This is the fourth and final installment of a series chronicling epic heavy metal. The other installments of the series can be found here:
The first part of the series defined epic heavy metal, discussed its foundations, and gave a quick overview of its origins. The second installment took a deeper look into other North American bands that fall under the epic heavy metal banner and it included interviews with Jake Rogers of Visigoth and Jason Tarpey of Eternal Champion. The third installment examined the incredibly rich and dense scenes from Italy and Greece. This fourth and final installment of the series focuses on the broader European scene. While Greece and Italy are the premiere European countries for epic heavy metal, there is still a healthy amount of quality bands from the rest of Europe that more than deserve a mention of their own.
What is included in essentials and what isn’t?
This section is re-purposed from previous installments in order to provide context to new readers, skip this if you’ve already read this material!
Every band and release listed in The Secret of Steel Pt. 1 is an essential piece of epic heavy metal. I highly recommend listening to and familiarizing yourself with the material discussed in that first installment before diving deeper into this article. This segment, along with the other segments, will focus on bands that extend beyond the formative years of epic metal.
These articles are long and contain one or more interviews in them, as such it was important to carefully choose which bands and releases to dive deep on in order to maintain a readable length. There were a number of criteria used to narrow down essential releases to highlight. First and foremost, bands are chosen by a mix of popularity, influence, and quality. A band doesn’t have to hit all 3 criteria, but every band listed is high quality. To keep it clean, we are highlightingbands that have at least 1 full length album. Demos and EPs will be listed in the “other bands” section at the end along with other worthwhile albums from the scene. In addition, we are not including bands that have released their first full length within the last 2 years. While bands like Gatekeeper, Smoulder, Iron Griffin, Lethean, Chevalier, etc. are all excellent and potential candidates for this series, it is too early to tell where they will ultimately land in the grand scheme of things. There is 1 lone exception to this rule, Vultures Vengeance, that is discussed in part 3 of the guide.
Note: As always, keep in mind that no guide will satisfy everyone’s taste. The band’s selected here a reflection of my personal take on the genre.
Special Mention: Bathory
It’s not an exaggeration to say that Bathory are one of metal’s finest and most influential acts. Quorthon, the lone individual behind Bathory, is a visionary who helped pave the way for extreme metal with the raw and vicious energy he unleashed on albums like Bathory’s self titled and Under the Sign of the Black Mark. Being the visionary that he is, Quorthon adopted a number of different influences and gradually changed Bathory’s direction over time. The release of 1990’s Hammerheart marked the beginning of the band’s attempt at what would later would be dubbed as “Viking metal”. While this grand, black metal infused sound isn’t cleanly epic heavy metal by the definition I laid down in the first installment of this series, I’d be remiss not to mention Bathory here. Their tangential nature to the genre as well as the massive influence that they’ve had on a number of the bands we’ve discussed makes them important to mention.
Hammerheart was Bathory’s first and arguably best effort at “Viking metal”. It’s an open secret that Quorthon was heavily influenced by early Manowar (“Enter the Eternal Fire” main riff sounds like it could have been on Manowar’s Battle Hymns or Hail to England for example) and with Hammerheart he fully embraced it. Combining Manowar’s grandiose approach to songwriting and injecting with a small dose of primal black metal energy, Quorthon arrived at his own epic sound. Twilight of the Gods followed up Hammerheart and is nearly as essential when it comes to epic-era Bathory. Blood on Ice was released much later down the line in 1996, but this album contained a number of songs written before the release of Hammerheart and the quality of the music overall matches, making this album a must listen. Quorthon would continue to embrace the epic metal sound with the release of Nordland I and Norland II, which represented a cleaner approach to it all.
Bathory aren’t just mandatory epic heavy metal listening, they are mandatory listening for any fan of metal, period.
