Posts Tagged ‘Hammerfall’

The_savage_poetryEdguy were in an interesting position at the turn of the millennium. Starting the group as a bunch of wide-eyed teenagers in the early to mid ’90s, Tobias Samet and the rest of the boys who would go on to become legends of German Melodic Power Metal, were initially a rough an ready influences-worn-on-sleeves kinda band. They released a demo quality debut album called Savage Poetry in 1995 and then through years of practice and touring went on to become a leading force in Power Metal and one of the finest to be doing it at the time. After releasing their absolute magnum opus Theater Of Salvation in 1999 and being considerably more famous and beloved, fans kept asking if they would reissue Savage Poetry which had long since been out of print. Doing them one better, the band took all the talent, skills and confidence they’d been developing over the years and remade the album. No reissued, not re-recorded, but remade entirely.

Everything is different here, new artwork, new logo, new track order, new guitar solos, heck even the bassist and drummer are new when you think about it as neither were on the original version. They added a ‘The’ to the title as well, that’s new. Essentially, what happened was the band listened to these old songs and then wrote them again in 1999 as only the band who had released Theater Of Salvation could have. What resulted was a mix of old and new, that ticks all the right boxes to sound classic and modern, naive and accomplished, charming and sophisticated. There’s a duality to it that works as well as your go to metaphor (be that chocolate and peanut butter, tits and dragons or whatever people are saying these days, the point is the two compliment each-other despite seeming like different worlds).

For most people this is just some handy background information for a pub quiz however because unless you go out of your way, you aren’t hearing the 1995 version easily and the differences between the two versions are therefore largely academic. Regardless, because this is Edguy in 1999 we’re talking about here, this is an absolutely superb album not to be missed by Edguy fans, or indeed anyone with an interest in this style of music. If you listen to Gamma Ray, Helloween, Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, Freedom Call, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius or anyone of that nature, you really want to get up on this album. I would be so bold as to say The Savage Poetry is either the band’s second best, or sometimes if I’m feeling generous, joint-first best studio album.

There are a lot of similarities between this and Theater Of Salvation. They were both recorded around the turn of the millennium at Rhoen Studios in Fulda, Germany, and were both self produced by the band, with the same line-up. They both feature a mixture of Maiden and Priest influenced speed metal sections, bombastic grandiose sections with pianos and choral singing, and then some occasional ballads, and happy Helloween-influenced melodies. They both come before the band went a bit more Hard Rock in direction and they both come before the band started letting their humour play a big part.

Highlights include the speedier more metallic tracks ‘Sacred Hell’ and ‘Misguiding Your Life’ as well as the slow stompy Hammerfall-esque opener ‘Hallowed’ and possibly best of all, the diverse multi-faceted ten-minute ‘Eyes Of The Tyrant.’

The album works really well from start to finish, the two ballads break things up (and are surprisngly tasteful), the longer tracks take you on a little journey and then the rest of the album gets its head down and delivers exactly what you love about the band perfectly, only with a little bit more of a NWOBHM gallop than usual.

Overall; be sure not to miss out on one of the band’s absolute finest hours. If you like the glorious melodic guitar lines, crunchy riffs and pounding drums of Edguy at their most metallic, this is seriously up there as one of the finest examples of that. If you like the band being adventurous and writing long complex stuff, that’s here too. If you like them when they drop some ballads, these are some of the band’s best. If you’re tempted by the band but scared off by the more commercial Hard Rock stuff or the comedy stuff there’s none of that here. This is the band at their best, with some damn fine songs and a sterling production job, updating some charming old songs into an absolute beast of an album. Highly recommended!

Hammerfall – Renegade Review

Posted: September 17, 2015 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews
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Hammerfall – Renegade

The Swedish Power Metal band Hammerfall had a great public and critical reaction to their seminal debut album, Glory To The Brave, and lit the Metal world on fire so to speak. The followed it up soon after with the equally strong and incredibly similar follow-up Legacy Of Kings. The first two albums sounding very much like a perfect pair.

With their third full-length studio album, 2000’s Gold-certified Renegade album, the band changed the formula slightly. It is still unmistakably Hammerfall, but with a different fell, focus and attitude than the two that preceded it – it’s a bit more stripped back and straightforward, with a sort of earthy quality to it.

Perhaps it is something to do with Michael Wagener (Dokken, Extreme, Skid Row, White Lion) handling the production here instead of Fredrik Nordström, although interestingly Nordström did co-write some of the material here). Then again; Perhaps it is Anders Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force) joining the band on the drums, or perhaps it is just the core line-up not wanting to repeat themselves. Regardless of why it sounds a bit different, it does.

Still, if you want a description of how the album sounds, it’ll sound like a description of any Hammerfall record: Its NWOBHM-focused Melodic European Power Metal with plenty of dual guitars, lots of ”woah-ah-oh’s” to sing along to, and a plethora of sword/combat themed lyrical content (the album’s motorcycle themed Title Track being a curious exception). If you like Maiden, Saxon and Priest you’ll be in good hands, let’s just put it that way. As always, Hammerfall invest a lot of time in big hooks, catchy choruses and impressive guitar solos… if you like Power Metal you probably can’t help but enjoy choruses like the one in ‘The Way Of The Warrior’ and that’s Hammerfall’s bread and butter.

There’s no intros, no covers and nothing I’d call filler. Its all consistent, all enjoyable and it flows well from beginning to end. Highlight’s include the superb ‘Living In Victory,’ the brief instrumental ‘Raise The Hammer’ or the beyond-catchy ‘Destined For Glory.’ The ballad, ‘Always Will Be’ is pretty darn strong too, cheese be damned.

If you’re into the band, no question, you’ll enjoy this release. This is a good Hammerfall album and I’d recommend checking it out, and although I wouldn’t personally rate it as their best ever its certainly close. If its going to be your first outing with the band I’d maybe choose another album first instead, perhaps Glory To The Brave or Legacy Of Kings but other than that, I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Renegade.

Gamma Ray - Powerplant

Gamma Ray – Powerplant

Gamma Ray, the legendary German Melodic Power Metal band fronted by the immensely talented Kai Hansen (Founding member of Helloween, member of Iron Saviour & Unisonic, guest contributor to Angra, Blind Guardian, Primal Fear, Hammerfall, Avantasia and all around fingers-in-many-pies mainstay of the Power Metal scene) really came in to their own with their classic fourth studio album Land Of The Free. They had always been great, but something about that 1995 masterpiece really just elevated them even higher.

For me, the three albums that followed maintain that high standard. Most fans will be very familiar with Somewhere Out In Space and the popular No World Order albums. It seems that piggy-in-the-middle record, Powerplant is a bit more overlooked, or in other words underrated.

