Grandfather! Tell Me A Story!
A Very Brief And Incomplete History Of Live Hard Rock/Metal Concept albums.
As we hit the 50th anniversary of Heavy Metal this year (2020), as Managing Editor of Metal-Rules.com, one of my goals is to try to add more editorial content and technical information so people can use MR not only as a source of entertainment but reliable information as well. In our 30,000+ pages of content, we have written almost 14,000 CD reviews, 500+ book reviews, 400+ DVD reviews. Over 25 years we have conducted over 2000 interviews, and our international staff have reviewed over 1700 concerts and festivals world-wide.
We are also celebrating our 25th year as a website so to add even more value for our readers I would like to add a series of articles about various facets of Heavy Metal. Every year, I am increasingly happy to discover more and more authors, books, on-line publications, scholars and academic studies scouring our massive archives, citing and sharing our work.
Therefore, my modest goal is to continue to make Metal-Rules a resource and repository on a variety of (hopefully!) interesting topics and not just a shallow dumping ground of regurgitated press-releases, click-bait, pop-up ads, political posturing, countless lists and rankings of albums, and endless industry gossip. There are plenty of good sites that already do that well and they are all enjoyable in their own way.
Each feature in this series is named after a Metal band, album, song title or lyric. Feel free to go back and read the other articles in this series.
Mar 2020- Read All About It (Canadian Metal magazines)
April 2020- Gathered In Their Masses (American Supergoups)
May 2020- A Tribute to The Past (Tribute albums)
June 2020- Reborn In Blasphemy (Re-recorded albums)
July 2020-Still The Orchestra Plays (Metal bands and orchestras)
August 2020-Japandamonium (Live in Japan albums)
If you have any suggestions, comments or ideas for future articles, please let me know. You can reach me at email@example.com. Thank you.
If you want to skip the long article, you can just scroll down and look at the list of bands!
What is a concept album?
A concept album is an album that uses lyrics to tell a story. All the songs connect to tell a story from start to finish. It is linear. If you listen to the songs on a concept album out of sequence the lyrics would not make sense. Think of it like opening a storybook to a random chapter and start reading, it doesn’t work.
What is the difference between a regular album (common) and a thematic album (uncommon) and a concept album (rare)?
Many people confuse these ideas (and it is a bit of a minor annoyance of mine) so I have included a more detailed explanation.
A regular album is ‘just’ a collection of songs. Random order. Random topics. Random lyrics.
Example. Iron Maiden-THE NUMBER OF THE BEAST (1983). It has songs about gangsters, vikings, capital punishment, prostitution, Indians, a TV show, and more. You can listen to them in any order you wish. There is no main character, no plot and there is no unifying theme.
A thematic album can have an overarching theme (pick one: war, religion, politics, horror, death science, historical events; anything really) and the band will write, individual songs all of them about that ‘theme’ or topic. They can be listened to individually in any sequence but all the songs have a common thematic thread.
Example: (something a bit more recent) Sabaton-THE GREAT WAR (2019). Every song is about World War I. The songs may have a story or a character but they are not connected and not linear. You can still listen to the songs in any order you wish and each song is self-contained. The theme is WWI.
A concept album must have the key elements of classical literary composition. Think back to high school. A story must have the basic events of plot; a protagonist, and antagonist, a conflict, climax, and resolution. It will have a main character (or characters) and that character has some sort of conflict/problem/adventure/quest etc that is (usually) resolved by the end of the album.
Example: Queensryche-OPERATION:MINDCRIME (1988) The main character (Nikki) is recruited by the antagonist (Dr. X) to commit crimes for a shadowy political group called ‘The Order’. He meets a Nun, (Mary) and has a crisis of conscience and tries to escape his addictions and ‘The Order ’(the conflict) and save the girl. I won’t give away the climax and resolution in case you are one of the few Metalheads on the planet who have not heard Operation: Mindcrime. It is a linear story. If you listen to track six for example and read the lyrics out of order it would make no sense. The listener would have no context of the story unless they were familiar with the source material. , which occurs in the case of film and literary adaptations.
So for our purposes in this essay, we are discussing the rarest of them all, the true concept album. There is quite a bit of ambiguity as many bands have a ‘concept’ album but the story is very vague, so for the sake of brevity I tried to adhere to a ‘slightly’ stricter definition.
How many concept albums are there?
As with most of the quantifiable/objective numbers in this series of essays, it’s hard to pin down. The number keeps growing. As of 2020 my best estimate is that there are a few hundred, maybe 400 maximum, which means they are quite rare (less than 1%) of the total number of Metal albums in existence.
How long have concept albums been around?
Concept albums have been around as long as Metal has been around. Albeit some of them were in a primitive form but they have been around almost since Day one. Even before that, dating back to the pre-Metal, golden age of Progressive Rock when bands like Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, and Pink Floyd would dabble in storylines. The concept of the Rock Opera also rose and in some cases they had very respectable sales for example, Jesus Christ SuperStar and Tommy.
However, concept albums in the early days of Heavy Metal, roughly 1970-1980, were very rare. Metal itself was, in many senses, a lyrical and sonic reaction to the very long, (some say) self-indulgent conceptual pieces of the Prog and Rock 70’s, and the bubblegum melodies of the 60’s and on into Disco, so it wasn’t an arena that early Metal bands tended to explore.
It took a couple of decades before more than a tiny handful of Metal bands wanted to meld the three worlds; the aggression and speed of Metal, the progressive length and virtuosity of Prog and the pomp and bombast of a Rock Opera, to a creative cohesive whole linear story encapsulated in a single (or double) album.
Mirroring the growth of Metal itself concept albums tended to increase circa 1996-1997 (Hammerfall A.D.) when Power Metal (and to a lesser degree Prog Metal) has a huge global spike in output. All the kids who grew up on the melodic sounds of Priest and Maiden in the 80’s and weren’t quite into the more underground and modern Death and Black Metal styles, (from say 1985, the earliest origins of Death Metal and roughly 1995 when the notorious second wave of Black Metal fell apart), needed and wanted their own sound.
Spearheaded in and around 1997 by brand new bands like Hammerfall, Nightwish and Rhapsody and a very small cadre of older bands that had stayed the course in the 90’s, such as Helloween, Blind Guardian, Savatage, Dream Theater, (each with their own thematic/conceptual albums), the two genres proliferated. Literally, hundreds of Prog and Power bands appeared overnight and dozens of unique concept albums were created.
The pace and productivity has continued unabated now for almost a quarter of a century with new concept albums appearing monthly with little to no signs or slowing down. As a percentage overall it’s still very small but growing. For our purposes we are using 1970, arguably the birthdate of Heavy Metal as our launching point.
What are the characteristics and features of a concept album?
1. Types of concept albums.
There are a few ways for a band to approach and design a concept album.
-Fiction. These are pure creative flights of fancy and the most common type of concept album. These can be set in fantasy worlds, realms or universes or in the real world.
-Non-Fiction. These are historical concept albums that tell the story of real people and events are not as common as purely fictional albums.
-Adaptations. Many bands choose to adapt pre-existing creations; literature, film, religious texts, or poems, into their concept album. These are more common than purely historical concept albums but not as common as fictional albums.
