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Heavy/Power/Prog + Everything In Between: Round-Up Part. 1

Here at Transcending Obscurity a lot of our coverage tends to skew towards the extreme metal side, with a lot of focus going on quality black metal, death metal, sludge, and doom.  But there’s plenty of great music out there that falls into heavy metal, power metal, and progressive metal territory.  With that in mind, we asked some of our writers to come up with what they felt were some of the better bands and albums to come from those genres in recent memory, keeping hybrids that sometimes run back towards the extreme side as an option.  All of the material below is definitely worth spending some time with, no matter which of these three genres your tastes fall towards.  Check them out and let us know if you agree with our highlights! -Chris Dahlberg

Arcana 13- Danza Macabra

Arcana 13- Danza Macabra (Aural Music)

Playing a style of heavy metal that embraces the proto doom leanings of early Black Sabbath and lots of occult rock influence, Arcana 13’s latest album ‘Danza Macabra’ is a very interesting affair. The occult rock influences dominate for most parts of the album, giving it a strong flavor of horror, like it belongs on the soundtrack of old Italian horror classics. That said, there are more than enough traditional heavy metal characteristics in the riff work to warrant this album a place on this list. Arcana 13 also cover Suspiria (composed by Goblin for the classic film of the same name), further establishing their deep roots in horror films. The album as a whole has enough variety to keep the listeners engaged and Arcana 13 manage to pull off 6 to 7 minute tracks with ease. While horror fans would appreciate the nitty gritty of the album, there is something in here for even casual fans of heavy metal. Shrivatsan Ragavan

Cauchemar- Chapelle ardente

Cauchemar- Chapelle Ardente (Nuclear War Now! Productions)

Cauchemar made waves in the underground with 2013’s ‘Tenebrario’, and for quite a few people this year’s follow up ‘Chapelle Ardente’ was one of their most anticipated releases of 2016. One listen is all it will take to blow away any expectations, as the heavy/doom band has taken every aspect of their music and made it even better. With a warm analog sound that pulls listeners into occult riffs that sound like they could have been ripped straight from the 70s or 80s and Annick Giroux’s somber, haunting vocal performance leading the way, this is an album drenched in a captivating atmosphere. Unlike some of the other bands out there Cauchemar shakes things up quite a bit as well, providing a good mix of up-tempo and slow pieces. One of the year’s best for sure. -Chris Dahlberg

Cauldron- In Ruin

Cauldron – In Ruin (The End Records)

Canadian heavy metal band Cauldron have been spreading the word of heavy metal since the early 2000’s (as Goat Horn) before it became a trend. Their 4th album released early this year and went unnoticed by many. 9 songs of straight up heavy metal that take you back to the 80’s. Put on that denim vest/leather jacket, grab your favourite beer and click play below. Peter Kotikalapudi

Diamond Head- Diamond Head

Diamond Head- Diamond Head (Dissonance Productions)

At one point it seemed like ‘What’s In Your Head?’ might be the last Diamond Head album, with the future of the band somewhat uncertain. But nearly nine years later and with new vocalist Rasmus Bom Andersen in tow, the group has come back better than ever. This new self-titled effort blends the best elements of Diamond Head’s soaring heavy metal and groove laden hard rock from decades past, while injecting a burst of energy that makes the material feel equal parts modern and retro. Even at almost fifty minutes in length, there isn’t a single lull and Brian Tatler delivers one great lead after another. But even with the songwriting firing on all cylinders, the real star of the show is Andersen, whose soaring highs encapsulate everything that makes heavy metal great. Welcome back Diamond Head, you’ve been missed. -Chris Dahlberg

Grand Magus- Sword Songs

Grand Magus – Sword Songs (Nuclear Blast Records)

At this point Grand Magus are pretty much a heavy metal institution, albeit not a hugely popular one. This is a shame, as ‘Sword Songs’ is the band’s eighth album and they show no signs of stopping any time soon. If you’re not familiar with the band, (where have you been), the play spirited heavy metal with lots of anthemic qualities and enough bullet belts and spikes to ruin your laundry day. There’s no filler or messing around here, just pure, undiluted metal, just the way we like it. Brief, but very enjoyable. Recommended for all fans of true heavy metal. -Nigel Holloway

Hammers of Misfortune- Dead Revolution

Hammers of Misfortune- Dead Revolution (Metal Blade Records)

Compared to the others on the list, Hammers of Misfortune skews more towards the progressive side of the spectrum, but there are plenty of high flying heavy metal riffs throughout ‘Dead Revolution’ that can appeal to fans of all tastes. With a warm analog sound that lets the guitars and keyboards create a truly entrancing atmosphere, the material on this album covers a considerable amount of ground and always manages to blow you away. Sometimes Hammers of Misfortune goes into full-on progressive rock with sweeping melodies and drawn out climaxes, while others they go for straight up heavy metal/70s rock style leads that up the energy and fly by with precision. Joe Hutton’s vocals, which come in at a mid-range and are able to head into higher soaring ranges when appropriate, are a perfect fit for the band’s progressive rock meets heavy metal maelstrom, and he’s given a good deal of backup from some of the other members. ‘Dead Revolution’ is an album that showcases Hammers of Misfortunes’ musicianship and ability to continually branch out into different directions, and it’s another strong release from a long running band that has yet to release a single bad record. -Chris Dahlberg