The album opens with ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy’ which is unquestionable, pure classic Gamma Ray. This sort of song is the reason people love this band. Elsewhere there is the fun tribute to Manowar ‘Heavy Metal Universe’ (filled with constant lyrical references, and musically based on ‘The Gods Made Heavy Metal’) which is great fun. There’s variety with a Pet Shop Boys cover (‘It’s a Sin’), a commercial sounding tune (‘Send Me A Sign’) and a lengthy progressively inclined number (‘Armageddon.’)

The production is a little flatter than the albums which surround it, and sonically it doesn’t perhaps pop out as much, but the songwriting and performances are spot on. ‘Wings Of Destiny,’ ‘Razorblade Sigh’ and the aforementioned gem ‘Anywhere In The Galaxy’ are memorable, melodic ragers that would stand proud on any other Gamma Ray record.

Overall; this album sees Gamma Ray in the middle of a great run of high quality albums. It maybe doesn’t get talked about as much as some other albums but you’ll be damn grateful to have it in your collection once you’ve given it a chance.

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 55. 55 days without buying myself anything. (Actually I can’t remember if I bought anything on the exact last day before the challenge, so it might be like, y’know, 60 days or something overall… my memory is fuzzy. 55 for sure though.

Anyway; I did a bad thing guys! I placed a bid on Batman Contagion on eBay, so unless someone outbids me, I’ll have broken the challenge tomorrow… woops. Lesson learned: “Don’t go on eBay during these challenges!” Common sense really… I also damn nearly bought a W.A.S.P. vinyl for my wall that I have absolutely no call to be buying in my current financial situation, but I snapped myself out of that pretty quickly. Its just that contagion was on the wishlist for so long (like Batman Cataclysm too) and it always sells for stupidly high prices like £33 or whatever, and seeing it at £4 was exciting. Oh well, it’s a process. Also hopefully I’ll be outbid and dodge this failure-bullet narrowly.

Fingers crossed.

Now here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with recently:

Any one song in isolation is excellent. The intro is even excellent. Russ’ voice sounds better than ever. There are great guitar solos and a decent production sound. There’s even guest appearances from other Bay Area Thrash heroes.

That being said… this album has gone from “Yay, they’re back!” to “Meh” pretty quickly. I’ve more or less ignored it since the year it come out. I think the problem is that there isn’t enough variety, there isn’t enough speed, and that all the songs are about a minute-too-long (Exodus disease).

The title-track is actually really fast at times, and pretty varied, I don’t think I’d noticed before because the album wore me down before that point most times. Anyway, yeah, doesn’t work as an album so much, but any of the songs in a playlist is excellent.

This is a classic. I like it a lot. Its got a good balance between their Slayer-esque side and their more Anthrax-sounding riffs. Its technical but not overwhelming, its aggressive but not just pointless hammering. There’s a surprising depth and more softness and melody than you may remember. Great album.

Another birthday gift. The latest one to be opened. I’ve waited almost a whole month to open it. It’s a pretty damn good album, just as I expected. There’s a lot of AC/DC sounding moments, along with the Speed Metal of “Fast As A Shark” and “Flash Rocking Man.” Also, it has “Demon’s Night” as covered by Cannibal Corpse. I already like “Princess Of The Dawn” and “Neon Nights” from the live Blu Ray that came with Blind Rage.

I read a few people say this album is inconsistent. I don’t hear it. This is all good stuff, and deservedly considered a classic.

Sometimes when I haven’t heard this in a while, I mistakenly think that I don’t like it. While I certainly could live without “You Aint The First” or “Live And Let Die” (or “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” for that matter, and also I always feel cheated by the two “Don’t Cry” versions…one is enough!) and I have to be in the right mood to enjoy “The Garden,” “Bad Obsession” or “Coma,” that still leaves over two-thirds of the album as certified awesome.

The fast heavy material like “Right Next Door To Hell,” “Perfect Crime,” “Don’t Damn Me,” “Garden Of Eden,” “Double Talkin Jive,” and “Back Off Bitch” is all exciting, energetic and enjoyable. They keep that spirit of Appetite’ alive. People often forget this material is on here too. I often forget it myself. They should release a version for Metal fans that starts off with all of these tracks first, and loses the acoustic tracks and covers. That would stop all the Appetite-whinging.

Also, “Dust N Bones” though not heavy, has been one of my all time favourite GnR songs since my very first listen of it. It is excellent.

Also, “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” are awesome. Its just that I associate them with idiots from my high-school. When they catch me unawares I remember just how good a song they each are. They are fantastic.

Sometimes I think of this album as being 60% acoustic, 30% cover songs and trumpets, and 10% good. This is way, way, way off the mark. Excellent album. Also, as it happens, I indeed was in the mood for “Coma” this time.

I’m really becoming very, very fond of Hammerfall indeed. I just can’t stop cranking this and their debut. It also keeps getting better on new listens. Such a fun, entertaining, easily digestible band! They’re the musical equivalent of popcorn.

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 42, and I haven’t spent anything new thank goodness, I’m actually on track. This time last year I was rolling around in Batman and Dredd Blu Rays, picking up White Zombie and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots albums, picking up about 7 concert tickets and about 14 Batman TPBs, and generally just quickly and almost violently spending all the money I’d earned from working in a media-centered retail outlet all summer.

This September however, I’m not spending anything. I’m thinking of extending this already-extended challenge to be yet another month long as well. So… that’d be no purchases from August 1st all the way to November 1st. My reasoning for this is that I could use that money for fruit and vegetables. Also, I didn’t work this summer like I usually do so its not like the aforementioned that money is much anyway. I’ve got bills to pay people!

Also… I have so much stuff already. And so much borrowed stuff on top of that. And access to so much free stuff on the internet (how many comedy video shows like Zero Punction and web comics are there anyway? And how many bands like Miroist give their music away for free on bandcamp?). I could re-read each of my Graphic Novels, read all the books I got in the last two years again, re-read all my Game Of Thrones (Song Of Ice And Fire) books, listen to all the albums I rarely listen to, play through the backlogue of videogames I haven’t finished (or even started for some of ‘em) yet, and hey, I’ve got Netflix and so there’s always something to watch.

What’s the reason to buy new things anyway?

Apart from my burning need to buy things of course… (the hungry deamon who screams in my brain to ‘spend, spend, spend,”) and the fact that one thing leads to another (as discussed here by my talented friend Paul), in so much as if I read Batman, I’ll want more Batman…if I play God Of War I’ll want more similar video games, If I listen to a certain band, I’ll want more similar music.

Heck; on that tip, I got books about Black and Death Metal for my birthday from Paul (cheers, generous!) and once I read them that’ll make me want to buy Death and Black Metal albums mentioned inside.