Adaptations can create a grey area. A classical example is Blind Guardian’s popular concept album, NIGHTFALL IN MIDDLE-EARTH (1998). It is based on a ‘real’ book, J.R.R. Tolkien’s, ‘The Silmarillion’ published in 1977. The book itself is a work of fiction but the album is based on a real thing, the book. So is the album Fiction or Non-Fiction? I’m probably overthinking it.
For our purposes I’ve decided to focus primarily on fictional concept albums. However, See the section of exceptions (below) for a bit more detail on what made the cut.
Fantasy by far and away is the top genre of choice for concept albums. Science Fiction a close second, Horror a distant third and Non-Fiction concepts bringing up the rear. I expect this pattern exists because those first three genre/themes are not constrained by reality and the artistic forces behind these concept albums have a blank slate to create their vision.
Concept albums, as a rule of thumb, tend to be long. It is harder to develop characters, plot and tell a story in the ‘traditional’ album length of 35-45 minutes. Quite often a concept story will consume an entire 75 minute + album or even span two or more albums.
Even within the realm of concept albums there are distinctions. Some are really really long and some are short. Some are compact short stories that span one short album. King Diamond is the master of this; concise horror stories that aren’t too elaborate.
Rhapsody on the other end of the spectrum, created a monstrous multi-album, concept piece called ‘The Chronicles Of Algalord’ that featured an entire fantasy world (complete with maps!) with multiple characters and intertwining plots. It took 15 years to complete and spanned ten releases (8 albums and two EP’s) and when listened to in it’s entirety runs almost ten hours long! (See Appendix C for more on Rhapsody)
Generally, if a Metal band is going to do a larger series of concept albums, most of them end up as a trilogy. Three acts traditionally lends themselves to conventional storytelling. Very few bands, maybe a half a dozen, have gone beyond a trilogy of concept albums.
4. Physical Presentation.
Many concept albums are often more elaborate than what is usual for a Metal album. For example, a CD booklet or (gatefold vinyl, Ltd. edition packaging or box-set) may include enhanced visual components such as liner notes that explain the plot, character background and development, maps, and/or graphics and illustrations to flesh out the story.
5. Musical Style.
Concept albums tend to contain more instrumentals or sonic bridge pieces that ebb and flow with the plot. Quite often there is more orchestration, symphonic elements guest performers who assume multiple vocal roles to play different characters. Narration is also a big part of concept albums.
A bit of a side note on the difference between a Rock Opera and standard concept album. A Rock Opera tends to have certain musical structures and motifs, like an overture, resisting certain lyrical and musical ideas over and over. A Rock Opera tends to be a bit more bombastic with pomp and rends to have more characters. For our essay I’ve used two terms virtually interchangeably.
Overall, everything tends to be a bit bigger, longer and more involved to enhance the atmosphere of the story.
Who makes Concept albums?
Concept albums are almost exclusively the domain of traditional/classic, Progressive and of course Power Metal bands. The labels that support these bands (Magna Carta, InsideOut, Frontiers, Limb, etc) is where you tend to find these bands.
There are a few rare exceptions (which we will discuss) but by and large Thrash, Death, Black, Doom, Stoner, the more melodic genres (aka glam or Hair Metal) and all the the affiliated sub-genres (Grindcore etc) don’t often create concept albums.
I am personally curious as to why this is case. There is no reason why more extreme bands can’t or won’t create concept albums. Perhaps the artists in those genres don’t feel their music lends itself to a storyline. Concept albums rely heavily on lyrics and vocals to convey important plots points so perhaps bands with more extreme vocals feel the concept would be lost amidst the more harsh vocals.
As mentioned earlier Fantasy and Science Fiction are the predominant themes of concept albums. Generally, it can be said that the more extreme bands and genres don’t explore those thematic areas as often. You don’t very often see Porno-Grind bands doing Sci-Fi Rock Operas, although, I would totally check that out when it happens.
Maybe most concept albums don’t have the immediacy and short-term, visceral impact that the more extreme genres demand. Maybe some fans (thrash fans especially) don’t have the attention span to listen to an album for an hour. It’s hard to mosh to an eleven minute long song with lutes and lyres with a singer crooning about the magical elves in the enchanted forest!
Or maybe ultimately (as I probably suspect) most Metal fans think that concept albums just aren’t ‘cool’. Some critics might suggest that Power Metal, despite its massive global popularity, has never been ‘cool’.
Feel free to insert your own cliched insult about nerds, dungeons and dragons, cos-play, role-playing renaissance fairs, and virgins living alone in their mothers basement (and so forth) that tend to populate the reviews by unimaginative mainstream Metal magazine (and on-line webzine reviewers) who like to slag Power Metal for their own amusement because they don’t like the genre because it’s not ‘cool’.
Interestingly enough the Folk, Viking, and Pirate Metal sub genres, who dabble in concept albums, also take their fair share of heat for not being cool as well.
Whatever the reasons, Prog Metal and Power Metal is the realm of concept albums and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. However, in the past decade there has been a small increase in the number of extreme Metal bands doing concept albums. Newer, theatrical and symphonic Black Metal bands like Lemuria and Carach Angren are taking a page from the Cradle Of Filth playbook and developing some concept albums, but by and large when it comes to concept albums, Power Metal still reigns supreme.
As always for this series of essays, I be listed these bands chronologically and then alphabetically. The difference for this essay is that for bands with multiple albums in the story I’ve grouped them altogether under the date of the first album (or chapter) of the story. This makes it tidier for bands that spread their connected concept albums out over time.
Exceptions, Omissions and exclusions.
This was the part I struggled with most what to include and exclude. Do include yet another, generic, Italian Power Metal, Lord of The Rings style concept album (I love all of them by the way) or drop that and include maybe something a little more interesting like a Death Metal album that doesn’t ‘quite’ fit into a strict guidelines I set-up above? Don’t overthink it.
There are many conceptual albums that sort of meet the broad criteria but the lyrics, characters and storyline are so vague that they don’t really tell a story.
An example of this is the Avantasia Wicked Trilogy consisting of THE SCARECROW (2008), ANGEL OF BABYLON (2010), and THE WICKED SYMPHONY (2010).
Creator Tobias Sammet, speaking to the media at the time, said that unlike his first pair of concept albums, The METAL OPERA PART I (2000) & PART II (2001) (both of which had fully developed characters and plot line) he left the story and characters deliberately vague so the listener can interpret the proceedings in his or her own way. In the WICKED TRILOGY we don’t even learn the name of the main character! Some concept albums are only half an album in length (think 2112) or a have a storyline so convoluted that it collapses under it’s own weight, or conversely so a plot so undeveloped that it is confusing.
I’ve passed on adding a bunch of these. These types of albums are generally not included but I stuck some of them in Appendix A of Honourable Mentions.
Additionally, there are a whole pile of (Non-Fiction) albums that explore historical themes and real events. Some albums describe and explain historical events set to music for example, Sabaton’s CAROLUS REX (2012) which details the history of Sweden’s King Charles the XII and the Swedish Empire from 1682 to 1718. These albums are based in history I have opted to exclude them from the main body. As mentioned earlier, I’ve included a brief Appendix (B) of some of these historical concept (Non-Fiction) albums.
