Eluveitie sound, it’s a distinct experience from their other releases.
The songs range from huge melodeath blast beats with rough vocals to softer, mournful tracks like ‘Eclipse’. There’s even a bouncy tune in ‘Ambiramus’ that’ll be stuck in your head for weeks (but don’t worry, you’ll welcome it). The broad instrumentation of this Swiss septet includes traditional instruments and shamelessly skilled drums, as well as three different vocal styles, my favourite of which are the versatile pipes of Fabienne Erni. The control she displays is insane and honestly, without her, the album wouldn’t have made it as one of my top picks.
04. Wilderun – Veil of Imagination
Not many bands can pull off an exceptional atmospheric album so, when one does, I always get excited. One of the few (and latest) this year to accomplish such a feat are Boston’s Wilderun with their third album, Veil of Imagination. The album combines elements of death, symphonic, progressive, and folk metal to make a sound that bands like Wintersun have been trying so desperately to embody. It expertly conjures deep feelings of wonder, determination, aggression, hate, fear, reflection, and everything in between. With rich orchestrations supporting it, Veil of Imagination is almost impossible colourful.
03. Gloryhammer – Legends From Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex
Epic, cheesy, heroic. These are words I often use when describing my favourite albums, but make no mistake; I only use these words if I mean it. So, if I were to say that Gloryhammer’s third and latest album, Legends from Beyond the Galactic Terrorvortex, was one of the most ridiculously epic tales of heroism that I’ve ever heard from a power metal album, you can be damn sure it’s true.
Between the powerful cries of Angus McFife and the cosmic colours created by the rest of band, there’s no room to criticize the skill of these galactic warriors. Additionally, while the core sound is true, pure power metal (with a healthy dose of symphonic backing tracks), the songwriting is pleasingly dynamic. So, bust out your most enchanted headphones and get a load of this ultra-melodic cheesefest and see for yourself why this just might be the greatest power metal album of the year (or of all fucking time).
02. Dream Theater – Distance over Time
Dream Theater are legendary. There’s no question about it. These guys are some of the best musicians metal has to offer, and they’ve given rise to more than a few prog masterpieces. While it’s true that their material has lost a bit of steam over the last decade, Distance over Time recaptures all of their former velocity as their best album since Black Clouds and Silver Linings. There’s a perfect mix of mathematical intricacies, solid melodies, and headbangable grooves, and, despite having a sound that’s closer to their earlier works, this is the freshest they’ve sounded in years.
01. Beast in Black – From Hell with Love
Insane solos? Check. The best vocal performance in modern heavy metal? Check. Synthetic fanfares that demand the construction of a training montage? Check. Pack it up, every other band ever. Beast in Black have achieved the pinnacle of music. It’s all downhill from here. Go home. Show’s over. Nothing else will ever excite you as much as this album will.
Just kidding. Well, kind of. From Hell with Love is what every 80s revival album strives to be: catchy, fun, and technically impressive. Between the limitless voice of Yannis Papadopoulos and the songwriting gold of Anton Kabanen, this album holds nothing back. It’s intense. It’s fucking doused in cheese. It’s the pump up record to end all pump up records.
What a year! January is just around the corner, and that means that PowerThorn’s One Year Anniversary is close, too. It was reassuring to watch the viewership increase from a few tens a day all the way up to a few hundred. Between successful weeks of six reviews and desolate weeks of one, it’s been fun so far! Whether this is your first visit or you’re a regular reader, I deeply thank you for your support.
Look forward to more power metal content in 2020!
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