…but apart from all that … I think I could do it. I think I could go three months purchase-free, just enjoying what I’ve already got. Getting to grips with what I’ve got. Getting into what I paid for… I think you can consider the challenge extended folks!

Anyway… here’s what I’ve been listening to whilst weightlifting, walking and wanking spending time on facebook for the last few days:


This is one of my favourite album discoveries of the past few years. This album is so well-crafted, so catchy and such good fun. Its also one of their most consistent, filler-free, and exciting albums… one where everything just “comes together” and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It really is “the 3rd Keeper Of The Seven Keys” like people say it is. Its definitely my number three favourite Power Metal album behind those two aforementioned Keeper gems.

Continuing on a Power Metal theme, I finished the weights yesterday by listening to the melodic Metal stylings of Sweeden’s Hammerfall. This is a really solid and enjoyable album indeed. I’m not sick of it yet at all. Its been a sort of soundtrack to the summer. It is a really motivating album to exercise to as well, the sound of it just inspires activity and dedication. Something about the clean vocals just makes you want to do push-ups. I think if they played this sort of glorious victorious music in high school Phis-Ed classes (or “PE” for us Brits), there’d be much less fat kids. Maybe there’d be higher sales of Dungeons & Dragons and replica swords too, which could offset the economic disaster that thin kids would cause by not buying Big Macs and diabetes medicine, maybe.

Ok. No. I think its just me. I’m sure the average jock thug wouldn’t want Hammerfall during his dodgeball bullying time.

Can you tell I’ve watched much US teen television? Thought so….

I haven’t listened to this album in yonks. I think that’s because I temporarily lost it when I lent it to a former guitarist of a band I was in, on a day we were going to see Gama Bomb and Onslaught live. Turns out he was in Uni with Gama Bomb’s bassist and I got to meet the band and get into the gig for free. Good evening! I left this album in his car though, that’s the only downside.

That was probably one of the last nights I listened to it, even if it is in my iTunes library. Also, that was probably the first time I’d listened to it in a few years. I liked this band during my Thrash-obsessed teens, but they really were just “one more thrash band” to put into my metaphorical hungry maw. (Also literal hungry maw, hence all the weight-loss now). I mean look at me around the time I was listening to this album regularly:

Anyway… yeah, this album reminds me a lot of Slayer’s Hell Awaits in terms of its slightly ploddy nature and slightly weird black production job. Its thrash, its got solos and double kicks and all that good stuff. Its just a bit dull overall, but still good if that makes sense? Its talented enjoyable stuff… but every song is about a minute too long, and the album is about a song too long, and every idea is about one unit of plagiarism too many to get truly excited about. Still… its nice to hear it again after all these years since I first picked it up (2004? 2005?).

Now this was a real favourite of mine in my teen years. This is a brilliant album. I’m not sure why I am not listening to it regularly now… other than the fact that NEW STUFF NEW STUFF NEW STUFF SO MUCH NEW STUFF

Ahem, excuse me. But yes, Overkill’s Taking Over is a brilliant record. I don’t think there’s a single song on it I’d loose. I like Bobby’s voice on this album the best of any in the discography too. And the production is charming, with an excellent guitar tone. Also it has “In Union We Stand” on it. How can you argue with that? Fun, Fun, Fun!

I’ve been listening to this a lot recently anyway, but I generally squeeze new stuff in with the old stuff on these GITWYPF endeavors anyway… so, what the heck?

This is my favourite Dokken album. I think Back For The Attack is better and my favourite two songs (“Lightnin Strikes Again” & “Til The Livin End”) are on Under Lock And Key, but this one is my favourite album overall. The variety, the charm, the guitar solos, the choruses! Its all so good. Also the album is succinct and entertaining and doesn’t ever get samey.

I listened to this and Heartwork last night upon realizing that I’d gotten a lend of them over a year ago and never actually returned them (woops). Anyway, yeah, I like the idea of them, and there’s loads of riffs, vocal patterns and fills I like…. But each album is a bit tiring. Any song in isolation, yup. The famous songs like “Keep On Rotting In The Free World” “Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody” “Heart Work” etc. are all absolute gems, but deep album tracks all in a row aren’t as entertaining and can find me zoning out a little. Sorry!

I’ve had this album almost for as long as I’ve been into Metal, I got it pretty early in my time in high school. I rarely listened to it (if at all) after I left high school. I seem to remember it being almost 100% d-beats with very little variety, excluding the title track, which is awesome. (I’m always disappointed by how the title track isn’t as good live on the Monkey Puss DVD, and also the fact that the cool bit at the end is a “cover” and not just invented by the band).

Well, my memory was half-right. The title track is indeed awesome. But there’s way more variety than I remembered. Its not all d-beats. The drumming is really impressive actually. There’s some seriously inventive and impressive kick work and fills on here. This is a damned decent album! I think I’ll be listening to this more often nowadays!

I really enjoyed this. I stuck it on tonight. Its basically just a good, catchy Thrash album when all is said and done. Or at least the best songs are. The unarguably Death songs (eg. “Blaspherion”) are maybe the weakest moments for my own personal taste, but otherwise, this is some damn catchy enjoyable stuff. “Dead By Dawn” is great fun. Also, even “Blaspherion” has awesome drums, and some great sections in the middle and towards the end!

I like that this album is short. It’s a short, sharp, exciting blast of energy. It feels passionate. Its kind of that Reign In Blood thing… Succinct, powerful, effective. I think too much of this might get a bit old, but this is a nice snack (for my hungry maw, remember?).

This is not short. It is not Reign In Blood-esque by any stretch of the imagination (save for talent, of course). It is however, really impressive. Surprisngly groovy, musical and listenable, the album is really rather interesting. Its just outside my brain’s comfort zone, so I only enjoy it in a sort of technical way, I’m an observer who can tell that it is good, but I’m not actually enjoying it myself on a gut level. Oh well, maybe with more listens or some other band to “unlock” it for me, it will become a favourite once my objective admiration for it synchs with my gut-reaction.

Speaking of gut reaction…. Boy, this is a banger. Those riffs! Those riffs! Those riiiifs!
I don’t think I’ve found an extreme Metal band that better connects with me on a gut level than the mighty Melechesh (Napalm Death and Zyklon are the closest, but Melechesh do it more consistently).

“Ladders To Sumeria” for example just slays! That reoccurring riff is the bee’s knees. I can’t explain it properly in words, but it’s the “key” riff of the song, so just listen to it, and that riff you find yourself loving… it’ll be that one!

Another new one mixed in with the oldies. I like it a lot. “Demon’s Whip” is a great song, balancing their fast and slow sides well. “The Power Of Thy Sword” is my favourite on the album… it is pure outrageous Gamma Ray style fun!

