Judas Priest – Priest… Live! Review

Judas Priest’s first live album, Unleashed In The East, is considered an unquestionable classic by all and sundry. It is one of the premiere live albums in the whole genre. Less well regarded however, is their next live album 1987’s Priest… Live!

The first live album covered their ‘70s material. However; some of the band’s most memorable albums like British Steel and Screaming For Vengeance were made after Unleashed In The East and thus could not be represented on it. Priest fans then needed a live album for the ‘80s too. Hey, Kiss had Alive and Alive II. It should be possible to have another utterly classic live album. Somehow however the history books haven’t been too kind on this one. Alive II it ‘aint. You don’t find this in every list of best ever live albums.

For me; I both think that’s a shame. But I also get it. There are some things working against it. For example, the running order. They open the album up with a track that is not fast, not a classic and not very Priest sounding. ‘Out In The Cold’ is a mid-paced, non-single from the band’s unpopular Turbo album.  Think of all the great live albums. How many of them open up with a mid paced non-single from the band’s unpopular album? Not many. Next up is even the fact that it is from the tour for Turbo, which may put some people off. I’m sure if they had released a live album touring a more well received album like Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller, then more people would have given it a chance. (And to be fair, its only three tracks from Turbo, two of which are buried among popular classics and both of which are great live anyway). Finally; a little petty, but there’s also the artwork. Unleashed In The East has an iconic and exciting live shot bursting with energy. Priest… Live! Has a janky drawing of some hands on a mud coloured background. It just doesn’t look like a classic.

That being said, there’s a lot of good to be found here. Tracks from three tracks from British Steel and two from Screaming For Vengeance. Four from Defenders of the Faith. (More if you get the remastered version).Good stage banter from Halford. A decent production job. No repetition from their previous live album’s track list. Good guitar and vocal performances.  Highlights include the evergreen ‘Electric Eye’ and ‘Breaking The Law’ as a better-than-the-album version of ‘Heading Out To The Highway.’ The bonus tracks from the remaster also help boost the record. A bit of ‘Hell Bent For Leather’ never did anyone any harm. Overall; Not the band’s most famous live album. Still worth owning. (Also, a personal tip… the record flows better if you swap ‘Out In The Cold’ and ‘Electric Eye’ in the running order).

Judas Priest – Firepower Review

220px-JudasPriestFirepower18 studio albums in, and Metal Pioneers Judas Priest are still relevant. There are many bands from the past who are making great music nowadays. Kreator have been as good in the past 10 years as they ever were in the ’80s. You can add Saxon and Accept to that list. Queensryche since Todd joined too.

Priest’s best moments on Redeemer Of Souls and Angel Of Retribution were in that sort of sphere as well but not to the unquestionable level of the above mentioned renaissances. Judging from how magazines, podcasts, blogs and websites I care about have reacted to Firepower however, I was expecting seriously great things when pressing play for the first time.

I’ve been hammering this record non-stop in the car for about half a month now, repeat listening to it over and over again. Its taken a while to grow on me as I had such high expectations after the last Saxon album and also all the hype surrounding this, that it almost did more harm than good setting me unrealistic expectations, but after taking a good long time to really digest it and understand how I feel about it, I can definitely confirm Firepower is a bit of a banger.

There are a few moments of variety, such as the slower closer ‘Sea Of Red’ and the brief instrumental ‘Guardians’ but most of the material is just straight ahead well written classic heavy metal. Highlights for me include ‘Evil Never Dies,’ ‘Rising From Ruins,’ ‘Flame Thrower’ and especailly ‘Traitors Gate.’

That being said, its an album you can listen to all the way through, and its an album you can happily listen to on repeat. I once heard the phrase ‘an album you can get lost in’ and that’s exactly how I feel about Firepower. The performances pop. Rob’s vocals are more energetic than on the previous record. Travis’ drums are that little bit harder. The production is a lot sharper and more metallic as well. Everything sounds that little bit harder and heavier. Maybe its having that Andy Sneap involvment? Who knows, but everything rips. The band sound twenty years younger.

