Thomas Bawden: The gauntlet has been lain, the grudge match set. A battle between the Axis of Metal titans for the glory of the almighty underground metal riff. Fritz vs Ferret; two will enter the arena but only one shall walk out with their dignity intact. In the left corner, the host with the most, representing the holy light of Power Metal is the almighty Fritz; the right hand corner, representing the dark evil of Thrash Metal lies the contender, the ungodly, woman raping, walking bloodbath only known as the Ferret. In this battle between Good and Evil, only one can triumph. Let battle commence!
5) Stone – Light Entertainment (Good Old Times)
Where better to begin with the classics? And you can rest assured that Stone are indeed one of those forgotten classics whose influences can still be felt today; one of the earliest Finnish metal bands who, despite disbanding, you’ll find that many of it’s members still hold presence in current bands. Their guitarist and lead songwriter might actually ring a bell with a few: Roope Latvala. A man that joined another band, Waltari, that once again failed to get noticed outside of his native Finland before settling down in Children of Bodom, only to be overshadowed by a man who once called him his idol growing up. At just nineteen, he managed to pen an album that would influence bands for decades to come. After more than a full minute of proving why we should never have forgotten him, he emerges triumphant with what must be one of the best Thrash riffs ever written. Roope, some of us will never forget.
4) Decadence – Silent Weapon (For a Quiet War)
Travelling just a short way to neighbouring Sweden and we come across a band fronted by a woman who not only makes Gossow look like a wimp, but manages to do it looking a darn sight prettier too. A Thrash/Melodeath band plagued by questionable choices – I’m blaming the label – that saw dreadful advertising, dire promotion, and their final album released only in god-damn Japan enlightening only the faithful few able to afford the importation costs, before finally disbanding once and for all. It’s such that their final accomplishment never really got to see the light despite containing some of the greatest compositions and displays of fretwork they’d written to date, and the one a little over half a minute in is undoubtedly one of their best.
3) Gargoyle – Underground Market
If I had to name one underrated artist in Thrash – in metal in fact – Gargoyle are irrefutably my number one choice. A 25 year career in their native Japan, only one real change in the line-up in all that time, more than 15 albums to their name and not a single ‘down point’ of sub-par releases that virtually every other metal band suffers at some point in their careers. Gargoyle are Japan’s best kept secret, their albums never really making it off their homeland – believe me, I’ve tried – and unquestionably their impeccable guitar work is a big factor in their ability. A dozen tracks could have made this list, but only this one shall; from their 2002 EP “Bushin,” this demonstrates them at their fastest, most groove-laden, progressive, distinctive and finest.
2) Watchtower – Meltdown
As we approach the finalé I present an American Technical Thrash band before their time; perhaps even one of the very first examples of Progressive Metal, and they didn’t do things by half. The best known of all my picks, this band was technical enough to rival even the most modern of bands and yet their talents wouldn’t truly be appreciated until long after they had been and gone. The explosive riff that opens this may never have got the exposure it deserves but for those few who hear it, they shall never forget the legacy they left on the metal genre.
1) Doom – Bright Light
My final coup de grâce in this collection of the finest the genre has to offer and I’ve taken a stroll to the classic forgotten era of Japan, all the way back to ’88, and dug up a three-piece Avant-Garde/Progressive Thrash band. It is in this unlikely trio that so much of the rhythmic duties were placed on the ability of the bassist and is what ultimately led to their distinctive sound; his work on the fretless bass unparalleled in metal and at his slap-happy finest he emerges with a melody so insatiable, so dripping in thrash grooves that even when he plays it at half speed 3 minutes and 20 seconds later it still loses none of it’s impact. Probably one of the finest bassists in recent memory.
R.I.P. Koh Moroto (May 7th 1999)
Fritz: Truth be told, power metal is one of my least favorite of all the many metal varieties. I’ve never been drawn to it like some people have. It’s not that I totally dislike the sub-genre, it’s more of the fact that it lacks the qualities that have drawn me to metal for many years. When it comes to metal, I’ve always been drawn to the breakneck speed, [yes, I know, power metal does contain fast tempos] ugliness, aggression, and of course the riffing, specifically that atypical thrash tremolo riffing. Being a huge thrash fan, you may think that power metal may be appealing to me, but it never really was, and I’ve never been caught by its appeal. Anywho, when Thomas and I came up with this idea, we picked two genres we weren’t big fans of, him choosing my beloved thrash metal, and I, being stuck with power metal. I will state for the record that as I took the time to pick these five songs I did in fact find bands that I did enjoy, and now listen to for leisure; but it will never be a style I gravitate to.