The only complaint I have at all is that the drum solos and bass solo in “Achilles” rob its momentum, but the fact that they represent parts of the story through sound (the forging of armour etc) is cool enough to forgive that problem.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. Consider the challenge extended and have a good evening.

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 40, and I haven’t spent anything new in the last three days… hey, I’m getting the hang of this! Maybe if I keep this going long enough I’ll be able to break free of the habit of spending so frequently. I could use that money for fresh fruit and vegetables! (I’m on a health kick at the moment and that seems like the best use of my money in my current state of mind). I’ve also been experimenting with baking and online grocery shopping with mixed results. I’m planning on being a more successful human being for the next year, more organized and nourished and with more strings to my bow.

Continuing this self-improvement theme, I’ve also decided to cycle for 20-minutes after work every day from when I return to work following my current time-off, all the way up until Christmas. To sure-up this decision, I spent last night making dozens of 20-minute playlists in iTunes for cycling to. (Well, most of them end up being 22 minutes). The main theme of each playlist is pick about 5 songs from about 5 different artists within one subgenre.

So for example: 1 Saxon song, 1 Diamond Head song, 1 Iron Maiden song, 1 Angel Witch Song, 1 Motorhead song…. and then call that playlist “NWOBHM 1.”

In this spirit I have made: 9 Classic Rock Lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 9 NWOBHM/Early Metal lists, 9 Thrash Metal lists, 8 Glam Metal lists, 6 Power Metal lists, 5 Metalcore lists, 4 Groove Metal lists, 2 NYHC lists, 2 Indie Lists, 2 Nu Metal lists, 1 Stoner Rock list, and 1 Melodeath list.

Oh yeah, and two lists of Thrash bands’ ‘90s hits…like “Symphony Of Destruction,’ ‘Only,’ ‘Enter Sandman’ etc.

I only chose jaunty up-tempo songs; no ballads, no interludes, no intros, no doomy songs, nothing proggy… just stuff that would make me want to continue cycling. Its basically that I always get a shower when I get home from work, but I am always hesitant to do any exercise once I’ve had a shower because it’s a waste of water and therefore money, and so I’ve decided that I could squeeze in a small bit of exercise after each work day so its not too tiring (and get rewarded by hearing 5 or so classic songs) but since I’ll still work up a sweat it would be advisable before my usual post-work shower. Hopefully it makes me squeeze in exercise all the time, rather than doing it properly when I’m in the mood, but more often ending up doing nothing when it can’t be done right… as they say: “Don’t let Perfect be the enemy of Good.”

Anyway, enough health propaganda, on to the main article:

Since my recent birthday, I’ve been describing how I’ve been reading Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Metal Albums book, and this has not changed. I’ve been happily reading away at this yesterday too, now up to around number-300. It’s a damn good book and I highly recommend it. Even if there are a few small mistakes (eg. he said that Michael Kiske was the singer on Helloween’s Walls Of Jerhico, but it was really Kai Hansen) and sometimes his sentences lack all grammatical logic or you can tell he forgot to type words here and there, it is still a very entertaining and well put-together product.

I’ve also spent the last few days listening to the following albums:

I decided to put this record on again because I recently read an article online which was about biggest disappointments/flops. Untouchables was in it. I thought to myself…”surely not?” I remembered at the time, everyone loved it. They filmed the successful comeback show with loads of songs from it. People on Metal podcasts I listened to remembered it fondly. I listened to it again last night, and yeah, there’s a wee bit of filler (like EVERY Korn record) but it is in no way a weak album for them, plus lead single and album opener “Here To Stay” is just an absolute smasher! Oh yeah, and I looked it up on Wikipedia this morning and that also suggests it is one of the band’s most popular albums. What about the verse to “Embrace” ? …or the chorus to “Wake Up Hate” ?

Disappointment? Pfft…

This album is a weird one for me; I listen to tracks from it almost daily on shuffle, but I have this weird “I don’t listen to this album enough” feeling all the time because I don’t sit down and listen to it in its entirety often enough. Well, I tried to put that right, and its one of my favourite Motorhead records when you add up all the songs I like (although I just usually don’t listen to them together… something it shares in common with Faith No More’s Angel Dust as a matter of fact). Some people called this one a disappointment, or dislike the production. Not me, I love it. Love it all. So many great tracks. Great atmosphere. Its charming. “(Don’t Let ‘Em) Grind Ya Down” is especially fun. Heck it all is; no filler!

I listened to this yesterday whilst weightlifting because I have elderly neighbors in my temporary accommodation and I didn’t want them to have to hear Hatebreed, which is what I was really in the mood for at the time, but I’m a considerate neighbor when all is said and done.

I remember I bought this for super-cheap (around a penny I seem to recall, or maybe one pound at an absolute maximum!) just to have something to talk about with a coworker in my last job, who had an Alkaline Trio tattoo. I’m not really keen on it. I always liked their single “Private Eye” but unfortunately its about the only song on this album that is memorable. Its all competent but its just a bit bland and forgettable. Oh well, a Penny for a few conversations and “Private Eye” …not too much of a waste. Its not like I’ll have to quit doing fucked-up shit.

I’ve mentioned before about how I got this in 2010 and never felt like I’d listened to it enough. I still feel that way. Even with a recent attempt at a revival of it by adding it to my phone on work trips and during my Dutch holiday. To its credit, there are some great songs on the record, like the Title Track, “The Alchemist” and “Talisman.” I just somehow never feel like I give it enough attention though. I’ll keep trying, because it is good, its just… demanding.

This was a birthday gift. It’s the modern Helloween line-up trying to do their version of the Keepers’ albums. BOTH Keepers! It’s a double album, each with a 10 minute epic, a few fast thrashers, a ballad each, and a fun off-the wall song.

Its kind of exhausting. I can tell there’s good stuff on it, because I like Deris-era Helloween a lot anyway. But, its just a huge amount to take in at once. Without the mental division of individual albums the way the original Keepers Part 1 & 2 had. You feel overworked listening to it.

Some people are down on sequel albums, especially those late in a career. I like Operation Mindcrime 2 and Thick As A Brick 2 though… so I’ll give this one a chance as well. It just might take a long time to absorb.


I went for a run the other day, and the soundtrack to this sweaty affair was the suitably sweaty Manowar albums I got for my birthday, all together (Not just the one pictured, but Triumph Of Steel and Fighting The World too) on shuffle. These albums are really growing on me. Sure the drum solos in “Achilles” are pace-killers and that spoken word track is too long, but this is a seriously fun band with some seriously great Metal songs to offer. All of their fast songs are almost instant-favourites of mine, catapulted into Best Of playlists already. This is a good boxset and these albums are showing some real promise to join the best of Helloween and Gamma Ray at the top of my Power Metal pile… almost eclipsing Stratovarius already!