To further complicate matter some bands will take a real historical setting and insert a completely fictional character and create a story. Angra’s-TEMPLE OF SHADOWS (2004) is a good example. It is a the story of a fictional character ‘The Shadow Hunter’ but the story takes place in a historical setting, specifically in Jerusalem in the 11th century during the crusades.
Unlike ‘pure’ historical albums, I have included some of these hybrid types of albums, where the characters and story are fictional but in a historical setting. They made the cut because of the creative, story-telling aspect.
Confused yet? Let’s summarize.
Fictional albums: Included. If it doesn’t make the cut for being too vague or ambiguous, they went into Appendix A
Non-Fiction albums: Not included but see Appendix B for a short list of examples.
Adaptations of film or literature: (The source material may or may not be based on historical events) Inclusion is on a case by case basis. Some of the fictional ones are included, some of non-fiction ones are not.
Lastly, why didn’t I include Non-Fiction concept albums? Well, I fully admit it was arbitrary decision. If I included all of them this long essay could have even been double in length.
I also wanted to focus on the more creative, imaginative aspects of concept albums, and not just, for example, another concept album about Spartans and the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, that a half dozen Greek Power Metal bands did albums about, and that suddenly came out after the 2006, film ‘300’ was released.
Some of these historical albums span dozens of years and often don’t really have a main character or plot so they didn’t make the cut. For example, Grave Digger Scotland Highland Trilogy consisting of TUNES OF WAR (1996), THE CLANS WILL RISE AGAIN (2010), and FIELDS OF BLOOD (2020). It’s a great trilogy but it is just a straight-up, musical recounting of a period in time that spans too many decades to have a main character or central plot.
If you are a student of history and love those types of Non-Fictional concept albums, my apologies. Maybe one day a Part II of this essay will be in order.
Until then, enjoy!
Added: OPartion Minzrime trilogy Sept 11th, 2020
Nov 12, 2020 Added Lucid Dreaming Chronicles Part 3.
Mar 14, 2022 Added Plasmatics (Courtesy of Juan Pablo Matinez), Legend Of Valley Doom Part 3, Seventh Wonder and Heroes Of Forgotten Kingdoms
ALICE COOPER-Welcome To My Nightmare
(1975, Warner Brothers)
ALICE COOPER-Welcome 2 My Nightmare
(2011, Universal Music)
It is not surprising that with Cooper’s flair for the horror theatrical (or ‘The Grand Guignol’) he would be the first Hard Rock/Heavy Metal artist to do a concert album. His first ‘solo’ album was the story of a boy named Steven and his nightmares. Steven would periodically appear on Alice albums in the future. In terms of concept, plot and character development it does lean a bit more towards a thematic album but it is a decent starting point for our exploration. Followed years about 35 years later by Part II which was not nearly as well-recieved. Note the thematic similarities in the cover design and layout.
Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds
This was kind of a big deal at the time selling millions. Became a popular UK franchise with a touring production, DVD’s and video game based on the Rock Opera. It is a retelling of the infamous H.G. Wells novel ‘War Of The Worlds’. Epic narration, sound effects and multiple guests playing various roles make this an early fully realized concept albums.
Phenomena (1985, Bronze )
Phenomena II: Dream Runner (1987, RCA)
Phenomena III: Inner Vision (1993, Parachute)
An early example of an ambitious, multi-album concept with multiple guests. Brothers Tom and Mel Galley (Whitesnake) created this big project evolving a huge international list of NWOBHM all-stars. It had a minor hit but was perhaps premature in 1985, and in the end a limited budget hindered the audio-visual interactive component that had been planned. The story is a tale of a scientist and his daughter Lucy, age 9, who develops a huge computer able to meld mind and machine via telepathy. Through a series of unfortunate circumstances Lucy is eventually put into a coma and her young mind is wandering free in the ‘fantastical, multi-dimensional world’ machine where she encounters various ‘phenomena’, each one being played out in a song.
Abigail II: The Revenge
(2002, Metal Blade)
King Diamond is synonymous with concept albums and ABIGAIL was this was the start of a long line of concept albums for him. As of 2020, he has made ten concept albums, more than almost every other Metal artist. This is one of the more iconic and well-regarded Metal concept albums. King revisited the concept 15 years later with Part II. It is a classic haunted house/ghost story about the spirit of Abigail.
The last thing the band did formally was this quirky concept album.
CLOVEN HOOF -Dominator
(1988, Heavy Metal Records)
An early and uncommon example of a theatrical NWOBHM band embracing a concept. This one is a simple Sci-fi tale.
King Diamond’s second concept album sees him developing a signature style of a haunted house/ghost story.
Many folks forget that CONSPIRACY is actually Part II of THEM. A last minute change saw this cover (the bottom one ) substituted for one the top one, which to me seems less suited to the concept. The story of THEM continues with the malevolent ghosts causing havoc.
Inarguably the most famous and most well-known Metal concept album of all time. In Popoff’s international poll of the Top 500 Metal albums of all time (published in book form in 2007) Mindcrime was voted the # 7 Metal album of all time, making it by default the #1 Metal concept album of all time. By way of comparison, the next concept album on the top 500 list was King Diamond-Abigail way down at #54. The story was roughly based on the French-Canadian terrorist organization the FLQ active in the 70’s and 80’s. Followed up by a Part II eighteen years later that revealed the cliffhanger/mystery of Part I. The sequel was not quite as well received
KING DIAMOND-The Eye
Four full concept albums in four years has to be some sort of a record. This time the story revolves around a girl who looks into ‘the eye’ of the witch (a medallion) and sees back in time to France and the inquisition and the tale of Jeanne Dibasson, a woman falsely accused of witchcraft and eventually burned at the stake.
A concept album based on the 1983 book called The Way Of Wyrd written by Brian Bates that follows a young Anglo-Saxon sorcerer by the name of Brand during the Dark Ages. Mailman Walkier would go onto to explore other medieval and folk themes with his new band, Skyclad.
SAVATAGE-Strets: A Rock Opera
The concept the band had flirted with on the previous album GUTTER BALLET comes to full realization. Originally intended as a double album, the plan was shot down by the record label. Years later (2013 ) the band finally issued the full double complete with narration. This is the story of DT Jesus, a fallen, drug-addicted rock idol who ends up on the streets of New York seeking religious salvation.
W.A.S.P -The Crimson Idol
Blackie’s tour-de-force and arguably the high point in his career. This semi-autobiographical album still holds weight and was reissued again in deluxe expanded form in 2018. There was even a mini-film connected to the story. The tragic story follows the life of Jonathan Steele, a troubled kid who travels to L.A. to become a famous rock star and after achieving great fame, becomes disillusioned with the music industry.
DAMIEN BREED-Ave Satani
This lesser known German band evolved into Seelenwinter, but before that they produced one concept album as Damien Breed. The story is based on the 1976 horror film, ‘The Omen’.
AYREON-The Final Experiment
Almost as synonymous with concept albums as Savatage and King Diamond, Ayreon is a whole other situation. Founder and mainman Arjen Lucassen has made eight consecutive concept albums to date and nine overall. This was his first an odd combo of time travel, Science Fiction and Fantasy.
