France, a nation reknowned and reviled throughout history like few others. When it comes to metal, France has been prolific in the genres of death, black, and thrash, but noticeably lacks a strong power metal following. Considering its location and population, this seems somewhat strange, so I've decided to do some digging similar to that which I performed with Norway.
There are only a couple of big name power metal bands from France, though I have come across a number of very interesting lesser names. Stylistically, the French bands seem to run a gamut of influences, from neo-classical shredding and highly melodic structures (similar to their German cousins), to traditional heavy metal sounds a la Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. So again we have a nation without a well-defined national style (it's what happens when you have a small scene), but explores a number of subgenres.
So, without further ado, please find some of the best offerings of French power metal below. mixed in you'll find some samples of their music as well.
Heavenly are one of my favorite power metal bands hands down, and definitely a French premier. Particularly on their latest release, there are some poor things to be said about them. Their fourth album found the band entering some harder, more modern territory (which on "Virus", I find delightful), and this tendency continued and became a bit poppier on their 2009 release, "Carpe Diem". Heavenly play a brand of solid neo-classical power metal, influenced by classics like Gamma Ray. Here's a quality track off of my personal favorite album, 2006's "Virus":
Another of the larger French names in power metal, Nightmare has been around since the early 1980's when they began by playing a brand of traditional heavy metal. After reforming in 1999, the band has resumed their output, but with a much stronger leaning towards power metal. With some very distinct, rougher vocal lines and excellent riffing, Nightmare dropped jaws in the power metal world by dropping a quintet of hard-rocking albums throughout the 2000's, the best of which include their reunion album "Cosmovision" and 2005's "The Dominion Gate".
An as-of-yet still up and coming young progressive power metal band, Alkemyst has only managed a pair of full length albums since their inception in 1999. However, both offerings are excellent. In the case of 2008's "Through Painful Lanes", they have stacked themselves up against that Europe has to offer with a dynamite album that showed off their technical prowess and impressive songwriting skills. With luck, Alkemyst can release another album much sooner than the last, and continue to receive critical acclaim with their unique brand of Euro power/prog.
Bel O Kan
A recent emergence, Bel O Kan released their debut album "Birth of a Queen" in 2009. This upstart young band plays female-fronted symphonic metal with leanings more towards heavy metal than power. The tempos are not quite so fast, and the instrumentation a bit more sparse, but this is an extremely enjoyable album that has firmly planted the band in a position to further their ascent in the world of melodic metal. If they tighten up their dual vocal lines, this band could be a real force to be reckoned with. Here's a track to sample:
A melodic metal band that has established themselves well within France, Karelia seems lately to be taking leanings away from metal and more towards hard rock. Not having heard their latest material, I can't say if this is good or bad. However, some of their past material is quite enjoyable. The band aims to put a fresh, uninhibited spin on heavy metal. Given their recent work, it seems that they are succumbing to popular demand and the urge to make a quick buck. Worth a look, at least.
Another progressive power metal band, and not one that I'm familiar with. Singing entirely in French, this band sounds like they have some promising material (check their Myspace page for some songs), and I'll be on the lookout for some of their work in the near future. They've put out 3 full length releases since 2002, and are due for another this fall. In every nation it seems there are a couple of excellent bands that don't get the popularity that they deserve because they don't sing in English. Manigance, it seems, are one of these bands.
Phenix is genrecized as progressive power metal as well, but listening to them, they seem to have more of a heavy/power sound and attitude. At times, it seems like they've even a US power metal/thrash tinge to them, which certainly provides a bit of a novel flavor in comparison to many of the other bands on this list. I profess not to care for the vocal stylings of the lead singer to any great extent, but I'm sure that others would. Worth looking into.
Another symphonic band, Wildpath boasts more of a power metal flavor, and with a very pleasant female vocalist. Their debut album, "Nyx Secrets" has a very unique cool and almost calming atmosphere about, and while not incredible, they crafted something that is truly special. Wildpath have released a second album in 2009, entitled "Non Omnis Moriar", which I am very excited to hear. This is a remarkable band that is bursting with potential. Here's a great track off of "Nyx Secrets":
Well, there you have it. Perhaps not as in-depth as a few niche specialists might appreciate, but creating this list has already satisfied my craving for a little more metal from France, and will hopefully open a few eyes as to what the nation has to offer. The world of metal is a never-ending trail of discovery, and this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Hail to all, and a happy Thanksgiving!