I wouldn’t go overboard and start heaping tonnes and tonnes of hyperbolic praise on this personally. I wouldn’t argue its better than Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller. I like Angel Of Retribution and Redeemer Of Souls well enough already not to go down that ‘best album since Painkiller’ route, but I will say it is a worthy addition to the band’s catalogue and no disapointment whatsoever. A pedantic person may be inclined to argue it is a bit overlong, and that a few songs are a bit forgettable compared to the better ones, but those are arguments that can be made for pretty much every album nowadays. Iron Maiden fans are well used to it at this stage and it doesn’t stop us buying their albums.

After Nostradamus I thought this band may be hitting a downer period and after KK left the band it seemed quite unlikely they would be anything more than a nostalgia act but that’s two albums now they’ve proved that fear wrong. The band are arguably on an upward streak and they are starting to sound almost as fresh and relevant as the new Accept and Saxon albums have been. Considering by how long Priest pre-date those bands its even more impressive really. It isn’t just as amazing as I was expecting, but what I was expecting wasn’t realistic to begin with, but the more I play Firepower, the closer it gets to being a reality.

If you like Priest, get it. If you like Classic Metal, get it. Hell, if you like Metal at all, get it!

Edguy – The Savage Poetry Review

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!

Stratovarius – Intermission Review

220px-Intermission_(Stratovarius_album)_coverIntermission is a mish-mash compilation album by the Finnish Power Metal band Stratovarius from 2001. It was released as a stopgap between their commercially successful Infinite album from 2000 and their ambitious and slightly Prog Metal double album series Elements Parts 1 & 2 from 2003.

Its got linear notes from the band about the release and a very well designed cover art referencing previous albums (kind of like Pink Floyd’s Echos compilation does).

The album opens up with four brand new songs, first of which is the slightly power ballad style ‘Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace?’ Its nice solid melodic Hard Rock stuff. Next comes ‘Falling Into Fantasy’ which starts off with a shimmering Empire-era Queensryche style vibe. Think ‘Della Brown.’ It sounds like the sort of stuff the band were doing on the popular Destiny album. Speaking of Queensryche the chorus is quite reminiscent of ‘Jet City Woman’ too actually. The song livens up further with a nice energetic guitar solo and a fun drum pattern underneath with a very nice tom fill at the end of the solo. At the start you thought it was just another ballad (Statovarius do a lot of ’em) but really it turned out to be one of the best songs they do in this particular direction, if a little derivative of Degarmo and company (for me that’s a good thing really).

That’s followed up by the traditionally power metal track ‘The Curtains Are Falling,’ a speedy double-kicks-a-flailin’ headbanger with a catchy chorus and memorable neoclassical keyboards. Its got a lot of energy and probably would have been the smarter choice to open the album with, I think. Probably would’ve worked better going from most to least energetic, but hey, its sequenced how its sequenced folks, I don’t make the rules.

Finally there’s a track called ‘Requiem’ which is essentially just a typical instrumental intro or outro. The sort thing most people will skip after the first few listens. A slow, keyboard driven atmospheric build up with no Heavy Metal payoff.

That’s it for the brand new specially written for this songs. The rest are gathered from mixed sources during their classic period. There’s two demos ‘Neon Light Child’ and ‘Freedom’ both of which are OK but forgettable (just the same as the final versions but with less polished production really). Then two live tracks, ‘Hunting High & Low’ (their very fun hit single) and ‘I Surrender’ (which is actually a Rainbow cover, and very fun, if a bit out of place), which are nice but kind of pointless on a compilation as opposed to a proper full-length live album. There’s two studio cover songs; ‘Bloodstone’ originally by Judas Priest (which they nail) and ‘Kill The King’ originally by Rainbow again (which has been done better by other bands, but its decent if you aren’t over-familiar with it).