England’s Solstice are known for being a staple in the epic doom metal genre, but the gradual evolution of their sound has placed them firmly into epic heavy metal territory. Their debut album, Lamentations, was a heavy slab of melancholic doom metal in the vein of early Candlemass and Solitude Aeternus. The quality of this debut immediately put them on the map. However, Solstice began showing a new side with the release of their Halcyon EP in 1996. The songs were faster paced, there was a stronger emphasis on lead guitar melodies, and the English folk elements were brought to the forefront.
Halcyon was the catalyst and stepping stone for Solstice’s magnum opus in 1998: New Dark Age. This nearly 70 minute epic is one of the finest epic metal albums to ever be recorded. Acting as a continuation of the direction explored in Halcyon, New Dark Age is a never ending riff fest with crushing riff and memorable lead after another. It’s an essential album in every possible way.
We didn’t hear from Solstice until 15 years after the initial release of New Dark Age. Coming from seemingly nowhere, we got a marvelous EP titled Death’s Crown is Victory. This release further upped the pace and explored a direction similar to another essential band that we highlighted earlier in part 1 of this series, Isen Torr. Given that this is a previous project of guitarist and main songwriter Rich Walker, it’s no surprise that Solstice started following a similar sound. Five years after the release of Death’s Crown is Victory and a full two decades since their New Dark Age, Solstice finally graced us with their triumphant third album: White Horse Hill. Following even further in the direction of Isen Torr, the wait was well worth it. White Horse Hill was, in my humble opinion, the best album of 2018 and it looks like Solstice aren’t quite done yet!
Atlantean Kodex have firmly marked themselves as one of the premiere traditional metal bands of the last decade. They have referred to themselves as regressive metal in the past due to their tendency to draw from the classic 80s epic sound, but I believe they are anything but. In my eyes, Atlantean Kodex are the next stage evolution of Manowar’s epic brand of heavy metal. They take the blue-print set forth by classic anthems like “Secret of Steel” and transform it into their own style, taking it to the next level.
Atlantean Kodex’s journey begins back in 2007 with the release of The Pnakotic Demos, a brilliant half hour EP. I first heard this release as a teenager back in 2008, when I was really beginning my path into the metal underground. There were a handful of releases from that time that really stuck with me and shaped my tastes as well as the way I think about music and The Pnakotic Demos are certainly one of them. Atlantean Kodex’s massive, wall of sound approach to epic heavy metal was overwhelming – a wave of emotion hit me every time I listened. This magical feeling still persists.
The Pnakotic Demos is an excellent release and it holds a very special place in my heart, but it was just the beginning for Atlantean Kodex. Their debut album, The Golden Bough, would come later in 2010 and this firmly established Atlantean Kodex as one of the genre’s best. Their best release to date, The White Goddess, was released in 2013 and demonstrated a continued evolution in their so called regressive style of epic heavy metal.
Finally after six years of near silence, Atlantean Kodex are primed to release their third full length album, The Course of Empire, in just two weeks time (from the date of this article’s publication). I can safely say having heard this album, that it is a worthy follow up to The White Goddess. Make sure to check it out on release day: September 13th!
Quicksand Dream’s saga begins all the way back in 1988 under the Epic Irae moniker. They released 3 full demos under this name, each with enough material to pack a full length. The songs were rough around the edges, but they gave us a tiny glimpse into what was coming with their more refined material in Quicksand Dream.
From the Epic Irae days, Quicksand Dream made it clear what their influences were. You could hear bits of Viking-era Bathory, but the primary influence for them has always been Manilla Road. In fact, Quicksand Dream performed live covers of Manilla Road all the way back in 1991. Although these didn’t make it on a physical release until 2012, these are from my understanding the first covers of Manilla Road out there and it just goes to show how deep Quicksand Dream’s passion for the genre extends.
They released their debut album, Aelin – A Story About Destiny, under the Quicksand Dream name all the way back in 2000. Unfortunately, this album had an extremely limited release and very few people heard it outside from underground circles until its re-release in 2010. However, this cult release is one of the genre’s most interesting. It’s not immediately grabbing and the vocals are definitely off-putting at first, but once you give this album a chance, its majesty will shine through. The songwriting is marvelous and the bass work in particular stands out. The songs are brilliant and complex – it almost feels like there’s two different songs going on at once with how active and live the bass is. Quicksand Dream returned for their sophomore album, Beheading Tyrants, in 2016. This great release was more straightforward in its songwriting, but their signature flair is undeniable.
