Manowar – The Final Battle I EP Review

Released in 2019, Manowar’s The Final Battle I is a four track EP that accompanied the band’s farewell tour and which is presumably part of a set of future EPs (ala Down IV). It was produced by bassist Joey DeMaio and released on the band’s own label Magic Circle Entertainment.

Since the band reached their apex with the classic Kings Of Metal album in the late ’80s, all of their albums have been more or less in a certain style, just leaning a bit more or less on certain aspects of that style. This EP almost works as a deconstruction of that style. Four of the key aspects of Manowar’s formula are represented individually.

The first track, ‘March Of The Heroes’ is an instrumental, orchestral, bombastic film-score esque piece. They’ve done lots of these over the years, arguably starting on side two of 1988’s Kings Of Metal, and especially prominent practically all the way through 2007’s Gods Of War concept album.

Next up, comes ‘Blood And Steel’ which showcases my favourite part of the Manowar formula. Heavy Metal with ringing chords, boasting lyrics (bonus points for self-referencing previous material), simple but thundering drums, chanting backing vocals and an energetic guitar solo. This is what I would consider the core modern Manowar sound. A track in the vein of previous works like ‘Slepnir’ or ‘Thunder In The Sky’ or ‘The Gods Made Heavy Metal’ or ‘Hand Of Doom.’

Following that, is ‘Sword Of The Highlands’ an overly earnest ballad, with sentimental vocals, film-score-esque music underneath aforementioned vocals. (Sometimes they do this on its own, or sometimes it evolves into a big mountain-top sounding power ballad. In this case it does).

Finally; there is a fat, groovey, doomy, Sabbath-inspired slow song. This not only channels previous doomy tracks like ‘Pleasure Slave’ and ‘The Demon’s Whip’ but in the middle, it actually starts sounding a bit like the more explorative moments on their sophomore effort, Into Glory Ride (only modernised).

There’s not much more to say here really, as there are only four tracks of Manowar doing what Manowar do.  Every track on here is individually good, but as a whole it feels a little bit unsatisfying. Its like eating the toppings off of a pizza but then not finishing it. I can only hope for The Final Battle II and or III to complete what was started here. (Initial press releases prior to the release of this suggested a trilogy, but then Down did suggest four EPs, one of which was acoustic, and only made two, neither of which were acoustic, so who knows)

Down – Down IV Part II EP Review

Down - Down IV Part II

Down – Down IV Part II

Down IV Part 2 is the American Metal super-group Down’s 2014 release. As its title suggests, it is the second in a series of EPs released under the Down IV title, following up 2012’s “Down IV Part I – The Purple EP.” It was produced by Michael Thompson along with the band themselves and released independently.

This was the band’s first official release without longtime member Kirk Weinstein of Crowbar fame, who is replaced here by Bobby Landgraf. Ironically, this EP is probably closer in sound to Crowbar than to Pantera, Eyehategod or Corrosion Of Conformity (the other groups besides Crowbar that the band are usually associated with).

First up, for an EP, this is actually pretty substantial, a total running time of almost 37 minutes leaves it longer than many albums anyway.

The focus of songwriting this time around seems to focus on the heavier, mid-paced side of the band’s repertoire. I don’t think the distinction between EPs 1 & 2 is all that strict, as in, its not a clear cut case of one has all the fast songs, one has all the slow songs, or one has all the basic songs and the other has all the progressive songs. This EP is essentially more of the Down mid-ground. Its not the most “instant” release in their catalogue, and may take a few spins to really get to grips with, but if you give it the time it asks for, you’ll get the rewards it promises.

Highlights include the brief “Hogshead/Dogshead,” and “Sufferer’s Years,” which is particularly catchy with its “I hate this time of year” sing-along, and the fat ‘60s/’70s sounding riffs in the pre-chorus. It is a nice mixture of the band’s Doom, Sludge & Stoner sides, approaching vintage Hard Rock in 2014 from multiple angles. This is perhaps the most definitively “Down” track on the album, and hopefully it will become a concert staple.

The record ends with the almost nine-minute long “Bacchanalia,” one of the looser and more jam-feeling songs on the record. You imagine it got its title from the drunken party in which it probably spawned (as opposed to a secret love of Batman No Man’s Land). This track in turn ends with a softer acoustic moment, likely foreshadowing Down IV Part 3 as the promised all-acoustic EP originally mentioned when the band come up with splitting the album into different EPs.

Overall; this is not necessarily bold new ground for the band, and the focus on mostly similar direction material may leave some fans feeling an acute lack of variety or excitement, but for what it is, to me personally, Down IV Part II is an entertaining collection of Down songs and a worthy addition to the catalogue. If you’re burned out by the formula, or want something fresh and new from these guys, maybe give it a miss, but if you can’t get enough Down, then by all means jump on board.