The majority of the rest is all the bonus tracks from deluxe editions of the last few albums etc. ‘Keep The Flame’ is a very somber and emotional piano ballad. ‘Dream With Me’ is a power ballad that gets very jaunty towards the end when the solo kicks in. Then there’s another power ballad called ‘What Can I Say?’ which is slightly similar to track one, but with a bit more bite to it. OK yes, sensing a theme here? There are a lot of ballads on here. Its not all ballads though…

‘Its A Mystery’ is a very strong more commercial Power Metal tune in the vein of ‘Hunting High & Low’ which sounds like it would’ve fit perfectly on Infinite and probably would’ve made a great single if they’d released it that way. Its one of the best songs on this compilation. ‘Why Are We Here?’ the bonus track from Infinite is similarly just another really strong track from them in their commercial direction, and also baffling that it wasn’t a big single either. ‘Cold Winter Nights’ is typical perfect up-tempo Stratovarius, with that sort of Judas Priest’s Electric Eye vibe only with more keyboards and melody. Its also one of the best songs here and a nice surprise if it wasn’t on your version of Destiny already. ‘When The Night Turns To Day’ is a stomping mid pace track with a whiff of Queensryche’s Empire about it, just like the new track mentioned above. It would also have fit best on Destiny (even though it was initially from as far back as Episode, if you can believe that).

As you can imagine, Intermission is just a jumble of odds and ends with no particular theme or flow or consistency. Its not a must-have release or anything. Hey, if you like ’em doing ballads and covers you’re quids-in. If you want ’em doing more of a Speed Metal thing there’s not so much of that on here though, so maybe don’t start here if you are new, pick up one of the records in their glory run from Episode to Elements Part 2 instead.

If you like the band already though, and just want a cheap, easy and quick way to get the bonus tracks and b-sides in one place then this is great for that purpose, and hey there’s four solid new songs too to flesh it out. Nothing life changing, but worth a look if you’ve ran out of other Stratovarius products to check out from this era.

Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls Review

Judas Priest - Redeemer Of Souls

Judas Priest – Redeemer Of Souls

In 2014, Judas Priest returned with their 17th full-length studio album, Redeemer Of Souls, stripping away the concepts and extras from their previous album Nostradamus and returning more-or-less to the direction of their 2005 Halford-reunion record Angel Of Retribution.

Stylistically; its classic Heavy Metal; not too heavy, not too soft. There are one or two more somber and reflective moments, but nothing you could call a ballad, and one or two fast moments but nothing you can call Thrash. In that sense, Redeemer Of Souls is a very focused and consistent record – all very positive. The drawback however is that Redeemer Of Souls is something of a strange album, its exactly what a lot of fans wanted in a lot of ways – just giving you a full album of the best songs from the last few albums with no messing about – but it is unfortunately delivered a little bit too politely and calmly, so it can’t really be called exceptional or exciting.

Lyrically, everything is on track with what you’d expect (and somehow feels oddly grateful somehow, which is a plus) and the vocal performance is as good as can be expected – not the shrill phenomenal highs of Painkiller or the variety of the ’70s era, but equal to the last two records. New guitarist, Richie Faulkner fits in well and luckily doesn’t let the side down despite the odds. So far so good. The production is solid and clean, although a little flat. That’s the first thing against the record.

Musically, the performances are also solid but a little flat. Its not as if anyone is running away with passion or “playing the fuck out of it” at any stage, ever, but nothing is poor or mishandled. Likewise, the songwriting is never poor and there is no track that feels like it needs cutting – but nothing is likely to become your favourite Priest song ever. There’s a lot of great potential, but it could’ve done with a slightly heavier sound, slightly harder drumming, slightly wilder vocals, slightly more passionate guitar solos. Maturity and sophistication are welcome, sure, but there’s no competing with sounding hungry.

Highlights include “Metalizer,” “Battle Cry” and the title-track, which are three of the livelier tracks on the record. If you are on the fence about the album’s merits and haven’t bought yourself a copy yet, those tracks are probably the best advertisement available.

Overall; This is a completely rock solid and almost perfect album from a veteran band who really know what they are doing, but could’ve done with just a bit more “umph.” Its good, but its not special.