Terminus are perhaps the single most underappreciated band in epic heavy metal. They released a handful of demos/splits before arriving at their lone album, The Reaper’s Spiral, in 2015. Although they have just a single album under their belt, Terminus stand out as one of the absolute best bands to come out of the last few years.
Characterized by its fast-paced songs and incredibly thick guitar tone, The Reaper’s Spiral is one of the best written and catchiest albums around. Manilla Road, Solstice, and Isen Torr are obvious influences and some comparisons can be drawn to the likes of Visigoth, Eternal Champion, Twisted Tower Dire, Argus, etc., but ultimately Terminus managed to carve out a style entirely their own. The band has since ceased live activity and reduced itself to a two man act, but their long awaited sophomore follow up is set for a release this November!
Recommended listening: The Reaper’s Spiral
Ironsword play a rough and barbaric version of epic heavy metal. Their style is the perfect example of something that simply could not have existed as is back in the 80s. While their style sounds decidedly old school in itself, it’s an amalgamation of scenes that span across regions and years. The core influences at work here are Manilla Road, Omen, and Running Wild, and the result of mixing such incredible bands is just as good as it sounds!
Originally formed in the late 90s, Ironsword have been a mainstay of the epic heavy metal scene since their self titled debut in 2002. Their first effort gave us a glimpse of what they were capable of, but stuck a little too close to their influences. The sophomore follow up, Return of the Warrior, showed a clear improvement in songwriting – Ironsword began to synthesize their influences in a way that carved their own identity. Their next two full lengths, Overlords of Chaos and None but the Brave, continued in this direction and demonstrated that Ironsword can bring their own sound to the table. It’s been four years since we last heard from Ironsword, but a fifth full length is set for release late this year – something to look forward to if the last few have been any indication!
Ravensire follow a path similar to that of fellow countrymen Ironsword. They represent the barbaric, aggressive side of epic heavy metal, but instead of moving at a break-neck pace like Ironsword, they take things in the exact opposite direction. Ravensire’s brand of metal is slow to mid-paced and their approach to songwriting isn’t complex, but every single note carries its weight and has significant meaning in the broader picture. The music is laid forth in a very deliberate manner with an emphasis on conveying a story and this is true across all of their releases from their initial 2012 EP Iron Will to their most recent album released just this year, A Stone Engraved in Red.
One of Ravensire’s most defining features are Rick Thor’s rough, booming vocals that are as every bit thunderous as his nickname might suggest. They’re unconventional and aggressive, but they are a core part of Ravensire’s modus operandi. It takes some time getting used to, but they are the perfect vessel to communicate the emotions, stories, and ideas that Ravensire aim for. They work in conjunction with powerful and memorable guitar riffs to transport you right in the middle of an ancient, barbaric battle.
An interview with Nuno of Ravensire
Nuno is the guitarist and primary songwriter of Ravensire. In addition to writing fantastic metal himself, he is a long time, ardent supporter of the underground scene – including early support for us here at Ride Into Glory!
Epic heavy metal is a relatively small and loosely defined genre. How would you define epic heavy metal and what separates it from regular heavy metal? Where do you think Ravensire fits into this equation?
I don’t know if I can define it but I’ll try! For me, epic is not even a specific type of sound, or a lyrical subject, although both are part of the equation. I find “epicness” in so many musical styles from Classical to Death Metal… For me the epic feeling comes from the atmosphere a certain band/song can create, through the use of musical motifs, lyrical content, song structure. All this combined helps to convey the right feeling. In our songs, we try to tell stories/tales and, normally, the music and vocals follow the emotions of what’s being said. This is something most “epic” bands also do and that’s probably the cement that glues together this particular genre that is so small, yet so diverse. Unfortunately these days, with the amount of music being released, people probably go for the more immediate and catchy songs and don’t invest much time into discovering stuff that needs a bit more attention to really dig in and unlock the secrets.