Absolute masterpiece. I’ve spent enough time talking about it. I think its one of the best records ever made, by anyone. I just need to listen to it regularly because I don’t want it to slip out of listening. (Once I let “Crack The Skye” go, it didn’t come back the same).

Another birthday gift. Very fun, pleasant, upbeat and happy record. Perfect listening for this sunshine, and for this good-mood inspired by the exercise and healthy-eating zone I’m in. Also nice and brief, lightweight and succinct. Easily digestible, quick and cheerful stuff for instant gratification and no-brains smiles being put on my face.

I’ve tried once more last night, despite feeling like it wasn’t very good and even with new attention, I just don’t really like this album much at all. I really like their debut, don’t get me wrong, its not just thoughtless Poison-bashing here, I just don’t like this Posion album. This one is just a bit empty. There’s nothing in the style I want from them, and there’s no catchy perfect fun in an alternative style to the one I want either. Its just very bland and unexciting. Nothing “grabs” me.

Halfway between the first and the third. Not just as memorable as their debut, or as forgettable as their third album, this has stuff going for it, but isn’t “wow, this album is great!” either. An enjoyable listen, that will eventually be boiled down to just the best few tracks and mostly ignored otherwise. I like “Back On The Rocking Horse,” “Bad To Be Good,” and “Look But You Can’t Touch” as well as the Kiss-esque hit single “Nuthin But A Good Time” of course.

I used to listen to this all the time last year. It got pushed out by new purchases. I still tend to listen to the post-Ralph albums a lot, but the first three of their albums have done a runner from my limited-storage-space phone long ago, which is a shame really, they deserve more attention. I’m pushing them back in now though. How can you argue with “Money” on a sunny day?

I’ve been listening to this constantly since its release, and so this listen here is just another go-round, rather than any attempt to appreciate an under-appreciated hidden gem. I’ve been constantly listening to it all year because its really good! …Even their absolutely shoddy live gig this time last year didn’t stop this being a good record in my eyes.

I enjoyed listening to it out in the sun today whilst chopping down (or rather trimming to acceptable tidiness, its not like I actually felled them with an axe) the trees surrounding my current accommodation, in the glorious sunshine. The title track and “Fall From Grace” are brilliant cheerful songs to hack trees by! (Although maybe I should’ve listened to Rush, now that I think about it… that’d be good, ey? I wonder if the neighbors would’ve got the joke?).

It took a long time to trim those trees. This was the second album I put on, because its not too-heavy for neighbors. I love this album, any excuse to listen to it is fine by me… even if my thumbs are covered in blisters afterwards! Good album. “Sleeping By Myself Tonight” is superb.

Man, I just never listen to this. I’ve owned it at least a decade, and I think I’ve listened to it fewer than twenty times in all that time (shame it wasn’t Somewhere In Time so I could use yet another “time” in that sentence), with about ten of those listens being made in the same month I bought it.

I love the title track (man, title tracks are usually great, aren’t they?) and “Be Quick Or Be Dead,” which I will always love for its Carmaggeddon 2 memories! (It was in that game’s soundtrack beside “The Trooper” and “Man On The Edge.”) Other than those two tracks however, I almost don’t even recognize over half of the record. I wasn’t even all that fond of it when I listened to it yesterday again either. I must try yet again tomorrow! Maybe it’s a grower, and I’ve never put enough time into it?

This album is fantastic. Its taken me years to think that though. A bit of backstory: I bought Cowboys’ and Vulgar’ on the same day on a Dublin holiday when I was about 12 or 13. I loved Vulgar instantly and forever. The high screams and weird production (and infuriating lack of snare drums on “Primal Concrete Sledge”) on Cowboys however, at the time made me think of it as being bad and cheesy and out-dated and un-Pantera, and for about two years afterwards I only liked the title track. (Title Tracks again, see?). Over the years I’ve liked more and more of it, and getting into thrash unlocked more of its charm, getting into Maiden unlocked yet more. Getting into Priest unlocked the final missing piece. Now I love every second of it… it just took me a while. A kid who mostly listens to Powerman 5000 and Limp Bizkit doesn’t have the palate suitable for “Heresy” or “Psycho Holiday” just yet. Well, it was worth the wait!

Another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album. I’m surprised how much I’ve come to really enjoy this record. It’s also “unlocked” the band’s first two albums for me, and I can appreciate them as real music now, instead of just a clown-parade of druggy chancers and womanizers writing 80% filler and getting unnaturally lucky with a few hits, like I used to view them. Moving on…

Yet another “I am listening to this all the time anyway” album, like the above. This is my definite album of the summer. It will likely be my album of the year at this rate. Every listen and it gets better, just like Stalingrad did. I’ll be watching the free Blu Ray a lot over the rest of the year too. Good value. I’ve been avoiding new albums recently because I can get boxsets of albums for the same price as individual new albums, and about 5 cheap old albums for the price of one new album, so it just seems wasteful to buy new albums…. This one however was unarguable value for money considering how much enjoyment and use I got out of it!

When I first got the boxset of Dokken’s first five albums (well, four and a live album), I sort of overlooked this one a lot. I’m slowly rectifying that oversight. “Paris Is Burning” and “Live To Rock (Rock To Live)” are excellent jaunty Judas Priest-style Speed Metal tracks (although with a softer production, admittedly).

This still isn’t my favourite Dokken album, or one I’d share with any friends who don’t listen to this sort of thing to convert them, but it’s a nice enough album and worth my time.

This is a classic, everyone loves it. Its not hard to see why. Phil’s voice is excellent here, Pepper and Kirk’s riffs are really memorable and everyone loves a bit of Bower Power, that Bonham-esque groove he can inject songs with really putting the cherry on top.

Good songs (most of a Down setlist most times, ey?), great performances, faultless production… pretty good record. Its not even monotonous, there’s plenty of variety from the brief stunners like “Lifer” and “Hail To The Leaf” and then the acoustic “Jail,” for variety, yet further diversified by the unique genre-of-one in hit single “Stone The Crow” and then topped-off by the big weighty monolith of an album-closer (and live-favourite) “Bury Me In Smoke.”

Its just all good, and there’s a nice mix so you aren’t bored or wore-down. I just need to remind myself to listen to it as often as I listen to Pantera or C.O.C. I’ve been constantly hammering The Purple EP all year, or at least its highlights, so I’ve probably been getting enough Down overall that I didn’t notice the dip in NOLA plays, but Martin Popoff’s book just reminded me to go back to the reason I liked Down in the first place.

