Manowar Albums Ranked

Hate list features? Feel free to skip this article and others in this series.

Here I’ll be ranking the albums by certain bands in order from Best (actually my subjective favourite) to worst/least good (subjectively, in my opinion). Number 1 is obviously the best. The lowest number is my least favourite.

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1. Kings Of Metal (1988) – Manowar are certainly not to everyone’s taste. This album is Manowar at their most Manowar. If that sounds unappealing, I don’t blame you. In fact, I put off trying it for years and then the first time I heard it, I didn’t really get it. (Even to this day I could deal without an entire four minute spoken word story track, and there’s another track with one of the most overtly misogynistic sets of lyrics ever made, to the point where if you didn’t realise it was parodying the worst traits of other ‘80s bands, you’d be outright ashamed to own it… and even when you do know that, its still pretty cringey).

Not everyone likes this style of hyper-energetic, unrestrained and arguably cliched Power Metal and not everyone likes the symphonic grandiose high-fantasy lighters in the air moments. Even if you do like it, if you were being hyper-critical, you could also argue that there are too many ballad / quiet moments which could affect the pacing / flow of the record. However, once you “get” what the band are going for here, and once you let the best tracks worm their way into your good books, this reveals itself to be a serious contender for one of the best Metal albums ever. The band weren’t exactly lacking for killer tunes before, by any means, but they really hit their stride here.

There’s just something about Kings Of Metal that shines. It just has that really “classic” vibe to it. A highlight not only for their discography, but the whole subgenre and the genre as a whole. If you are into this type of music, this is utterly essential stuff. If for some reason you have never heard it, you really ought to fix that. Even if you aren’t into this sort of music, I’d still recommend you giving it multiple listens – as it could convert you. I may be saying this a lot in this list, but it all comes down to the strength of the songs. I could make all sorts of comments on how the vocals are the perfect blend of Stanely/Simmons, or about how the lift in the chorus of “Wheels Of Fire” is as big as the biggest moments on Painkiller, or how the album provides a nice escapist counterpoint to the more serious music you may listen to… but in the end, those facts may be valid, but they’re not what makes the record so good… it’s the songs. Such killer songs!

Highlights include: “Kings Of Metal,” “Hail And Kill,” & “Blood Of The Kings.”  

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2. Triumph Of Steel (1992) – It can’t have been easy following up Kings Of Metal, a record that I would genuinely consider one of the finest records ever made in the whole subgenre, one which I keep a vinyl copy of on my wall as decoration, but the band came really close with their next record. It is bizarre to think this album came out when Grunge was dominating the media, because this album by contrast is one of the worst offenders of all the bloat and excess and fantasy and non-down-to-earthness of all the things people liked to call Grunge the antithesis of. Now, I really like a lot of Grunge so don’t think that is some kind of complaint about the Grunge movement, just an observation… its comical that when most ‘80s bands where changing their sound, getting less excessive, stripping down, trying to match Seattle’s credibility… Manowar doubled down hard on all of their silliest, most theatrical, most bombastic qualities and made this utterly absurd record. It opens with a twenty minute song with both a bass solo and a drum solo and absolutely no logical structure. There’s even a song that features the line “If you’re not into Metal, you are not my friend” for goodness sake… and I love it with all my heart.

Now, all that cheese, all that bombast and all that showmanship so large it would make Alice Cooper say “Geez… maybe dial it down a bit guys?” would just be a bit of empty throw-away dumb fun without the tunes. The reason this album is so high on my list isn’t actually all the stuff I’ve written so far… arguably in might even be in spite of that stuff. I am not into novelty bands or comedy music, and a lot of people are turned off by Manowar and don’t even try them because the sort of stuff I am mentioning above, which could make them seem like a novelty or comedy band to the untrained eye… no, the reason this album is so high on my list is because the material is so immensely, furiously, massively fun, memorable and enjoyable. Almost every song here makes me want to sing along to every vocal line, every guitar or bass line, every drum fill, every second. These are just some of the best Heavy Metal songs in the world, period. Like I said for the previous album… its all about the strength of the songs. It also doesn’t hurt that its one of their most filler-free records to date.  

Highlights include: “Metal Warriors,” “The Power Of Thy Sword,” & “Ride The Dragon.”  

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3. Louder Than Hell (1996) – If you really like the band’s first four albums, sometimes this album gets seen as something lesser in the band’s discography, sometimes it gets called the beginning of the end or some such insult. For me, personally, this is one of the best things the band ever made. In fact, if there is a red-y/orange cover art with an absurdly muscled dude on the front, it is typically a sign that it will contain some of the best songs I’ve ever heard. This album once again follows a similar formula to the last two and once again delivers absolutely brilliant songs in that style.

There is of course some variety here, from a weird proggy tune with David Gilmore-esque guitar parts, to piano intros, to ballads, but the core of this album / the main direction of this album is the thing I love most about Manowar… and not only is the album made up primarily of songs in that style, but they are supremely good songs in and of themselves. On later albums they would also have songs in this same direction, but not necessarily to the same supremely high standard.

If I was recommending this band to a newcomer, especially one who liked bands like Blind Guardian or Helloween or Gamma Ray, this would be one of the first albums I advised. I consider this album and the two that preceded it as the holy trinity high watermark of the band’s discography, and an inseparable threesome that are all essential and near as good as each-other. If you are going to get one, just do yourself a favour and get all three!

Highlights include: “The Power,” “King,” & “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.”  