Rick’s vocals are much rougher and more aggressive than the vast majority of your peers in this genre. What is Ravensire trying to achieve with this vocal approach?
Have you ever thought how the warriors must have vocalized their fear, adrenalin and aggression just before joining a battle? Have you ever been involved or witnessed a street fight or, at least, a violent discussion? In these situations do you imagine anyone trying to convey their aggression by delivering a 4-octave falsetto high scream? Or a perfectly balanced tenor wail with consistent vibrato? No.. They scream! They clench their teeth! They make an aggressive battle cry! That’s Ravensire!
And, to be honest with you, I prefer a voice that has its own identity over a voice that sounds like 100 others, no matter how technically skilled the vocalist is, or how many octaves it can reach. When I sit down and think about truly unique vocalists, I usually end up with a list that includes Mike Scalzi, Bob Wright, Mark Shelton, King Diamond, Nick Varsamis, Keith Deen, among others. No matter the genre, no matter the skills, these guys sound unlike no other vocalist and when you listen to their band, you know immediately who you’re listening to. I prefer listening to a guy singing with genuine passion, no matter how flawed he might be, than to listen to the 85th Bruce Dickinson or Geoff Tate or Rob Halford clone! These last few years have seen a resurgence of Heavy Metal bands, with plenty on new stuff being released, but few are those that have vocalists that really sound unlike no other. Of course, Rick might not be THAT original, but his kind of vocals mixed with our more melodic, anthemic, harmonic way of playing really makes the combo a bit unique, at least that’s what I like to believe. I’ll take 10 times Rick singing with his “flawed” technique, than some new guy imitating his favourite vocalist mannerisms!
Your upcoming album, A Stone Engraved In Red, features a song titled “After the Battle” that honors the recent passing of Manilla Road’s Mark Shelton. His death was tragic and unexpected, but Manilla Road have undoubtedly left a huge legacy. What does the music of Manilla Road mean to you and how important do you think they are to epic heavy metal?
The first time I listened to Manilla Road was in 1989 with “Out of the Abyss” and, believe it or not, I didn’t like it aha (to be honest, even to this day, it’s not one of the albums I rate higher)! It was only after some time, when I came across Crystal Logic, that the deal with Manilla Road was sealed forever. The whole Manilla Road story is very interesting because when they were very active and releasing great albums every year, no one cared that much about them. Then 10 years later, some Greek, Italian and German maniacs resurrect the cult and that’s when things really blast off to the point where they finally get the recognition they deserve this decade. Better late than never, I guess. The thing that strikes me the most, again (as I have said about vocalists), is not how great Mark played, or how tight they were, or anything like that. For me, the best about Manilla Road is the ability they always had to maximize their strengths! I mean, I am sure you can find 1 million guitarists that are better than Mark, but the emotion he put on what he played is what made him special. Same thing with his vocals, his songwriting… Probably almost anyone can play his riffs, but this simplicity is also part of the charm. He really could make the most with whatever he got! That is truly inspiring, if you ask me, and it motivated me to try to do it, too. I know I cannot play fast, nor very complex, but if I can translate the emotion I feel to our songs, then I have achieved my goal. And judging from the excellent bands that came out inspired by them, I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking like this. And THAT is the most important thing you can leave as legacy!
You’ve mentioned before that you and the rest of Ravensire are passionate supporters of the metal underground, especially old demos. What are some of your personal favorite epic metal demos and why?
Yes, we’ve all been following the scene closely since as far as 1987 or so… I know this feature is about Epic Heavy Metal, but I find epic overtones in so many styles! Take Holy Terror, for example… Speed and Thrash are the genres they are more closely associated with, but they were so fucking epic! The lyrics, vocals and the atmosphere of the songs, especially on the demo and first album, are every bit as epic as Manowar’s Hail to England! But you ask for demos and demos you shall have! Check Alkateya’s (Portuguese 80s band) demos. There you will find the type of emotion and grandeur that sets epic heavy metal apart from “normal” heavy metal. Their song “Star Riders” is the best song ever penned by a Portuguese band, that I tell you!