Iron Fire- Among the Dead

Iron Fire -Among the Dead (Crime Records)

Danish heavy / power metal band Iron Fire have been around in one form or the other, for the past 21 years now and 2016 will see the release of their latest full length ‘Among the Dead’. The band continues in it’s path of forging heavy metal inspired by battles and wars of the past. Iron Fire are one of those bands that manage to make a combination of heavy metal and power metal in a way that it has both melodic accessibility and a strong sense of heaviness. Even with all the delectable solos, melodic vocal work and power metal cheesiness, Iron Fire manage to sound “metal as fuck”. From the anthemic opening of the title track to the power ballad closer, the album contains loads of old school heavy metal goodness. The vocalist has a very gruff edge to his voice, giving the music a raw edge. The modus operandi of the band is comparable to the likes of Mystic Prophecy and Virgin Steele. Iron Fire is one of those bands that manage to make heavy, melodic music without being too overbearing and for that alone, they deserve a place on this list. Do yourself a favor and pick up ‘Among the Dead’ when it comes out later this September. Shrivatsan Ragavan

Medevil- Conductor of Storms

Medevil- Conductor of Storms (Independent)

Whoa, where did this band come from? Canadian power metal/thrash band Medevil knows how to make one hell of a first impression with their debut ‘Conductor of Storms’. They’ve been honing their ideas since 2011, and this extended incubation period shows. Categorizing them as power/thrash is just scratching the surface of what makes this album so compelling, as the instrumentals have a flair for the progressive and head into unexpected territory with each song. Early on it sounds like you’re going to get a healthy dose of 80s thrash and early power metal that’s delivered with precision, but by the time you get to The Angel of Rain the band has mellowed out completely and heads towards sweeping progressive melodies that are incredibly compelling. Plus when you have a vocalist who sounds like Udo Dirkschneider in his prime, Medevil sure knows how to stand out. -Chris Dahlberg

Mob Rules- Tales From Beyond

Mob Rules- Tales From Beyond (Steamhammer/SPV)

Germany’s Mob Rules has been one of the better power/melodic heavy metal bands out there for close to two decades, with albums like ‘Savage Land’ and ‘Radical Peace’ leaving a strong impression on listeners. Their eighth full length ‘Tales From Beyond’ may just be their best yet, and while it is a lot to take in all at once at over an hour the effort is worth it. The instrumental work continues to have that perfect blend of stunning melodies and powerful riffing that makes it feel like the band is sending you off on an epic journey. There isn’t a single dull moment to be found here, and the changeovers between slower ballads and faster build-ups are executed perfectly. Plus even twenty years into his career Klaus Dirks sounds absolutely fantastic, hitting sweeping falsettos and commanding mid-range pitches that will have you latching on to each and every word. European tends to be somewhat saturated with average power and melodic heavy metal bands, but Mob Rules continues to break free of the pack and prove that they’re capable of setting the standard. -Chris Dahlberg

Myrath- Legacy

Myrath – Legacy (Verycords/Nightmare Records)

Heavy Metal music is truly a global phenomenon with bands from countries like Tunisia touring around Europe. Myrath has been consistently releasing quality albums for almost a decade now. Their latest album, ‘Legacy’ is their most accessible album yet. A blend of power metal-ish clean vocals with oriental guitar riffs makes them stand out from the bands in North Africa and the Arabian Gulf. The lead single from the album ‘Believer’ is good indicator of how good the rest of the album is. A must listen album for all heavy metal fans. Peter Kotikalapudi

Overtures- Artifacts

Overtures – Artifacts (Sleaszy Rider Records)

Here we have some Italian melodic heavy metal with some nods towards power metal. With strong musicianship, the band have produced bright, effective songs that benefit from keyboard enhancement and decent compositions. If you’re after some sugary ear-candy heavy metal then Overtures deliver the goods. -Nigel Holloway

Rebel Wizard- Invocation of the Miserable Ones

Rebel Wizard – Invocation of the Miserable Ones (Independent)

The banner for Melbourne, Australia’s Rebel Wizard reads “Heavy Negative Wizard Metal.” Awesome. Mastermind, Nekrasov, “takes the old-school, hooky sounds of bands like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and combines it with the blistering speed and darkness of Aura Noir and Usurper.” While the black metal vocals may turn the purists away, they will be hard pressed to deny the classic spirit of these riffs. It’s like Absu if you traded thrash for heavy metal. Added bonus is you can name your own price. -FlightofIcarus

Rectified Spirit- The Waste Land

Rectified Spirit – The Waste Land (Transcending Obscurity Distribution)

I don’t go in much for power metal singing. It tends to strike me as silly and over the top. Not so with Indian band Rectified Spirit. Rainjong Lepcha’s highs are just so damn strong, and perfectly walk the line that separates epic from cheesy. Slaying guitar hooks, catchy vocals, epic solos, and dynamic drumming are all part of the package. Just press play on Winter in Thine Eyes and tell me you didn’t get caught up in it at least a little. This is not a perfect album, but it is still one of the few in this style to catch my interest. And it is intriguing enough to make me excited for the band’s future. -FlightofIcarus

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