Manowar – Louder Than Hell Review

Manowar – Louder Than Hell

Manowar – Louder Than Hell

1996’s Louder Than Hell album was the US Heavy Metal legends Manowar’s eight full-length opus, and served as a grand and defiant championing of Heavy Metal that was simultaneously both ahead of and behind its time. Manowar in steadfastly focusing on what could be argued as the “true” (the band certainly argue that themselves) aspects of the original Heavy Metal sound were throwing back to the early ‘80s heyday of Metal from which the band themselves came, something very uncool in the eyes of the Grunge and Alternative focused public at the time, and in so doing were setting up the future, predicting the soon to be popular Power Metal movement that had been brewing happily away for a decade but really exploded when bands like Hammerfall would break just a year or two later.

This album sees the return of drummer Scott Columbus, who was absent from the band’s superb previous album, 1992’s Triumph Of Steel, as well as seeing the introduction of new guitarist Karl Logan who’s muscular sound fit nicely into the band. It was self-produced by the band and released on Geffen. Just cast one eyeball at the album’s art and that should tell you whether or not you’ll love this album. Embarrassed by “cheesy” D&D bands? Think singing about being in a band is dated? Then step away! However…Think that close-up shot of ‘roided-out barbarian thumping an anvil is awesome? Then buy a copy without hesitation!

Musically, Louder Than Hell is another step down the road that the band have always been headed in. Manowar don’t make the same album over and over again, but they never make a head-scratching left turn either. This is the logical successor to Triumph Of Steel. You can see how Thrashy tracks like “Death Hector’s Reward” and “Ride The Dragon” from that record begat “Outlaw” on this record. You can see how tracks like “Wheels Of Fire” on the album before that, begat the tracks on this album such as “The Power” (sonically, with the bombast and absolute over-the-top performance) and “Return Of The Warlords” (thematically, with the biker imagery and don’t-care attitude).

Manowar also always have a lot of lyrical fun boasting about how awesome they, and Heavy Metal in general are, and in the fine tradition of tracks such as “Metal Warriors,” “Kings Of Metal” and “All Men Play On Ten,” this album lets rip with an absolutely storming, fists-to-the-sky anthem in the form of “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.” A track so charged with pride, power and the demand that you sing along that you can almost picture the band in the studio laughing to themselves that they’ll never get away with being so obvious….and yet you forgive them, because, well dammit, its just THAT GOOD.

There’s also spots of variety to break up the oily, red hot ‘80s-Hollywood-masculinity that the band love to exude so much (to the point of constantly singing about power, strength, challenge, muscle, fighting and having all that bodybuilder imagery in photoshoots and album covers) in the form of a nice piano-ballad called ‘Courage’ (because you can tender AND manly!) as well a guitar-only solo track, and a dense, 9-minute Prog affair called ‘Today Is A Good Day To Die” which sounds like some kind of Power Metal version of Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces.”

This album has a nice production job, with a nice crunchy chug to the palm-mutes, a nice amount of drive, audible bass-guitar, and a clear separation of all the instruments (toms merrily dance from ear to ear during fills, and you can accurately feel how the band would be standing relative to one another in the practice-room). Add to that, another fantastic vocal performance from Manowar’s secret genius Eric Adams who can sound equal parts Rob Halford or Paul Stanley influenced depending on his mood, but with a distinctive identity all of his own most of the time.

Overall; It sounds great, the band play/sing great, there’s a bit of variety but not too much in the way of interludes or nonsense shenanigans, and just a general feel of consistency and craftsmanship. Its a strong whole for sure – and on top of that there’s some absolutely superb standout tracks that elevate it even higher – just try not enjoy “Brothers Of Metal,” “King” or “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.” If you thought Manowar were done after the first four albums, you thought wrong! Louder Than Hell is absolutely worth your time and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Thrash, Power Metal, NWOBHM, or good old Heavy Metal.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 40

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…

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 37

Welcome to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For. Its day 37, and I haven’t spent anything new today. Well, I bought concert tickets on behalf of someone else if we’re being 100% honest, but I’m not “counting that” as a failure in the challenge.

Yesterday, I described how I’d been reading Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Metal Albums book, and it had gotten me to sit back and listen to albums that I haven’t been focusing on lately (and some that I have, but from the same era). I’m very much at the same business today. Every time he brings up an album I like, it has me running to the iPod or CD player to revisit some gem.