What are some modern (2010+) albums released in this genre that would be considered absolute classics if they had been released in the 80s?
The last two Battleroar albums are amazing! They were able to pull off the change of vocalist very wisely and Gerrit’s vocals on these albums are my favorite from his whole career! Solstice, of course, with two mammoths like Death’s Crown is Victory and White Horse Hill under their belts have to be on the forefront. Eternal Champion are another example of vocals and music that stands out and sounds original! Wrathblade’s God of the Deep Unleashed, another great unique-sounding album! Terminus The Reaper’s Spiral, yet another… Doomsword’s Doomsword and Resound the Horn setting the bar high for the XXI century. One of the things that bothers me the most, is the sometimes complete blind worship of the 80s you find nowadays, praising infinitely bands that were/are average at best, when there are so many great sounding bands active and releasing great new music, whose only sin is not being from the 80s…
You can find an assortment of quality releases below by clicking on the expandable text. Included here are a number of European bands that were not mentioned in the previous “Essentials”. There are also a handful of Japanese bands that fit the epic metal tag that are included here. There are far too few of them to justify their own article, but they certainly still deserve some mention!
The below section is broken into two separate segments: Demos/EPs and additional worthwhile albums. Check out the bands below to continue your journey into the European epic metal scene!
- Brave Bomber (JAPAN) / Gaisen March – First Bomb
Kicking off our additional listening section are Japanese epic metal outfit Brave Bomber (later changed to Gaisen March). Despite hailing from Japan, they play a very fast paced and bright take on epic heavy metal akin to Italy’s Holy Martyr or Greece’s Dark Nightmare. Their first demo titled First Bomb as well as the Gaisen March full length album are both worth a listen.
- Crystal Pride – Silverhawk
Crystal Pride were one of the select number of bands that we highlighted in our Women in Traditional Metal article and there’s a very good reason for that. Silverhawk is among the best releases Sweden has to offer. Ranging from doomy passages, to triumphant gallops, to memorable vocal lines – the songs are catchy, varied, and superbly written.
- Defender (Sweden) – They Came Over the High Pass
Taking cues from bands like Manowar and Omen, Defender’s They Came Over the High Pass is a testament to the American roots of epic heavy metal.
- Epic Irae – Dreams and Delusions
Epic Irae are the humble beginnings of Quicksand Dream and represent the band’s formative years. The music is far less refined than that found on Aelin or Beheading Tyrants, but it’s still well worth a listen. The Manilla Road influence is still there in full force, but Bathory’s Hammerheart presents itself equally in the music.
- Fast Draw (JAPAN) – Damia
Fast Draw are Japan’s other epic heavy metal band. Their first demo, Damia, is a very raw, fast, and rough around the edges effort that feels like it’s about to fall apart at the seams at any point, but never quite does. Yoko Kubota’s high pitched and aggressive vocals immediately bring to mind Chastain making this little demo very well worth the listen.
- Final Prophecy – Beyond Reality
I’ve discussed Germany’s Final Prophecy in depth before, but I will take absolutely every opportunity presented to me to share this excellent band with the world. Beyond Reality’s 1988 release date puts it squarely in the middle of Germany’s speed metal movement and with its epic, power metal tinged sound, it finds itself in familiar company with the likes of Helloween’s Walls of Jericho and Blind Guardian’s Somewhere Far Beyond.
- H and H – L’Étendard – The Anthology
H and H are a French band that managed to release just two songs back in 1986, but these two tracks alone stand head and shoulder above many of the others listed here. The single was later re-issued in 2017 as part of a compilation alongside a number of unearthed tracks, but unfortunately these didn’t live up to the might of those original two.