I listen to the title track (how many times with the title tracks?) and “Rock N Roll Rebel” all the time, and I have it on Vinyl mounted on my wall, and I listened to the whole record all the time for about a year after I got it… but I’ve noticed a massive decrease in listens recently. I’ve just put it on again (another Popoff inspired move) and noticed that apart from the aforementioned hits, I’ve forgotten most of this record, and there’ actually a lot more good moments on here than I’ve been giving it credit for recently, certainly since last Christmas I’ve not listened to it in full. Well, now I have once more, and it was entertaining. Not the best Ozzy album, but better than the two-tracks-only footnote that I’ve been treating it as! Also the bonus track “One Up The B Side” is great, despite its cheesy joke title.

I bought a set of the first two V.O.D. albums a while back, around the same time I bought the boxset of Life Of Agony albums (I remember mixing the two bands up because of their triple-word names with “of” in the center, their association with ‘90s American Hardcore, and both having tracks with “River” in the title. This “River” song has a guest appearance from Phil Anselmo, Life Of Agony’s didn’t.

I ended up becoming a real fan of the Life Of Agony material… but upon initial listen I wasn’t keen on V.O.D. much at all. Their albums seemed like an exhausting barrage of samey, brash, rough-around-the-edges violence. To be fair, that’s still true, but its more of a compliment than an insult. This album is full of absolutely brilliant tracks. Each one, in isolation, is a blow-away-the-cobwebs breath of fresh air… intense, threatening and very very lively. Their singer reminds me of Chimaira’s Mark Hunter a little… but a less melodic, more screamy version.

Highlights for me are “Jada Bloom,” “Twelve Steps To Nothing” and “Landslide.” I’m warming to this album, its just a bit exhausting all at once… they’re still a band I can only take in small doses.

Another Popoff inspiration. I bought this record around this time last year, wasn’t amazingly sold on it really, and kind of just listened to it in small doses here and there from then on, with decreasing frequency until its now mostly ignored altogether. I stuck it on yesterday and was really impressed, there’s a whole heap of stolen Anthrax, Megadeth and Overkill parts and apart from the slow, grungy tempos and Rob’s unusual voice, this is pretty much a nice Thrash album. “Thrust” and “Black Sunshine” are good. The only problem with the album is that the band seem a bit too relaxed, too calm, holding back a bit. V.O.D are too unhinged and aggressive and abrasive, put this is the opposite end of the spectrum… its very chilled out and softened-down. You can tell the songs are good though, it’d be cool to hear them covered by someone with a bit of energy. Perhaps V.O.D. could cover them and split the difference?

This album is associated with sunshine for me. I was listening to it in the wonderful sunshine in the zoo in Rotterdamn, and I listened to it today whilst going out on a long walk in the countryside while trying to put more of this healthy stuff into action and make the most of this last week away before its back to early 4am work mornings and grey city sludge. The whole album is so bright and clean and uplifting that really sunshine is the only environment in which you could take it seriously… you already need a big smile on your face before it even starts.

What about the record itself? I used to think it was pretty samey, pretty bland, and lacking in the x-factor of its more famous cousin Inhuman Rampage. Listening to it carefully for the first time today, I guess that’s only half true… there’s a little more to things here than I initially credited it with, and while it can wear a little thin all at once its pretty much an honest record with good intentions. Not soon to become a favourite, but worth a few more listens at least.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. I’ve dropped my thoughts on most of the albums I’ve been listening to in the last three days; I’ll leave discussions of Death, Carcass, Cro-Mags and Deicide to another time as I’m pretty sure most people will’ve stopped reading by now anyway.

Oh well, it stopped me from splashing out on Spiderman comic collections, Early ‘80s American Hardcore bands’ debut albums, Musician’s biographies (Five Finger Death Punch’s drummer has a book out!?) and all the live concert DVDs going at the minute (or indeed b-sides and bonus tracks to albums I have but haven’t got all the bonus material from.)

‘Til we meet again…

 FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average Facebook-users’ knowledge of Farmville and Candy Crush. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Farmville. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the album Kings Of Metal, by the US Power Metal band Manowar. It was their 6th studio album and was released in 1988 on Atlantic Records. I got it for my birthday, inside a boxset which also contained Fighting The World and Triumph Of Steel. Good gift for someone like me!

I usually talk about the subgenre before talking about the band and the album in these articles. I think I’ve bored you all enough talking about Power Metal in its early 80s American guises and its late-80s-and-beyond European guises on this blog already, so if you want to know how I feel about it in more depth look back at reviews and articles on the likes of Savatage, early Queensryche, Helloween, Gamma Ray ,Stratovarius, Hammerfall and Iced Earth.

Its mostly European Melodic Power Metal, and only a bit of the early USPM (by bands who are mostly considered Prog Metal overall or turned Prog soon afterwards), and not exactly a perfect match for Manowar, who straddle the border between just being Traditional Metal like Priest, Maiden and Accept, with being Power Metal (well, all these things can vary on a song by song basis. I mean, there’s lots of Priest that sounds like Power Metal… just like there’s a lot of Djent that sounds like Messugah. Maybe Manowar aren’t Power Metal, maybe they’re just Metal… I don’t know. Also, maybe it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just call them Power Metal for now, so I don’t have to swap all those hyperlinks, ey guys?)

So; What do I actually know about Manowar? I know the band members are muscular, wear loincloths (either all the time or at least at some stage in their career) and promote manliness and strength. I know that they have a Conan The Barbarian type mascot on their album artwork. I know they are cheesy and over-the-top lyrically, and revel in all the sword-and-sorcery aspects of Metal culture. I know they are responsible for a lot of the “true Metal” and “Death To False Metal” sentiment you read about online, although I’m pretty sure they are probably joking about it. I know they have a devoted cult-like audience similar to Rush fans who are really defensive and proud of the band and will support the band no matter what. (Its sort of a “cool” thing, to a certain subsection of Metal-society, to be a Manowar fan, I guess.)

I don’t, as yet, know exactly why that is. I don’t see the same cult-thing going on for Helloween or Blind Guardian or whatever other massive influential Power Metal band with a lot of fans and some releases with a “Metal Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” type reputation. Maybe it exists and I just didn’t notice it, or maybe its something peculiar to just Manowar. (Perhaps because they seem so convinced of it themselves? Perhaps entirely because of their own sloganeering?)

I remember my friend at College about half-a-decade-ago telling me that Manowar were officially recognized as the Loudest Band In The World, and that once their stage-show caused an electrical surge that shut off all power to the Eastern Seaboard. Dunno if its true, but if it is, it’s a neat fact to have if you are a Heavy Metal band.