SAVATAGE-Dead Winter Dead
Savatage’s second concept album comes at the tail-end of their major label years. It is an interesting story of the siege of the city of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war and it focuses around two children, one from each side of the conflict, who meet in the bombed out city at Christmas time. This album is most notable for the song ‘Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)’ which became a surprising cross-over hit in non-Metal radio. This success lead to the formation of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra rock opera project who quickly would overshadow Savatage in terms of sales, recognition, touring and popularity.
BATHORY-Blood On Ice
(1996, Black Mark)
This was actually recorded back in ’88/’89 but sat in the vaults for a number of years. Loosely based on Robert E. Howard’s ‘Conan’ character. An early example of a more extreme band doing a concept album.
EDGE OF SANITY-Crimson
(1996, Black Mark)
EDGE OF SANITY-Crimson II
(2003, Black Mark)
A rare early example of a Death Metal band doing a concept album, two of them in fact! It is a futuristic tale of a barren Earth and a sterile world where a king produces the only child who over time leads a revolt against the deceased king’s successor. Interestingly enough it is two giant songs, one per album.
ICED EARTH-The Dark Saga
(1996, Century Media)
This would be the beginning of a trend/patten for a number of thematic and concept albums by Iced Earth and Jon Schaffer. A concept album based on the popular Todd McFarlane comic and character Spawn as depicted on the cover. It is the story of a man who makes a deal with the devil, which invariably goes wrong, to save his deceased wife and he ends up with supernatural powers.
KING DIAMOND-The Graveyard
(1996, Metal Blade)
After six years between concept albums and the reunion of Mercyful Fate, King returns with concept album number five. The main character catches the local mayor committing horrible crimes but gets locked up in the insane asylum for his troubles. Over time the main character goes mad and seeks his terrible revenge.
PUNKY BRUSTER-Cooked On Phonics
(1996, Hevy Devy)
One of the earliest concept albums of Devin Townsend . This is a humorous fictional tale of the rise and fall land rise of a Polish Death Metal band (Cryptic Coroner) who reinvent themselves as a pop band, Punky Bruster. The humour worked well but never got wide-spread attention outside the Devin Townsend fan-base. This indie effort was actually released on Sony in Japan!
BLACK JESTER-The Divine Comedy
An upstart Italian Power Metal doing their interpretation of Dante’s epic poem of the same name, three acts of course!
DAYS OF YORE-The Mad God’s Wage
A rare example of a Canadian concept album, by this obscure but respected Power Metal band. It’s a pretty elaborate story of high Fantasy that comes with a very detailed booklet and background story. I own this and I’m still not quite sure what it is about!
IRON SAVIOR-Iron Savior
The first of many albums about a giant, sentient spaceship called the Iron Savior. This German Power Metal band, a bit of a spin off of Helloween and Blind Guardian, has many albums in the storyline but the plot is pretty vague and under-developed so I didn’t include all of them. This is the only one, the debut, that the story makes any sense then it goes off the rails.
SAVATAGE-The Wake Of Magellan
Savage’s third concept album is an interesting tale based on two distinct but very real stories connected together by the musings an old mariner on a beach. The only Savatage album without the classic logo.
AYREON-Inside The Electric Castle (A Space Opera)
The bands second concept album is a big double album with about 20 guest stars in various roles.
BLIND GUARDIAN-Nightfall In Middle-Earth
It was perhaps inevitable that Blind Guardian would do a Tolkien based concept album.
CRADLE OF FILTH-Cruelty And The Beast
(1998, Music For Nations)
Considered by some to be the bands breakout album, this one still has momentum having just been reissued again in 2019. Lots of time and money went into the bands first (of several) concept albums. It’s no shock that Cradle dabbles in real-life, horror concept albums and this one recounts the life of Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory and her bloodthirsty ways. Released multiple times in various formats.
DEEDS OF FLESH-Inbreeding The Anthropophagi
(1998, Unique Leader)
It’s fairly unique to have a brutal Death Metal band do a concept album. Deeds of Flesh choose appropriate subject matter the story of Sawney Bean a cave-dwelling cannibal family who commit various atrocities.
(1998, Metal Blade)
King Diamond’s sixth concept album sees him head south to explore a voodoo storyline.
OPETH-My Arms Your Hearse
Three albums in to their career and Opeth tackles a concept album. It is a fairly ambiguous and slightly convoluted story about a ghost walking the earth and viewing his former lover. In a slight horror twist the ghost decides to kill his former flame so no one else can have her. Despite the vague story it is critically acclaimed.
PAIN OF SALVATION-One Hour By The Concrete Lake
(1998, Inside Out)
Pain Of Salvation is the main vehicle for Daniel Gildenlow who loves his cerebral concept albums. This is the true story of what was the most polluted place on earth, an old Russian nuclear waste dumping site, Lake Karachay, which was eventually filled with concrete. It is the story of the modern, industrial world as viewed through the eyes of an arms dealer.
SHADOW GALLERY -Tyranny
(1998, Magna Carta)
SHADOW GALLERY -Room V
(2005, Inside Out)
Power Prog act Shadow Gallery enter the fray with a concept album and follow it up with Part II, seven years later. It is the story of a disillusioned military weapons designer who has a crisis of conscious and tries to leave the government, who of course object to his plan and he has to flee. ROOM V picks up where TYRANNY left off and the manhunt continues and there is an added love interest and climatic final showdown .
Ian Parry’s CONSORTIUM PROJECT
(1999, Inside Out)
Continuum In Extremis
Terra Incognito (The Undiscovered World)
(2003, Century Media)
CHILDREN OF TOMORROW
(2007, Metal Heaven)
A rather drawn out affair, this is Ian Parry (ex-Elegy) epic vision. Spread across five albums and 12 years. It is a futuristic Sci-Fi saga on par with Ayreon.
DREAM THEATER-Metropolis Pt. 2-Scenes From A Memory.
Amazing to see a prog album on a major label in the late 90’s. The bands started the song Metropolis back in 1992 on the IMAGES AND WORDS album. The story is now fleshed out in what was to become a career highlight for the band and perhaps one of the most well-known and highly regarded Metal concepts albums of all time. The main character goes through hypnotherapy and sees the past and the murder of a girl.
VIRGIN STEELE-The House of Atreus-Act II
VIRGIN STEELE-Magick Fire music
VIRGIN STEELE-The House of Atreus-Act II
Considered by some to be the bands tour-de-force. A massive and admittedly complicated conceptual piece about ancient Greece. Accentuated and supplemented by the Blood Fire Music EP as well. The whole things runs over three hours long.
AYREON-The Universal Migrator Part I: The Dream Sequencer
AYREON-The Universal Migrator Part II: Flight Of The Migrator
A continuation of THE FINAL EXPERIMENT. As Ayrton star grows in the music community more and more guests join the projects in various roles; people like the singers of Helloween, Rhapsody, Stratovarius and Iron Maiden.