- Herzel – Unis Dans La Gloire
Herzel are yet another band with just a lone two track single under their belt, but unlike H and H who were active in the 80s, they are newcomers to the scene. Herzel’s Unis Dans La Gloire gave us two excellent tracks reminiscent of American genre flag-bearers Eternal Champion. It’s been four years since the release of this excellent demo and it looks like Herzel are finally gearing up to debut!
- Hundred – Riders of Ardenland
Fast paced and Celtic inspired, UK’s Hundred released a handful of demos and EPs across the 2010s before disbanding. Their triumphant, lead driven style immediately brings to mind bands like Slough Feg, Dark Forest, and Isen Torr. Although Hundred are no more, guitarist and vocalist Alex Storrsson has since started his own one man project in a similar style simply called Storrsson.
- Khan – Barbarian Warriors
There’s not much known about Spanish outfit Khan other than the fact that they released a couple of demos in the late 2000s/early 2010s. However, with a demo titled Barbarian Warriors, it’s pretty clear what you’re going to get with Khan. The songs are rough around the edges and aggressive much like Ironsword.
- Kramp – Wield Revenge
Do you like Omen (and I certainly hope so)? Well, Kramp certainly do! If you ever wondered what Battle Cry might sound like with a bad ass woman leading the charge, this might be as close as you’re going to get. Omen aren’t the only primary influence for Kramp, you can also hear other legendary epic metal acts like Manowar, Brocas Helm, and Warlord in the mix as well. Wield Revenge is a fantastic, catchy EP and with a full length looming from Kramp, this band’s future is bright.
- Neptune – Land of Northern compilation
Much like Crystal Pride mentioned further above, Neptune are a mainstay in Sweden’s classic underground metal scene. They formed all the way back in 1979 and were active all through the 80s, but unfortunately they never managed to release a proper full length album. Their demos are must listens and represent some of the highest quality and most epic metal that Sweden has to offer. They were compiled just last year in the Land of Northern compilation. Fans of Heavy Load, Manowar, and Gotham City take heed!
- Stonefield – The Eyes of the Dawn
Switzerland’s Stonefield are an oddity to say the least. Switzerland’s classic metal scene wasn’t nearly as rich as its neighbors and although they released their material in the very late 80s/early 90s, Stonefield sound as if they’re coming straight from the 70s. Channeling Rainbow and Deep Purple’s heaviest, most epic moments, The Eyes of Dawn is an excellent EP that showcases brilliant and compelling songwriting.
- Runemaster – By Thorn & Thunder
Hailing from the UK, Runemaster’s three EPs are a rough around the edges take on epic metal with a heavy dose of doom and a dash of folk. The closest comparisons for Runemaster would be the mighty DoomSword and Solstice.
- Valkyrie – Deeds of Prowess
Heralded as one of the scene’s mightiest and earliest demos, Valkyrie’s Deeds of Prowess showcases a band inspired by the likes of Manowar and the ever so amazing Conan the Barbarian soundtrack. Mid-paced, triumphant, and epic – there’s really not much more that needs to be said about this magnificent demo.
- Vendel – Vendel
Crushing and heavy, Russia’s Vendel play epic heavy metal with a massive injection of DOOM. Bringing together influences from the likes of Candlemass to Scald to DoomSword, this is one of the finest active bands in the scene right now. They have just one self titled EP to date, but their debut album looms so keep your eyes out for that!
- Whetstone – Ancient Metal
Ancient Metal – there’s simply no better title for Whestone’s masterpiece of a demo. It’s a full blown epic speed metal assault from start to finish that evokes images of medieval warfare – what more could one possibly want? In that sense, Whetstone’s closest comparison point would be the equally obscure Final Prophecy, the aforementioned early Blind Guardian and Helloween, and in some ways the most recent Chevalier material.
- Altar of Oblivion – Sinews of Anguish
These Danes play mid-paced epic heavy metal and drench it with a massive dose of doom. Driven forward by Mik Mentor’s charismatic, over-the-top vocals, Sinews of Anguish always makes for a fantastic listen. The rest of their EPs and albums, including their latest 2019 release The Seven Spirits, are well worth the listen. Fans of DoomSword and Candlemass will find themselves at home here.