The album title intrigues me; Kings Of Metal. Manowar get called “Kings Of Metal” a lot in reviews and articles and I’ve always wondered if it was self-appointed [Side note: Didn’t Pantera call themselves “Kings Of Metal” too by the way, or at least something very similar?] or if it was one of those things like Judas Priest’s “Metal Gods” situation where they had a song about robots called “Metal Gods” (not even lyrically about the band or even Heavy Metal itself…just about robots) but people decided to call the band Metal Gods as a term of endearment anyway. Or maybe its just genuinely made up and applied to them like Black Sabbath getting called Godfathers Of Heavy Metal all the time by the press.

Basically, did they write this title because they were being called Kings Of Metal, or did they get called that due to this album title?

….Well that’s the band. What about the album?

Looking now at the album’s artwork, I almost feel like I need to go to the gym. I’ve just finished an hour of weightlifting at the time of writing by the way, but suddenly I almost feel the urge to lift again. Geez, these guys’d give you a complex with album art like that!

Anyway; I was looking into the band when I was making my List of albums that help you to understand Metal. I think there is a sort of lack of consensus about which of their records are good or not. Then there’s this sort of old Manowar vs. Mid-Manowar vs. Everyone hating new Manowar debate which is kind of like Judas Priest’s fan’s reaction to their discography. Some people love the Screaming/Defenders sound but some people only want Sad Wings/Stained Class sounds. Not so many love the Ripper Owens era.

I’ve read dozens and dozens of times that Kings Of Metal is Manowar’s “best,” “most influential,” “highest selling,” “most-beloved” and that sort of thing, album. I’ve also read that those descriptions belong to Hail To England instead, and that Kings Of Metal is part of the decline from their glory days to their career nadir in the late ‘90s. I’ve even read some people call it a sell-out, but some people call Emperor sell-outs for recording a demo and therefor diluting their credibility as a garage-only band… I don’t have much time for people calling albums sell-outs unless its drastic and obvious.

I guess it might be like Kiss’ Destroyer, some people count the classic bit as the first 3 Kiss albums, some the first 6, some more than that. I guess I might like analogies a bit too much.

What else? Well; Its also one of those “end of an era” type records since it was the final album from the “classic line-up” featuring Scott Columbus and Ross “The Boss.” After this, the two would be replaced by a drummer called Rhino and a guitarist called Giraffe David Shankle. I have to be honest, right at this moment I don’t know any of those musicians and don’t have any opinion on who is better. I guess I’ll find out.

[Play]

First up, the album opens with “Wheels Of Fire” which is apparently a concert favourite. Its pretty up-tempo and thrashy, and kind of reminds me of Alice-era Annihilator a little bit. It starts off with some samples of a motorbike starting up and driving around, then wham, blistering Thrashy Metal. There’s high pitched screams and low growls, and vocals trading between speakers. Then the chorus comes in and hell-yeah we’re in Power Metal town, gloriously big and bombastic. Power Metal choruses are the definition of Bombastic. Its like a giant tom fill with squealing Queen-reminiscent guitar and a vocal perfect for singing along to.

A guitar solo follows… a pretty excellent guitar solo. Well, I guess Ross The Boss is pretty important then. Oh yes, the chorus comes back…that is a good, good, good chorus. I’m loving this mixture between furious Alice In Hell aggression and over-the-top Land Of The Free grandiosity.

The thing I notice is that singer Eric Adams sounds quite like Kiss’ Paul Stanely at times. I wonder if that is because of where they come from. Also a bit like early Anthrax’s Neil Turban. Then again, he also reminds me of Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow.

Speaking of Iced Earth, I’ve never really noticed this before, but there is a missing link between Judas Priest and Iced Earth. That Missing Link is Manowar. Maybe its Jag Panzer too, but one thing at a time people, I haven’t got all day. Its funny, but I didn’t think their singer was even called Eric Adams until today, I thought he was called Joey DiMiao. When people said or wrote “Joey DiMiao” I always assumed it was the band’s singer, not bassist… oh well, I know now, ey? – I’ve never heard of Eric Adams before… seems odd really given how important Manowar are in Europe. Well, in Metal really. I mean I heard of Geoff Tate and John Arch and Rob Halford for years and years. There’s lots and lots of singers in my mind as definitive traditional singers… strange that Adams is not one of them, especially considering how powerful and talented he is. Its not as if he is dull and un-noteworthy or something.

Next up is the album’s title track, “Kings Of Metal.” It boasts boastful lyrics about Manowar themselves and how they come to town and kill, rather than play like a normal band, and how their audience are definitely not posers. This is a completely different style of music to the previous track. Its more like a very aggressive Kiss song than any Thrash or Power Metal band. It wouldn’t be too out of place on Shout At The Devil actually, in that Kiss-but-heavier spirit.

No denying it, this is catchy. I’m loving it. Its sort of embarrassing in a way, but heck, I do believe “Manowar Kill!” and are going to kick my ass, such is the convincing power of the song due its massive, massive fun-factor.

The solo starts off with a Saved By The Bell ‘50s Rock n Roll vibe, then shreds afterwards.

“Heart Of Steel” follows that big smile-fest, and is once again a different style. Its a ballad. The vocals kind of remind me of Greg Lake on Court Of The Crimson King’s title track and “Epitaph.” Ok, its not a ballad as in love lyrics and soft brush drums. The first two minutes are basically a string section and tasteful piano with manly vocals. Then the band kick in to a very heavy drum beat and ringing big guitars. It’s a powerful power ballad. More Powerful than Helloween or Gamma Ray’s ballads. More powerful than Stratovarius’ ones too. Heavier than Hammerfall’s. Better than all of Dragonforce’s. There’s also a gorgeous yet brief guitar solo that really feels like Slash. This is a genuinely good ballad. One I’d keep on my phone even with space limitations to consider!

“Sting Of The Bumblebee” livens things up next. Its an explosive bass solo (with band backing) based on the classical piece “Flight Of The Bumblebee,” which I seem to recall having to learn about in GCSE music but have since forgotten all about, apart from recognizing that it is frantic and hurried sounding, like a Bumblebee. Its so furious and metallic and intensely performed that you don’t even really think of it as a bass solo anymore… just a neat, brief, instrumental Metal song. I wouldn’t leave this off my phone either. Its just Manowar’s equivalent of “Stratofortress.”

“The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings)” opens up like it might be another ballad. Its got choirs and organs and orchestral percussion. It sounds like a Viking ascending into heaven. Eric’s vocals are very strong. This guy seems pretty underrated. Amazing vocal talent. Maybe its just his actual voice causing people to forget to talk about him, because the talent applied to that voice is unquestionable.