Here’s what I’ve got through today:














In between lifting weights, consuming more fruit and veg than I would’ve in an entire year in my teens, and other health-related activities now that I’ve got my motivation back, I’ve managed to refresh myself of a lot of things.

Some that I heard today like Rainbow’s Long Live Rock N Roll, I usually only listen to one or two tracks from, but if I’m honest I have never really fully got into, perhaps because of picking them up at the same time as a bunch of other albums. (I can’t believe how unfamiliar I am with Queensryche’s song “Nightrider” despite how much I listen to the band overall). I still feel like that Rainbow album is new. Its in my “new pile” in my brain. I actually bought it in 2009. That’s five years now. Similarly, Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier was got even earlier in that year and I feel like its still new too, however I got Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug on the same day, but they’ve had two records since then and it feels super old. Perception is a strange thing, ey?

On a similar note… I barely ever, ever, ever listen to “Gyspy” by Dio. Why not? Why has that song just been deleted from my memory? It was on the album when I bought it, I didn’t delete it, I listen to other songs from the album. I listen to the other albums of the first four Dio albums a lot. Why has “Gypsy” just been jettisoned? Oh well, its back in my brain now…

Some that I heard today, like the Anthrax albums, are among my favourite albums ever, but have for some reason been a bit ignored in the last two years, and now its time to get them back into rotation. It strange how long I can go without listening to Anthrax actually…. I remember saying so many times in my teens that they were my favourite band in the world (but hey, so were Biohazard and Napalm Death at different stages too, and I’ve somehow basically not listened to them in 2014).

Some that I heard today, such as the Saxon ones, I’ve been caning a lot recently anyway, but hey, they fit with the general theme of the rest of my listening, and I’m in the mood for them.

I also went for the two Judas Priest albums that I listen to the least nowadays. Wow, how good is Defenders Of The Faith, seriously? Why am I not listening to that more often. I remember thinking it wasn’t as good as some of the others and tails off towards the end, and mostly I just listen to “Eat Me Alive” on its own. Strange that this has fallen out of favour, because I liked it at the time I bought it, and gave it a good review, but somewhere in the last three years I forgot all about this one. Taken for granted! Well no more!

I guess it is just a matter of how much new stuff you buy. Even the absolute gold gets ignored due to time constraints (when was the last time I actually listened to And Justice For All come to think of it?). I love this whole Get (Into) What You Paid For system because it really gets me not only to save money, but feel a real pleasure in rediscovering things, like Rob Halford’s vocals on “Love Bites” or the ending to Rainbows “Kill The King” (- a song I feel I’ve heard a lot due to Heathen and Megadeth covering it, and yet, the ending was a surprise joy!).

I’m thinking of extending this round now from 1.5 months to 2 months! This is great fun.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 6 Day 36

Welcome to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For. Its day 36 of the challenge and there have been no slips apart from the time-sensitive acquisition of a concert ticket. As I’ve mentioned last time, I have been away in the Netherlands, then celebrating a birthday recently. These two events have made my resolve not to buy new things pretty strong for the past fortnight or so. I mean… I could go out and buy something, but there’d be no time to listen to it anyway, so why bother?

The last few days I’ve been listening repeatedly to birthday gifts in the form of CDs by Manowar, Helloween, and the Fratellis, succumbing to all of their charms one by one. A real good trio of gifts I must say. This high attention focus on the new items has kept my brain very occupied and I didn’t look elsewhere for musical satisfaction.

Today, I’ve spent many hours reading another birthday gift; Martin Popoff’s book of 500 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums. This is a really interesting and entertaining book for someone like me.

It was assembled by compiling a massive international survey of Metal musicians and people in the know, (and at points you can find out many prominent Metal musician’s own personal top-10s) and then each album, with very few exceptions, is accompanied by a comment from the author (who sometimes hates the albums chosen and isn’t afraid to let you know) and an interview from a band member or other significant person.

Sometimes the quotes aren’t perfectly about the album; and are about the artwork, or guitars in general, or whatever, but for the most part, regardless of what quote is chosen it is entertaining.