- Angus – Track of Doom, Warrior of the World
Relative to the rest of the bands listed in this series, Angus are particularly straight forward and play a classic NWOBHM inspired sound. Don’t let this fool you though, despite its simpler nature, the music here is incredibly high quality. Their two albums are something of a cross of Saxon and Omen and I don’t make those two comparisons lightly!
- Blacksword – The Sword Accurst
With a name like Blacksword and an album title like The Sword Accurst, you know exactly what you’re getting – fantastic Michael Moorcock themed epic metal! These Russians play an up-tempo, power metal infused take on the genre with an emphasis on lead guitars backed by a powerful bass. Fans of bands like Domine, Skelator, and Brocas Helm will definitely enjoy this!
- Chevalier – Destiny Calls
It’s been difficult to neatly categorize Finland’s Chevalier, but one thing is certain – they are incredibly ambitious and varied in their songwriting. They play a style of metal that is fast, aggressive, and unrestrained, but has incredibly epic undertones. Think Brocas Helm and Manilla Road meet ADX. It can be difficult to unpack at first and for some the production is a massive turn off, but when given appropriate time, Destiny Calls is a very rewarding listen.
- Crom (GER) – Vengeance
Crom are a band that absolutely have no problem showing their influences on their sleeve – Bathory, Bathory, with a dash of Bathory. Crom take the template set by albums like Hammerheart and Twilight of the Gods and takes them further in a power metal direction, resulting in a cleaner sound that further emphasizes the epic metal tendencies.
- Elixir – Son of Odin
The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal is one of the last scenes you’d expect to find epic metal and with a good reason. While it’s really just a regional and time descriptor, most of the bands that would be described as NWOBHM had deep roots in blues and hard rock. Elixir were an exception to this rule. Originally formed during the tail end of the movement in 1983, their debut album Son of Odin wouldn’t see a release until after the NWOBHM in 1986. This album brought us a powerful, mid-paced, epic album that stuck out like a sore thumb among their peers – a must listen!
- Existence – Reign in Violence
Reign in Violence is a weird album to say the least. The songwriting is incredibly complex and the overall sound is bass heavy with plenty of aggression. Fans of bands like Fates Warning, Cauldron Born, and Domine will really appreciate its obtuse nature.
- Frozen Sword – Defenders of Metal
Frozen Sword are from Switzerland, but just listening to their music might have you thinking they’re from Greece or Italy! Their take on epic heavy metal is very similar to that of BattleRoar, Omen, and Ironsword – bouncing riffs, rough vocals, and an upbeat nature.
- Full Moon – Full Moon
Much like Legend from the US, Full Moon are a band that arrived at epic heavy metal completely by accident. Their sound is rooted in progressive/space rock, but they added that metallic edge to it all that made their sound drift towards epic heavy metal. This is a must listen for fans of Legend’s From the Fjords and Manilla Road’s Mark of the Beast!
- Heroes Of Vallentor – Warriors Path, Part 1
Fast paced guitars, pounding drums, and barbaric vocals categorize Heroes of Vallentor and their lone album, Warriors Path, Part 1. Their closest companions in terms of sound are actually the band Frozen Sword mentioned above!
- Iron Griffin – Iron Griffin, Curse of the Sky
Much like fellow countrymen Chevalier, Finland’s Iron Griffin are tough to pinpoint to one exact sound or style. Their debut album, Curse of the Sky, is one of the best that 2019 has to offer. The relaxing and easy going approach of the instrumentation contrasts brilliantly with Maija’s powerful vocals for a very unique listening experience that brings to mind the term “ancient metal”.
- Legionnaire – Dawn of Genesis
Legionnaire are another brilliant, young band out of Finland! Their sound draws from a similar well of influences to that of Chevalier and Iron Griffin with inspiration from acts like Brocas Helm and Slough Feg, but their approach to songwriting is a bit more straightforward and catchy than their fellow countrymen. This isn’t to their detriment at all as Legionnaire’s debut album Dawn of Genesis is as brilliant as it is catchy.