Considering his lyrical and storytelling acumen, Dio’s first true concept album was regarded as underwhelming. The convoluted story and underdeveloped characters contributed to a weak album which could have been his ultimate triumph. Legend has it a Part II was in the works but remained incomplete. The Fantasy story revolves around a wizard hero, called Eriel and the narration track really helped explain the story.
JAG PANZER-Thane To The Throne
(2000, Century Media)
One of many, but one of the earliest adaptations of Shakespeare. In this case the US Power Metal titans tackle MacBeth.
KING DIAMOND-House Of God
King Diamond’s seventh concept album was an interesting gothic horror about an alternate story of Jesus who escaped the cross and fled to a church in France.
MADSWORD-The Global Village
(2000, Underground Symphony)
These Italian Power Metallers took a stab at a science-fiction with a futuristic dystopian concept album.
These British Power Metallers took a stab at a science-fiction with a futuristic dystopian concept album.
AVANTASIA-The Metal Opera
AVANTASIA-The Metal Opera Part II
The solo/side-project of Tobias Sammet of Edgy would eventually take on a life of it’s own eventually eclipsing Edguy in terms of sales, touring and popularity. It’s not so humble beginnings was a two-part fantasy story about a time-travelling dwarf that included a smorgasbord of the Power Metal elite doing guest spots. Avantasia continues to this day doing grand thematic pieces but not really true concept albums.
DRAGONLAND-The Battle of the Ivory Plains: The Dragonland Chronicles Part I
(2001, Black Lotus)
(2002, Black Lotus)
DRAGONLAND-Under The Grey Banner
One of many very decent High Fantasy concept albums by a speedy Power Metal band. These Swedes knocked out Part I & II back-to back and then waited a decade to do Part III.
HAMMERS OF MISFORTUNE-The Bastard
Low key but very high quality which meant that this new band was well received right away. This three-act story is a gritty fantasy tale. The band has moved onto grander, broader, conceptual pieces on bigger record labels.
Nikolo Kotzev’s NOSTRADAMUS
This monster two-disc set has a ton go guest stars playing various roles. The ever-popular Nostradamus is the concept that gets fleshed out by Kotzev (Brazon Abbot, Baltimore) for his own side-project.
SAVATAGE-Poets & Madmen
Tragically, this concept album loosely based on a haunted house and the true story of photo-journalist, Kevin Carter. It was to be the bands last album, before evolving into the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
GARY HUGHES-The Once And Future King Part I
GARY HUGHES-The Once And Future King Part II
The guitarist of the band Ten does a two-part concept album based on the popular topic of Arthurian legend. Lots of cool guest stars.
GENIUS: A ROCK OPERA
Episode 1: A Human Into Dreams’ World
Episode 2: In Search Of The Little Prince
Episode 3: The Final Surprise
The ever-productive and talented Daniele Liverani made an early mark with his epic three-part concept album series. An odd miss-mash of Science Fiction, Fantasy follows the the man character ‘Genius’ into an elaborate dreamworld. Countless guest stars and epic narration by Phillip Bynoe.
REBELLION-Shakespeare’s Macbeth -A Tragedy In Steel
REBELLION-A Tragedy In Steel Part II-Shakespeare’s King Lear
This Grave Digger spin-off band with three ex-members really embraced conceptual albums early on. They have at least six now, most of them non-fictional historical pieces. Their first attempt was a re-interpretation of Macbeth and they revisited the concept 16 years later with their version of King Lear.
An ambitious and grand double CD concept album about an Albino man with healing power who travels to the big city. As with many of Spock’s Beard material the story is loaded with Christian allegory and metaphor.
AINA-The Days Of Rising Doom Part I-The Metal Opera
Amanda Sommerville of created this elaborate two CD fantasy story. Tons of guest stars. Still waiting for Part II 17 years later…
FAIRYLAND-Of Wars In Osyrhia
FAIRYLAND-The Fall Of an Empire
FAIRYLAND-Score To A Nerw Beginning
Not be left behind in the global Power Metal concept album explosion, France’s Fairyland entered the fray with a trilogy of their own. The high fantasy story about the land of Osyrhia. The band after a long break came back and revisited the world with Part IV, 11 years later.
KING DIAMOND-The Puppet Master
(2003, Metal Blade)
King’s ninth effort is a macabre tale of reanimation, blood sacrifice and…puppets. Some versions came with of bonus DVD with King, in full make-up narrating the tale.
THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG-Traveller
The Weird Lord Weird dabble in a Sci-Fi concept album based on a board game of the same name.
This French Metal institution throws their chapeau into the ring with a modern cyber-based Sci-Fi story of a boy addicted to a video game in which the various scenarios start to become real.
AFTER FOREVER-Invisible Circles
In their short but prolific life as a record label, Transmission sure did gravitate to bands that do concept albums. The dutch, Symphonic/gothic band After Forever created one as well. It was a dark and somewhat depressing tale of child abuse.
ANGRA-Temple Of Shadows
The aforementioned tale of the Shadowhunter in medieval Europe.
AYREON-The Human Equation
No signs of slowing down for this band with concept album # five. This time we get a double CD (as per usual) with a story of a victim of a car crash who lies in a coma revisiting his life.
W.A.S.P.- The Neon God Part I-The Rise
WA.S.P.-The Neon God Part II-The Demise
Blackie revisits his old stomping ground with a story that is sort of similar to Spock Beard’s SNOW and his own CRIMSON IDOL. The story of an orphan boy with mysterious mind powers travels to the big city his subsequent rise to fame and fall from grace. The two album set, while ambitious, was a bit bloated and consequently not as well received.
DERDIAN-New Era Part 2: War Of The Gods
(2007, Magna Carta)
DERDIAN-New Era Part 3: The Apocalypse
(2010, Magna Carta)
Another, somewhat generic, Power Metal Fantasy trilogy from a young Italian Power Metal band. Total musical quality however and on any given day it could be your favourite if you embrace the story.
MORGANA FEFAY-Grand Materia
(2005, Black Mark)
A bit of a comeback after some line-up shuffles, these Swedes delivered their first concert album, an interesting and well developed story about a man who becomes immortal.
VISION DIVINE-STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS
VISION DIVINE-The 25th Hour
Vision Divine is one off those Italian Power Metal bands where they have any number of concept albums but they were borderline for me to include because the vagueness and ambiguity of the concepts. This story is about a man who wishes to learn the meaning of life. His wish is granted and he goes insane. The sequel, THE 25th HOUR arrived three years later.
BEYOND TWILIGHT-For The Love Of Art And The Making
A bit of a weird one, worth including for it’s unique characteristic. The album is designed like a jigsaw puzzle with each track (piece) can be played in a different order which rearranges the storyline. This ambitious and complicated was well-regarded but ultimately too complicated to be really successful. This Danish band split up shortly after.
Manticora-The Black Circus Part I-Letters
Manticore-The Black Circus Part I-Disclosure
Denmark’s Manticore probably don’t have the reputation they should. This is an above average double concept idea, more than just dungeon and dragons rehash. It is the story of the harsh conditions of a travelling circus in the 19th circus.
VANDEN PLAS -CHRIST O
After several years in the business, this German Prog/Power group tackle a concept album. Not your run-of-the-mill D&D story it it is modern day interpretation of the Alexandre Dumas novel, ‘The Count Of Monte Christo’ tied into a mystery.
