Metal Evolution: Season 1, Episode 10

Power Metal (20 Jan. 2012)

TV Episode  -  Documentary
7.8
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Sam runs into his old friend Ronnie James Dio, who guides him into the fantastical world of power metal, where masculine tales of heroism and epic battles, dragon-slaying and sorcery, burn into the the imaginations of young men.

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Title: Power Metal (20 Jan 2012)

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Carl Begai ...
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Ross the Boss ...
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Sandro Buti ...
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Joacim Cans ...
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Udo Dirkschneider ...
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K.K. Downing ...
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Oscar Dronjak ...
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Blaas Of Glory ...
Themselves
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Kai Hansen ...
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Tuomas Holopainen ...
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Sam runs into his old friend Ronnie James Dio, who guides him into the fantastical world of power metal, where masculine tales of heroism and epic battles, dragon-slaying and sorcery, burn into the the imaginations of young men.

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20 January 2012 (USA)  »

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An entertaining look at metal's most painful embarrassment.
28 February 2012 | by (Serbia) – See all my reviews

Sometimes when I tell the uninitiated that I listen to metal (among other things) the first image that comes to their tiny brainwashed heads is that of a Viking-clad buffoon waving a sword and singing a truly cheesy chorus while the two guitarists at his sides bang their heads in synchronized motion. This is when I cringe.

It's strange. Throughout the years, especially the 80s, the term "power metal" (at least here in the Balkans and perhaps elsewhere) had been used to describe bands that were somewhere between traditional heavy metal and thrash on the heaviness scale, i.e bands such as Vicious Rumours, Nasty Savage, Ice Age, even Testament's fifth album, "The Ritual". Suddenly, Sam Dunn appears on my TV screen, telling me that the term applies solely to those god-awful melodic sing-along European anthem bands with choruses so tacky that most pop groups would discard them on the grounds of being too cheap and stale. So even mega-crap like Stratovarius and Nightwish are power metal? I'll be damned.

But for the sake of this review, I will bow down to this "new" use of the term, and will refer to this hey-ho hey-ho la-di-da infantile sword-waving sub-genre as "power metal".

PM is the closest thing to Spinal Tap that there is. Come to think of it, it's a dead ringer. Musically, it is quite possibly the worst metal genre, though not without its "merits", as Dunn's documentary illustrates; just as Spinal Tap gave us all (except perhaps fans of Manowar) reasons to laugh out loud, so is the viewing of video clips and live performances of these PM bands a must for every metal fan. Unintentional hilarity accompanies both the visual look and the sound of these clownish freaks. When a PM band tours it's appropriate to shout "the circus is back in town!". PM, along with black metal, is also the most sought-after metal genre among teen nerds: they are naturally drawn toward this kind of phony machismo like sh*t to flies. It is hence logical that these two genres are musically the silliest ones on Dunn's metal-tree.

Appropriately enough, Gotz Kuhnemund of the German magazines "Metal Hammer" and "Rock Hard" makes several appearances to clarify things. If there ever was a metal journalist with zero taste in music, it is him. He had always worshiped this type of crap, generously handing PM albums full marks in his laughable reviews, no matter how bad and embarrassing their albums looked and sounded; in fact, the cheesier a PM album was, the more he liked it. Even more appropriate is his inclusion here given the fact that some of the very worst PM bands hail from Germany. Blind Guardian, Helloween, and Rage: take your pick for the worst metal band of the 90s. (A little tip: start off with Rage, if you want something very much Spinal Tap-ishly bad.)

The documentary correctly points out that power metal often utilizes kiddie-sing-song la-la-la choruses on top of classic-music-based guitar solos: yes, a match made in Hell. Only one of many utterly ludicrous aspects of this amazingly goofy genre.

"People say Maiden is metal… and I suppose(!) it is, but you also have that almost folky influence," says Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith. You "suppose" it is, Adrian? I have no idea what plants one has to order through one's South American Mushroom catalogue to think this. My guess is that many major HM bands are somewhat embarrassed about their genre, hence the need to run away from all that silly imagery, which sadly ruins people's general impression of metal.

So what is PM? Is it just a bunch of immature adults behaving like children, performing music you'd be embarrassed to play to a 5 year-old? PM is essentially traditional HM, with all its worst clichés amplified to "11". Bands like Maiden, Rainbow and Saxon, who influenced the subsequent crop of PM clowns, worked hard at creating music/choruses that weren't rooted in children's songs (which may even be an insult to "Jingle Bells" and the like!) but had a measure of quality – quality which later generations did not care for. Bands like Blind Guardian and Nightwish were/are quite content to record the most horrific-sounding cheap s**t - out of sheer laziness perhaps? More likely it is the lack of song-writing skills, plus metal fans becoming increasingly easy-to-please over the years.

Another crap German band that appears are the Scorpions, whom I consider one of the worst mega-selling bands of all time, who had sold out in a more shameless way than any metal band before or since. No metal band, no matter how cash-obsessed, has yet written as many ballads and pop songs as the Scorpions have. They are the Madonna of the metal scene: money, money, money, and only money. Schenker pretty much (unknowingly) admits as much, when he says that "we didn't want to work normal jobs until we were 65". In other words: "we did this for financial security" – and it shows.

Sam Dunn had to deal with one of metal's true poseur divas, Yngwie Malmsteen: a guy who frittered away his virtuosity/talent on sub-par albums, full of stereotypical PM hymns. Again, commercial interests rear their ugly heads in HM/PM. Unlike thrash or hardcore/crossover, you won't find much integrity in the bands featured here.

Manowar's Joey di Maio refused to talk to Dunn, so Dunn had his revenge: he inserted a quote saying that their stage appearance had "a homo-erotic quality". Good for you, Sam. That's how you deal with pompous leather-clad metal divas.

Kuhnemund nails it when he compares PM with the German "Schlager": a term used for mainstream/chart-music German hits/songs that are even cheaper, even worse, and even more banal than the basest pop music. Schlagers are the kind of songs German grannies listen to while they knit pullovers. And that is precisely what power metal is about: music to knit pullovers to.

https://rateyourmusic.com/list/Qwerty100/cheese_in_metal/


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