- Lethean – The Waters of Death
Lethean’s The Waters of Death is among my favorite albums from the last couple of years. It’s the creative outlet of longtime scene veteran James Ashbey (ex- Solstice, Craven Idol) in partnership with Thumri Pavaana on vocals, who brings a haunting, feminine edge to the music. If you enjoy bands like Solstice, Isen Torr, and Terminus and wouldn’t mind an excellent frontwoman then Lethean is perfect!
- Lord Fist – Green Eyleen
Lord Fist are yet another excellent Finnish band. Their closest comparison are fellow countrymen Legionnaire, but Lord Fist are just as influenced by classic epic metal bands like Manilla Road as they are the catchy bands from Sweden’s scene.
- Lunar Shadow – Far from Light, The Smokeless Fires
Lunar Shadow are a traditional heavy metal band from Germany who have never paid attention to trends. Characterized by their unique blend of influences that ranges from post-punk to black metal, Lunar Shadow’s twin guitar lead, melody driven sound sets them apart from their peers. If you ever wanted to hear what Dissection would sound like in an epic/traditional metal shell, then Lunar Shadow is as close as you’ll ever get!
- Old Season – Archaic Creation
Ireland’s Old Season have been around since the early 2000s and they are a masterclass in how to properly use keyboards to accent and elevate your music. Their debut album, Archaic Creation, is a deeply emotional and dramatic affair that all fans of the genre should listen to.
- Root – Kargeras, The Book
Beginning their career in 1987, Czech band Root were first wave black metal innovators. They played a raw and primordial form of black metal that drew deeply from the well of traditional heavy metal. However, they gradually began experimenting and moving in the direction of epic heavy metal. The Temple in the Underworld was their first exercise in this direction, but with the release of Kargeras and The Book, Root really mastered their own, mystifying take on epic heavy metal.
- Sacred Steel – Heavy Metal Sacrifice
Traditional metal, speed metal, American power metal, European power metal – epic metal. You’ll get a little bit of everything from Germany’s Sacred Steel and they certainly do it all well.
- Sellsword – ...and Now We Ride
Sellsword take European style power metal and bring it a bit closer to its traditional metal roots in a similar fashion to very early Domine. Their latest album moves a bit too far in the European power metal direction, but the band’s debut titled …and Now We Ride is an enjoyable take on epic heavy metal.
- Skullwinx – The Missions of Heracles
Fast-paced and upbeat, Germany’s Skullwinx immediately bring to mind the Greek scene with comparisons to be drawn to BattleroaR. There’s a bounce in Skullwinx’s riffing style that also reminds me of Omen and Running Wild.
- Sons of Crom – Riddle of Steel
Sons of Crom unsurprisingly get their main influence from Bathory’s viking era. Much like DoomSword and Crom (GER), they take the foundation laid forth by Hammerheart and further push it in the epic direction. They have two excellent albums under their belt with the debut, Riddle of Steel, standing out a bit more.
- Storrsson – Celtic Legends Volume 1
With an album named Celtic Legends Volume 1 and song titles with far too many “y”, “w”, and “i”s to pronounce properly, Storrsson make it painfully obvious that they are deeply influenced by Celtic music. The obvious comparisons to draw here are Solstice and DoomSword in their most uptempo passages or perhaps Slough Feg in their most epic moments. Storrsson is a one man project helmed by Alexander Storrsson, but despite being just a one man project, they are among one of the most promising new bands in the scene. The production is rough around the edges and the album is a bit bloated, but the songwriting is undeniably brilliant.
- Veni Domine – Fall Babylon Fall
At times progressive like Queensryche and other times epic and doomy like Candlemass, Veni Domine have their own unique sound. Their debut album, Fall Babylon Fall, is perhaps their most epic and ambitious both in terms of songwriting and lyrical content.