DEVIN TOWNSEND-Ziltoid The Omniscient
(2007, Hevy Devy)
Z2 Dark Matters
(2015, Hevy Devy)
It is no secret that Devin Townsend has a very bizarre and convoluted discography. This is his second attempt at a ‘true’ concept album, despite virtually of his other work being very thematic in nature and execution. As expected comedy is the driving force and this story tells the tale of the Ziltoid the world crushing, omniscient alien seeking the perfect cup of coffee. Followed by Z2 in 2015.
DIMMU BORGIR-In Sorte Diaboli
(2007, Nuclear Blast)
Debates about the nature of ‘true’ black Metal aside for a moment, Dimmu is one of the only ‘Black Metal’ bands to due a concept album. The story revolves around the spiritual fall and evil rebirth of a young priest.
ICED EARTH-Framing Armageddon-Something Wicked Part I
(2007, Century Media)
ICED EARTH-The Crucible Of Man-Something Wicked Part II
(2008, Century Media)
Jon Schaffer has another crack at a concept album, this time a double and a follow-up to Something Wicked first explored on the album of the same name. It is an epic and long and convoluted story. The albums seem hampered by the switch in lead singer from Part I to Part II.
IMPIOUS-Holy Murder Masquerade
(2007, Metal Blade)
A decent example of a rare Death Metal concept album about a serial killer. Some versions of the album came with a comic book was well.
KING DIAMOND-Give Me Your Soul…Please.
(2007, Metal Blade)
This was the 10th concept album by King Diamond who took a long break after meeting a girl and having a heart attack, but not necessarily in that order. The album is streamlined story with the usual scenario of a haunted house and the malevolent spirt of a young girl. King Diamond is slated to resurface with a new concept album (his 11th) in the year 2021.
MANOWAR-Gods of War
(2007, Magic Circle)
A problem with Manowar is that they tend to announce things on a grand scale before they are fully executed and this is one such example. GODS OF WAR was originally announced a series of albums each one about the god of war in different cultures. This first was, somewhat predictably, about Odin and Norse mythology. The series has never materialized to this day. This is Manowar’ grand symphonic Rock Opera and in true Manowar style is pretty bombastic, loaded with choirs.
Yet another, monster double concept album with dozens of guest performers. Apparently the title is the binary code for the letter ‘Y’ ..as in ‘Why?’. Another convoluted (but enjoyable) metaphysical, sci-fi concept story.
This dutch Black Metal band has very rapidly become well known for conceptual and thematic albums. There are many King Diamond touchstones, with very creepy, well developed, yet very grisly horror stories entered around a simple concept, in this case the story of a ghost of a murdered woman who haunts the moors.
CRADLE OF FILTH-Godspeed On The Devil’s Thunder
Excluding the band broader re-interpretation of an epic poem by Milton on DAMNATION AND A DAY, this is the band second crack at a concept album. Like CRUELTY this is another fictionalized interpretation of a real life personage, the life of Giles De Rais, the 15th century French nobleman.
Priest’s first and only stab at a concept album was pretty unwieldy. The band had grand visions of a big touring production and the album played in it’s entirety but these plants never materialized. The result was a semi-bloated, quasi-rock opera that many Priest fans felt was a brave try but a bit of a misfire. It was , naturally, a Double CD.
Creepy, atmospheric and effective story of a serial killer from this respected grindcore band. Again a rare example of a band of this style doing a story. In this case, it is a single 38 minute long song, a far cry from the usual extremely short songs that are the traditional style of the genre.
SEVENTH WONDER-Mercy Falls
Seventh Wonder join, Ayreon, Genius, James La Brie, Nightwish, Phenomena and others who have a concept album about a man in a coma. This is considered one of the bands best albums.
SOULSPELL-A Legacy of Honour
SOULSPELL-Act II:The Labyrinth Of Truths
(2010, Inner Wound)
SOULSPELL-Act III: Hollow’s Gathering
(2012, Inner Wound)
Not to be outdone by Angra or Beto Vazquez’ Infinity, this Brazilian Power Metal project created by drummer Heleno Vale, who from out of nowhere, created an epic fantasy Metal Opera trilogy. As with most of these projects this veers into Rock Opera territory with a billion European Power Metal guest stars playing various characters.
CARACH ANGREN-Death Came Through A Phantom Ship
(2010, Maddening Media)
A modernized and gruesome retelling of the tale of the the legendary ghostship, The Flying Dutchman’. The band was signed to a bigger label shortly after this.
CRADLE OF FILTH-Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa
(2010, Nuclear Blast)
Dani Filth and crew go back to the well for a third (or fourth time, depends how you count) but this time their concept album is a truly original story. The main character Lilith, the ancient demonic temptress is transplanted into the modern day. The bands first album on Nuclear Blast was considered a success.
VANDEN PLAS-The Seraphic Clockwork
The bands second stab at a concert album sees them getting more metaphysical with a time travelling protagonist.
(2011, Nuclear Blast)
This was the album that took Nightwish to the elite level. This conceptual piece warranted three versions original, instrumental and sound track version. Not to do anything small, the band’s first full concept album is a dark, wintery tale that was eventually turned into a full-length feature film as well. The story follows the dreams of a faded rock star who lies on his death-bed in a coma and travels through a fantastic world led on by a semi-evil spirit guide in the form of a snowman. Top notch on every level and the album hit the top 40 in two dozens nations.
Kamelot has dabbled with a conceptual pieces before with the two-part EPICA (2003) and THE BLACK HALO (2005) that explored the story of Faust but SILVERTHORN is there first original concept album. It is a dark piece about a family in Victorian England struggling with the grief of a young family member who died in a tragic accident. It was a brave and ambitious (and ultimately successful) move to introduce their new singer, Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder) with a full-on concept album!
KERION-Cloudriders-Part I: Road To Skycity
(2015, Beyond The Storm)
KERION-Cloudriders-Part 3-Age Of Cyborgs
(2022, Beyond The Storm)
Three albums into their career the French Power Metal band, Kerion tackles an ambitious concept album series. The story of sky pirates and flying ships in a steam-punk era is a step above your average dungeons and dragons storyline. The elaborate booklet fully develops the various characters as well. Epic and bombastic Hollywood Soundtrack Metal is the style of the day.
Rush, for their final studio album, delivered on the promise (or was it a threat?) to finally make their first full concept album. Partly-autobiographical , some consider this to be Peart’s tour-de-force. It is an elaborate story of wanderlust in an age of steampunk and exploration as a rebellious young man raise against society run by the Watchmaker. It hits the charts all over the place, sold lots and ended the band on a high note.
TRICK OR TREAT-Rabbit’s Hill Part I
TRICK OR TREAT-Rabbit’s Hill-Part II
(2016, Frontiers Records)
This Italian Power Metal band, a former Helloween tribute act, has had a metric rise. Albums # 3 and 4 are a two-part interpretation of the classic book, Watership Down. Somebody noticed the sheer quality as the band got signed to Frontiers and singer, Alessandro Conti is now in Rhapsody of Fire AND Twilight Force! Probably one of the more unique concept album out there and it is, as one might expect, loaded with guest stars.