Now on with the riffs!
5) Tiluland – Tilu Of Kings
Where to begin with this track? Well first off, it’s an instrumental, which to me is a sensible choice give the nature of this undertaking. What really drew me to this song was its sense of “atmosphere”. Albeit this is devoid of vocals, the song still manages to keep you enthralled throughout its duration given the element of “gang ambience”. [you’ll hear that as soon as it begins] Plus mixed with awesome riffing, soaring leads and dark yet moving piano passage around the three minute mark, leaves you with one moving dirge, which you won’t forget anytime soon. Soaring leads, great soloing, a sense of ambience, and fast tempo, leaves you with a winning formula.
4) Falconer – Humanity Overdose
As I scoured the internet for another entry I was immediately drawn to this song as soon as it began to play. The intro riff(s) are great, and that theme continues on for the duration of the song. Then throw in a Bruce Dickenson-esque vocalist and you have yourself a winner. Another nice element is the variance of tempos, which is always a nice flare if done right. You’ll be thrust from slow passage to speedier passage with soaring vocals and blazing leads with some cool harmonies thrown in there for good measure. There is a lot to digest in this song, and that’s a good thing, a very good thing …
3) Wuthering Heights – The Desperate Poet
This is a fun one. As soon as it began playing I felt like getting up and dancing like a buffoon to the infectious melody and bouncy riffing. The vocalist is more than sufficient and works extremely well to compel you to raise your fist in sheer enjoyment of the sound billowing out of your speakers. The solos are executed extremely well, enthralling harmonies, and the overall feel of this song is powerful; just like power metal should be. This is an opus of the highest quality.
2)Powerwolf – St. Satan’s Day
These next two were a toss-up. Everything about this song rules, and right from the beginning you know you are in for some power metal goodness. As soon as the vocals burst into the sound you begin to feel a surge of energy and power that transcends your consciousness and makes you feel as if you are in the midst of a warzone between heaven and hell. The riffs are bouncy and quick and create a synergy with the vocalist that is simply tremendous. Enough blabbing from me, as words cannot begin to describe the awesomeness that is St. Satan’s Day. Click play and all will be understood …
1) Phantom – Well Of Souls
Finally, number one! This song may not be the poweriest of metal, but it’s a great fusion of speed and power metal. It’s hard to pick out the best part of this track, whether it is the awesome guitar work which has one of the best suited tones I’ve ever heard or it could be absolutely mind-bogglingly awesome vocalist. The vocalist has the sort of pipes that all power metal vocalists are extremely jealous of, and wish they had. The chorus is by far the best part of this song, it’s one of those “chills down your spine” sorts of experience, and for a guy that really isn’t into this type of metal, I felt it. Plus the guitar work is just fantastic, it’s sort of minimalistic in nature but it’s just right for this song. Given the guitar’s great tone and big sounding nature it works extremely well to create a synergy unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. This in my opinion truly is power metal at its finest.
P.S. That robotic falcon rules!
Now you be the judge …
About the Author
Anyway I'm one of the co-founders of Axis Of Metal, which I created out of a love for all things heavy. Admittedly my first foray into music wasn't so heavy. At twelve i developed a love for grunge music, which then lead to a love of classic rock, and punk. Then as I consumed almost every piece of music in said genres I needed something with a bit more intensity, and something more extreme. One day I was walking through the halls in my high school, and i heard music blasting out of someone's headphones, and it was exactly what I was looking for. So after I found out that it was Slayer's "Disciple" I went home that day, and listened to every song Slayer had ever released, and that's how it all started.
So that's my story, so why not go out and listen to me blabber on, on the podcast or go and read what the Axis Of Metal's writing team has to say. Axis of Metal is created by metal heads, for metal heads.