This track has no drums or guitars, it feels sort of like it should either be the first or final track on an album, and not so soon after a ballad. Strange move, momentum-wise in my opinion. That said, this is very strong. This is what I think Hammerfall should write instead of the ballads that they do write. Its bigger and grander than just a ballad. I guess its what you would call “epic” before the word got diluted so much recently (although; in Metal, “epic” things usually also have to be at least 10-minutes long for most reviewers to classify them as such. I guess that’s “an epic” as opposed to a song that is epic though).

After all that questionable epicness; “Kingdom Come” starts off with a chugging riff that sounds like it might be quite commercial, but could go either way, either into a quick-paced Metal track like the first one on the album, or into an MTV ready hit like Priest’s “Living After Midnight.” Then it reveals itself. It kind of reminds me, strangely, of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason-era Pink Floyd…but in no way I can articulate. I guess maybe there’s just a touch of “Learning To Fly” to the pace and drum sound? Either way; this isn’t a thrashy blaster of a song. Its like a way-slower “Metal Gods” (Ironically, given my Metal Gods/Kings Of Metal question) drum beat, with a ballad hidden over the top, these shuffly drums transforming it out of a ballad, and an into MTV ‘80s Rock song, but the enthusiastic and ultra powerful vocals making it metallic enough to fit on the record.

“Pleasure Slave” comes next, and is in slightly the same mould as the previous track during the verses, but with heavier guitars and indeed a nice Iommi-style riff in the chorus. Its not speedy thrashy Metal. Its enthusiastic ‘80s Rock…with a nice doomy riff in the chorus. It sort of reminds me of Kiss’ “God Of Thunder” in its slow power.

Aside from the music, the most notable thing about this track is the over the top sexism… I mean it is arguably even more objectifying than what most Hair Metal bands wrote about. There’s a big difference between Poison’s lyric “I got a girl to the left of me and a girl to the right, I know damn well I slept with both last night” and Manowar’s lyric “Woman be my slave, chained onto my bed… your body belongs to me… the greatest gift I could ever give.”

I kind of wonder if they are being ironic, perhaps a touch of Steel Panther here? I mean, I always read the sentence that Manowar’s fans take them with a pinch of salt but the band themselves are serious about it. Or maybe I’m looking at it wrong and its not even sexism, but just about BDSM. Maybe they are just writing about BDSM from a reporting perspective, in the same way that Slayer wrote about Nazis without being Nazis. I’d like to hope they aren’t ridiculous sexists at any rate… in the same way I hope Carpathian Forest aren’t really as Right Wing as they say they are. Hopefully its all just good fun. (Just playing-up to expectations etc.)

“Hail And Kill” follows that, opening promisingly with a powerful ringing guitar chord and some aggressive-yet-melodic dual guitar in the spirit of Painkiller-era-Priest. Yay! The album had slowed down quite a bit…hopefully this is a fast one.

Hmm…nope, it broke down to some nice acoustic arpeggios and more of that Greg Lake-but-louder stuff vocally; and then… Yay, it explodes into lovely 80s Speed Metal sounds!

Oh, nice Maideny guitar bit. Catchy sing-along-gang chant of the song’s title. This is right up my street. Exactly what I’m in the mood for. I love this chorus!

Nice guitar solos, quite flashy. You can really feel the instrument being played, you can visualize the bends really easily. Excellent production now that I think about it. Yes. This song is the bee’s knees.

That long “Yeeeeeeah” scream where all other music cuts out… that is something I always love in music. Also, impressive! “Nice pipes” as they say in our musical world.

Then comes “The Warrior’s Prayer” which in all honesty is kind of ridiculous. Its essentially a spoken word intro, which you hear on lots of Metal tracks in lots of various different styles. Sometimes they appear in the middle of tracks or have music underneath them. Yes’ “Circus Of Heaven” has one with a little kid talking about a circus with no animals etc. It is too long, and it is already in the middle of a song and has music underneath but still a lot of fans find it unbearable. This track doesn’t have much in the way of music, and lasts for an entire FOUR MINUTES. Four minutes of just talking in a slightly silly old-man-telling-a-kid-a-story voice. Not fourty seconds, which is already a bit too far. Four ENTIRE minutes! – I’m not that keen on it, can you tell? We’re talking about the guy who deleted the intro to Exodus’ “Deranged” because it wasn’t worth my time. Oh well, at least they were kind enough to have it as a separate track, so I can skip it from now on. [I’m sure as fuck leaving this one off my phone considering there’s space limitations.]

Finally we end things here with the seven-and-a-half-minute album closer “Blood Of The Kings.” This song is explosive, powerful and excited. The vocals are so over-the-top, the main riff is incredible fun and the verses are like a supercharged “Diamonds & Rust.” This song just sounds absolutely massive. Its real Thor-on-a-mountaintop stuff.

The guitar solo is pretty impressive. Accept/Deep Purple/Yngwie style neo-classical stuff in there, filled out by muscular shred. The song also continuously does the thing I love where the vocals continue when the rest of the song stops.
At the five-minute point they also go into an almost-pisstaking Prog style bit-by-bit ending. (You know, like when they tease ending over and over and over, sometimes note-by-note, slowly decreasing speed and volume in their actual playing rather than with the mixer). Then after doing that for a very long time, the main riff comes back as if the song is going to erupt again…but then that fades out with the mixer. Hmmm. Definitely feels a bit pisstaky. In a good way.

So, there we have it. My first exposure to the field of true Metal, my introduction to the kings of said True Metal, and the righting of my wrong (“if you don’t own this album, you aren’t a Metal fan” etc.) in ignoring the band for this long. I don’t know if its as instant a KCP classic as Land Of The Free or Keeper Of The Seven Keys but it was certainly far from a waste of time. I think it’s a sort of uneven album… three rock songs, two ballads (or there-abouts), three Power/Speed Metal songs, a bass solo, and a really overlong intro/skit/spoken word boredom-fest.

I wonder if it may be better without the spoken word bit (or at least at a severely, severely reduced length), with more space between the two ballads (perhaps the “epic” one as the final track and the “normal power ballad” as the exact middle of the album). Oh yeah…and don’t listen to “Pleasure Slave” when there’s any women in the room. [Fuck it; actually…do listen to it when there’s women in the room, but lie and say the song is called “50 Shades Of Grey” and then they’ll lap that track up!]

Still, even if it is oddly disjointed and has a weird momentum, and lacking that maybe-one-more-fast-song that would make it work, this is a pretty neat album and I’m sure I’ll listen to it a lot in the coming months. The highlights (the three fast songs, the fun-as-hell title track and the Viking funeral) will certainly get a real pounding and make it into my regular-listening for a long time to come.

Ok. That was my first experience with the band and the album.
Any thoughts, opinions, corrections or recommendations guys?