AVALON-The Land Of New Hope- A Metal Opera
AVALON-Angels Of The Apocalypse
AVALON-Return To Eden
After Stratovarius and Revolution Renaissance fans of Timo Tolkki were wondering what he would get up to next. What he delivered was a solid, epic fantasy trilogy. The slightly under developed storyline was bolstered by a massive roster of the elite of European Power Metal. Time played bass and guitar for the whole thing and was a bit of a return to his roots.
AYREON-The Theory Of Everything
Like clockwork every three or four years Ayreon does another double concept album. This time he departs the realms of Science Fiction for a modern day story about a young child prodigy/mathematician/theoretical physicst and his dysfunctional relationships with his family. Unlike his previous works it is a classical romantic tragedy. There is the usual raft of guests playing the different roles.
GLORYHAMMER-Tales From The Kingdom OF Fife
GLORYHAMMER-Space 1992: Rise Of The Chaos Wizards
GLORYHAMMER-Legends From Beyond The Galactic Terrorvortex
The past five years has seen a pretty big increase in ‘Nerd Metal’, ‘Happy Metal’ or goofy Power Metal bands who use various pop-culture images and gimmicks. Video games, comics 80’s cartoons, and movies are an endless source of inspirations. and ninjas. and unicorns. Critics say it is going too far, more open-minded fans are revelling in bands like Victorius, Skeletoon, Twilight Force, Grail Knights and of course Gloryhammer. Founded as an offshoot of the already fun and goofy Pirate-Metal act, Alestorm, these guys (according to their liner notes) have a 23 part series of concept albums planned! The hero (Angus McFife) and his companions have adventures across space and time.
LUCID DREAMING-The Chronicles Part I
LUCID DREAMING-The Chronicles Part I
This German, one-man project presented a there album concept based on a pair of books written by Lloyd Alexander called The Chronicles of Prydain. The story is based on Welsh mythology. The epic tale describes the adventures of young Taran and his companions battling the Horned King while on a quest for a mystical pig. North Americans may know the story better from the Walt Disney’s 1985, animated film, The Black Cauldron.
Messenger-Starwolf-Pt I: The Messengers
Messenger-Starwolf-Pt. II: Novastorm
THE SCINTILLA PROJECT-The Hybrid
(2014, Silver Lining)
This one is actually quite interesting but went largely unnoticed. A modern Science-Fiction thriller film called ‘Scintilla’ (or alternately titled, The Hybrid in some territories) caught the eye of the band Balance Of Power. Together they formed a project to do a concept album based on the film and they recruited Andy Sneap on guitar and Biff Byford on vocals. The story is about a mutant hybrid bio-weapon under the control of the military and eventually things run amok. I saw the film and the album compliments it nicely.
TWILIGHT FORCE-Tales Of Ancient Prophecies
(2014, Black Lodge)
This self-styled ‘Adventure Metal’ band sees each member take on a role and character. The debut concept album, complete with narration of course, kind of went under the radar but suddenly, perhaps inexplicably, the band gained huge momentum and signed to Nuclear Blast. Making as much of a splash as DragonForce and Rhapsody the band is so over the top (Symphonic, epic, bombastic, orchestral etc, etc) that it drew a whole new crowd.
VANDEN PLAS-Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld
VANDEN PLAS-Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
The respected and long running Germans return with concept albums umbers three and four just a year apart. It is a fairly complicated High Fantasy story about an immortal hero who must sacrifice his own immortality to defeat the evil Godmaker. I’ve listen to it several times and I still can’t figure it out.
THE GENTLE STORM-The Diary
An interesting and quite unique project. It is a Dutch collaboration of Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon) and Annecke van Giersbergen (Ex- The Gathering). This two disc set tells a story of two lovers who write a series love-letters while he is working for the Dutch East-India trading company on board a ship, back in the golden age of exploration. The set comes with the ‘storm ‘ the heavy version of the songs and the ‘gentle’ are the mellower versions. Reminiscent of mellower Savatage and far less bombastic than many of these types of projects.
LEGEND OF VALLEY DOOM Part I
(2015, Crime Records)
LEGEND OF VALLEY DOOM Part II
(2018, Crime Records)
LEGEND OF VALLEY DOOM Part III
(2021, Crime Records)
Another one-man project with multiple guest stars, this time the brainchild and creation of Norway’s Marius Danielsen. Classic High Fantasy storyline with speed and symphonic elements scattered everywhere. There is also a comic attached. Danielson even had time to do a spin off project called Eunomia (see below 2018)
OPERATION MINDCRIME-The Key
OPERATION MINDCRIME-The New Reality
Geoff Tate surprises us with a rather in-depth and 70’s inspired Prog Hard Rock trilogy. It is a bit on the mellow side and the story is your standard conspiracy theory+ cyber tech + New World Order + type deal but very decent musically.
DREAM THEATER-The Astonishing
The band finally wrote their version of Rush’s classic 2112. This a double disc set ties in with a book as well. The plot, was very similar to that of 2112, is about a young musician, Gabriel who in the year 2285 rebels against the technical overlords using the power of music. Although it sold well and charted well, the album was not as well-received, despite all the effort that went into it, the primary complaint that is was too mellow and too drawn out.
(2016, Century Media)
The dark, death/doom band’s first foray into a concept album. It is based on short story about vikings looking for Ireland before winter arrives. The album is just one long song. It was well received as not too many bands in this style try something like this.
TWILIGHT FORCE-Heroes Of Mighty Magic
(2016, Nuclear Blast)
Everything the debut was… x 10. Bigger budgets meant bigger production, more orchestral more character development. Much like Dragonforce, Baby Metal, GWAR and other polarizing acts, Twilight Force quickly fell into the love it or hate it category.
(2017, FC Metal)
The debut album by this Peruvian Power Metal act hit all the right notes, an above-average story, indigenous influences and multitude of guests. It is a story about a young doctor who, on New Years Eve in 1899, goes on a mystical quest into alternate realms and alternate treatments to save the life of his young fiancé, who has been struck down by a disease.
(2017, Music Theory)
Hints of ‘The Matrix’ are found in Ayreon’s eighth concept album. Of course it is double with many guest stars and a pleasant return to a more metallic style.
(2017, Century Media)
Firewind was was one of several bands who developed concept albums about The Battle of Thermopalye after the aforementioned movie 300 came out.
EUNOMIA-The Chronicles OF Eunomia-Part I
(2018, Pride And Joy)
The aforementioned Legend Of Valley Doom spin-off.
HEROES OF FORGOTTEN KINGDOMS-Dragonslayer
(2018, Underground Symphony)
Classic fantasy story with well-developed characters and plot. Epic narration and gorgeous visuals as well.
LEMURIA-The Hysterical Hunt
This a superb rendition of the (supposedly true) folktale of ‘The Beast of Gevaudan’. It tells the tale of the hunt for a werewolf praying on villagers in medieval France in 1765. Lemuria are symphonic Black Metal from Belgium and this concept album can easily go toe-toe with Cradle, Carach Angren and King Diamond for orchestration, narration and atmosphere.