Needless to say, for someone who probably owns at least 350 of the 500 chosen albums it makes your brain continuously say “OOOOh, I want to hear that again! Oooh, I want to hear that again too! Oooh, and that one as well.”

So; rather than playing-out Fratellis and Manowar too quickly, today has been spent reacquainting myself with albums that Popoff brought back to my attention. Here’s a quick visual guide to my past two days (see if you can spot a sort of semi-theme):











Now, some of them, I’ve been listening to a lot recently anyway, like Accept and Saxon. Some of them, I feel like statistically I’ve listened to a lot but mentally feel like I haven’t heard a lot like Anvil and Motorhead. Some of them, like Savatage and even-more-so Merciful Fate I don’t even think are all that great, or at least I didn’t until today. I’ve really, really re-valuated my opinion of those two records, I thought Savatage’s Power Of The Night was decent but a bit lame, but now its charming and satisfying…. Merciful Fates’s Don’t Break The Oath is an album I’ve more or less ignored apart from monthly attempts at one track or so, which I can never enjoy due to the ludicrous vocals and vocal production and how high the vocals are in the mix. Today, I somehow got my brain to tilt, and see it from a different perspective, and enjoyed it as the very ambitious and accomplished record that it is. Sure, King’s vocals are too loud, too echoey and too cartoony, but the music is bad ass. Its got a lot of bold scope and is surprisingly advanced. Even more progressive in song structure than Diamond Head and more modern and Thrash-informing than Angel Witch. Oh yeah, and it has one of the coolest album covers ever, but then I always thought that anyway.

I was going to do a section on what I’m tempted to buy, as is the usual situation in these articles…but I think that at the moment that is pretty much every album in the book that I don’t own yet (eg. Tyger’s Of Pan Tang’s Spellbound, Motley Crue’s Girls Girls Girls, Aerosmith’s Toys In The Attic, anything by Celtic Frost or Candlemass etc.). Also a proper Anvil studio album so I can get a better feel for them.

I don’t actually feel like buying them though, because I know that I have all this new Manowar and Helloween and Sick Of It All to digest…and I haven’t even opened the new Down EP yet!

Well; that seems like a decent length of article for the time being, seeing as I’ve got other things brewing at the same time [I’ve been listening to live albums in boxsets by MSG and Dokken recently, and discovering the same thing I did when I found that live album by Saxon last year (you may remember this). So I feel I have an article to write about Live Albums. I’ll have to crack open my Foghat Live, Mountain Twin Peaks, Deep Purple Made In Japan, Motorhead No Sleep Til Hammersmith, Faith No More Live At Brixton Academy, Maiden Live After Death etc. and give them all a re-listen, re-evaluation and write a paragraph or two about ‘em.] I’ll just leave you with a quick series of Tops 5s of Traditional Heavy Metal:

Iron Maiden :
1. Passchendaele
2. Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner
3. Where Eagles Dare
4. Hallowed Be Thy Name
5. Fates Warning

Judas Priest :
1. Burnin’ Up
2. Electric Eye
3. Beyond The Realms Of Death
4. Killing Machine
5. Eat Me Alive

Saxon :
1. Denim And Leather
2. To Hell And Back Again
3. Princess Of The Night
4. Heavy Metal Thunder
5. Machine Gun

Motorhead :
1. (We Are) The Roadcrew
2. All The Aces
3. (Don’t Let ‘Em) Grind Ya Down
4. No Class
5. Rock It

Ozzy Osbourne :
1. You Looking At Me Looking At You
2. S.I.N
3. Demon Alchohol
4. Over The Mountain
5. Rock N Roll Rebel

Dio :
1. Caught In The Middle
2. King Of Rock And Roll
3. Overlove
4. I Speed At Night
5. Stand Up And Shout

[Side note: Also, why isn’t there a definitive Van Halen live album in the spirit of Live At Leeds or Made In Japan?].

[Side note 2: What do you lovely people think of King Diamond’s vocals and Merciful Fate in general?]

[Side note 3: Some of Popoff’s own sentences are complete gibberish. I don’t mean to be critical of any writer considering how my own writing is often gibberish, but boy-o-boy, some of the sentences in this book are mad as a bag of weasels]

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

 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?