SKELETOON-The Never Say Die
Yes, the band’s name is SkeleTOON, It is not a typo for these Italian Power Metallions. Comedy, speed, and a love of the 80’s all combine for a speedy interpretation of the Steven Spielberg directed children’s film, ‘The Goonies’.
VICTORIUS-Space Ninjas From Hell
After four albums of more ‘serious’ Power Metal , this German band took a left turn in 2018 with their DINOSAUR WARFARE MCD which say the band start to dabble in a more ‘over-the-top’ comedic element with 80’s flair. The MCD was fairly well-received and the band settled onto the Napalm Records label for their first concept album. The story is about…well the title says it all..space ninjas.
(Concept albums that weren’t quite concept albums.)
This is a short list of important and/or influential albums that very often are mistakenly identified as concept albums…maybe only half the album was a conceptual story, or maybe just missed the mark for whatever reason. This does not make them any less worthy. I sort of capped this list at about a dozen titles, sans commentary. This is just to acknowledge these fine records. Note: 1988 was a big year for these types of records.
RUSH-A Farewell To Kings
KISS-(Music From) The Elder
HELLOWEEN-Keepers Of The Seven Keys-Part I
HELLOWEEN-Keepers Of The Seven Keys-Part II
HELLOWEEN-Keepers Of The Seven Keys-The Legacy
BLUE OYSTER CULT-Imaginos
IRON MAIDEN-Seventh Son Of A Son
KING DIAMOND-The Spider’s Lullaby
(1996, Metal Blade)
SCORPIONS-Humanity: Hour 1
These are concept albums but basically they are non-fiction and based on a straightforward recounting of real, historical events. There are lots of these albums because of course the history of mankind is littered with interesting stories. These are not ‘concept’ albums in the purest sense because they may not necessarily follow a character or have an identifiable ‘plot’. I’ve picked out a couple dozen or so examples and added a very brief note as to which historical event or era is being explored.
(1996, Rising Sun)
The early history of Brazil, the bands homeland.
GRAVE DIGGER-Scotland Trilogy
GRAVE DIGGER-Tunes Of War
GRAVE DIGGER-The Clans Will Rise Again
GRAVE DIGGER-Fields Of Blood
A deep dive, three albums worth, into the history of Scotland.
The Greek Revolution of 1821
The title says it. The battle of Hastings in 1066. These Italians have a number of historical concept albums.
FALCONER-The Sceptre Of Deception
(2003, Metal Blade)
A chronicling of the life of King Birgir Of Sweden from 1290 to 1318.
LEAVES EYES-Vinland Saga
The story of the discovery of Newfoundland by Erik The Red.
REBELLION-The Viking Trilogy
REBELLION-Sagas of Iceland – The History of the Vikings – Volume I
REBELLION-Miklagard – The History of the Vikings – Volume II
REBELLION-Arise: From Ginnungagap to Ragnarök – The History of the Vikings Volume III
The Grave Digger spin-off band, tackles the history of viking in three parts.
TURISAS-The Varangian Way
(2007, Century Media)
The saga of vikings travelling to what is now Russia.
(2009, Nuclear Blast)
A side project of Maurizio of Kataklsym focusing on the history of ancient Rome. Three albums deep by 2020.
GOD DETHRONED- The Great War Trilogy
(2009, Metal Blade)
GOD DETHRONED-Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross
(2010, Metal Blade)
GOD DETHRONED-The World Ablaze
(2017, Metal Blade)
WWI is not an original topic but God Dethroned have created a three part masterwork . I’m not familiar with any other Death Metal band that has done a trilogy of concept albums before. Brutal, uncompromising and relentless.
CHRISTOPHER LEE-Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross
CHRISTOPHER LEE-Charlemagne: The Omens Of Death
Renaissance man, Christopher Lee, allegedly had some blood ties to Charlemagne. Near the end of his illustrious career, with the help of some Metal people, he put out a pair of Hard Rock/Metal album detailing the life of Charlemagne. A bit of an oddity and collectible.
HAIL OF BULLETS-Of Divine Winds
(2010, Metal Blade)
This Dutch Death Metal supergroup did three historical but unrelated based concept albums before disbanding. This one (their second) was about the Pacific Theater in WWII.
(2012, Nuclear Blast)
A chronicle of the Gallic wars of 58 to 50 BC.
JUDICATOR-King OF Rome
(2012, Masters Of Metal)
From out of nowhere this Arizona based US Power Metal band is really making a name for them elves with a series of (to date) thoughtful history-based concept albums. This was the first and it tells the tale of Napoleon and the Battle Of Waterloo.
(2012, Nuclear Blast)
From Day 1, Sabaton has been about history, mostly WWII , but they do branch off and this is the first full concept album. It details the history of King Charles The XII.
By far Slovakia’s #1 Metal band, Signum Regis tackle the book of Exodus from the bible as their first concept album.
RING OF FIRE-The Battle Of Lennigrad
A bit was of a surprise as this was released 10 years after the previous album. The US Super-group tackles the infamous WWII battle.
One of many concept albums about the crusades. This one focuses on King Richard.
(Most epic concept album series ever. Rhapsody (Of Fire)-The Chronicles Of Algalord)
Rhapsody, I believe, holds the record (if there is such a thing) for the largest series of concept albums in Metal. They created a monstrous multi-album, concept piece called ‘The Chronicles Of Algalord’ that featured an entire fantasy world (complete with maps!) with multiple characters and intertwining plots. It took 15 years to complete, featured dozens and dozens of guest (maybe even over 100, I haven’t counted) and spanned ten releases (8 albums and two EP’s) When listened to in it’s entirety The Chronicles Of Agalord runs almost ten hours long! I’m not even going to begin to try to explain the plot but as a ‘bonus’, here is a picture of Aresius, the Dwarven narrator who explains it all in the linear notes if you feel like reading along. Oh yeah..Sir Christopher Lee helped narrate too. None so epic.
Symphony Of Enchanted Lands
Dawn Of Victory
Rain Of A Thousand Flames
Power Of The Dragonflame
Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II:The Dark Secret
TRIUMPH OR AGONY
(2006, Magic Circle)
The Frozen Tears Of Angels
(Nuclear Blast, 2010)
The Cold Embrace of Fear: A Dark Romantic Symphony
(2010, Nuclear Blast)
From Chaos To Eternity
(2011, Nuclear Blast)
(Most epic concept album series ever. Runner Up: Kaledon)
Not nearly as well known or popular as Italy’s Rhapsody, country-men Kaledon had been toiling away for about a decade on their own monster concept series of albums. The grammatically implausible series, ‘Legend Of Forgotten Reign’ spans six, full-length, studio albums bringing it in at the #2 spot and a little honourable mention here.
Legend of the Forgotten Reign – Chapter I: The Destruction
Legend of the Forgotten Reign – Chapter II: The King’s Rescue
Legend of the Forgotten Reign – Chapter 3: The Way of the Light
Legend of the Forgotten Reign – Chapter IV: Twilight of the Gods
Legend of the Forgotten Reign – Chapter V: A New Era Begins
Legend of the Forgotten Reign – Chapter VI: The Last Night on the Battlefield
Thank you for reading!