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4. Fighting The World (1987) – This album is a transitional and unique moment in the band’s catalogue. It definitely doesn’t fit in with the first four albums, which feel like one era, and only about a third of it feels like it fits in with the next four albums which again feel like the next era of the band. This one is a bit of an island. With its Love Gun/Destroyer inspired artwork, ridiculous lyrics, bizarrely uneven tone (is it dark and serious and epic, or is it  barrel of laughs? – it can’t seem to decide… even more so than on previous records), you could be forgiven for thinking that Manowar jumped the shark here if you had been following the band since the start (and I’m sure many people did feel that way at the time). “Blow Your Speakers” in particular feels almost like a commercial sell out move, although with its lyrics decrying such bands as would do that, it kind of escapes that accusation. I think when you realise what big Kiss fans the band are and always have been, this album makes a lot more sense. They’re not cashing in on the Glam trends of the day, they’re just making their own versions of “I Love It Loud” et al.

What really makes this album shine for me though, are the tracks that really set up what I consider to be the archetypal and classic Manowar format, which are the three songs mentioned below. With these three songs, they elevate this album a good four or five places higher up the list than it might otherwise be when listening to the title track or the semi-ballad-come-power-pop-bopper “Carry On.” That’s not to say the rest of the album isn’t “good,” but those three elevate it from good to “great.”

Highlights include: “Violence And Bloodshed,” “Black Wind, Fire & Steel,” & “Holy War.”  

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5. Hail To England (1984) – I remember an old Metal Hammer article where Angela Gossow from Arch Enemy said it was the best Manowar album. Of the early-day albums, this one is the most consistent, even, reliable and solid. “Bridge Of Death” in one single song does everything the previous album was trying to do, but miles and miles better. The faster more aggressive tunes here are some of the best ones of the early days, the production is a bit better than the last two, and there seems to have been a big step up in musicianship. Its everything the previous two albums were trying, perfected.

Whilst I can’t honestly say its not silly at all, it certainly strikes a much better balance between serious and silly than some of their records do, and is almost tasteful in places, (without being po-faced and boring like they sometimes can be at their most indulgent).

A lot of people might have this as their favourite album, and I can see why. For me and my tastes, I just personally prefer the type of stuff they would go on to do later, but for this type of material and this direction, this is arguably the band at the peak of that style. If you like the early sound more than the later sound, then knock this one straight to number one on your priorities list.

Highlights include: “Kill With Power,” “Blood Of My Enemies,” & “Bridge Of Death.”  

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6. Sign Of The Hammer (1984) – Some people complain about this one, saying parts of it are out of time and out of tune, but as someone who loves Motorhead I don’t really see that as a deal-breaker. This album is a more ambitious and fleshed out realisation of what the band had been attempting with their debut, with some songs that showcase the direction they would start leaning more into on future releases. I feel like the vocals here are much better than the previous three records and the simple and tasteful artwork is a big improvement over the previous records as well.

Apart from the band-title track on the debut record, I feel like this album is also the start of when the band really developed their signature self-referential character, and this feels like a transitional moment between slightly OTT but still normal band, and completely ludicrous as would start on the subsequent album. “All Men Play On Ten” in particular seems to be one of the moments when the band really found themselves.

Highlights include: “All Men Play On Ten,” “Thor (The Powerhead),” & “Guyana (Cult Of The Damned).”  

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7. Battle Hymns (1982) – The band’s debut sounds a little bit different to what the band would eventually become. This record is a real treat for fans of classic heavy metal, ala Breaker-era Accept, ‘70s Priest or early Riot. Before they really leaned hard into the Power side of Power Metal, this is just pure hard rocking early Metal. The production still has one foot in the ’70s even though it was 1982.  

In part, the lyrics are quite different in places to what the band would become. I mean, if most of the general music buying public thinks of Manowar, they think of oily musclebound dudes in loin cloths singing about Conan The Barbarian and such, not tracks about PTSD amongst Vietnam veterans. The song-writing here is relatively strong (much better than their sophomore album) and there are numerous catchy and memorable tunes here that remain concert favourites to this day.

You almost can’t pick up any Manowar live album or best of without hearing something from this record, and that’s a good thing in m opinion. Just watch out for the dodgy late-career re-recording of this. Re-recordings as a rule are basically always worse than the original. Don’t even get tempted, head straight for the charming debut and skip the clinical and sterile re-creation entirely!  

Highlights include: “Manowar,” “Shell Shock,” & “Fast Taker.”  

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8. The Lord Of Steel (2012) – To date, the band’s final album (although there have been some later EPs) and not necessarily an absolutely amazing career-defining comeback album ala Formation Of Damnation or anything, but still a very strong and solid effort and a big, biiiiiig step-up from the album that preceded it. The production / performance lacks a bit of fire and edge, (its not exactly their most vicious album ever), but the songs are by and large very memorable, very catchy, very enjoyable and the best thing of all… the album is relatively consistent and solid the whole way through, very little messing about, very little that is skippable, very little to make you roll your eyes. Pretty much no filler, which is rare on a Manowar album, and no silly intros or indulgent bass solo.

It does lack the real star power of some of the best Manowar albums, and I doubt it would ever make any Manowar Albums Ranked’s number one spot, but I couldn’t ever see it placing last either. Not one for the casual fans neccesarily, but not a “super-fans and collectors only” affair either. If you’re happy with the post-’87 Manowar sound and just want some more of it, pick this one up once you’ve exhausted the real heavy hitters first.  

Highlights include: “Born In A Grave,” “Hail, Kill And Die,” & “Touch The Sky.”  

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9. Warriors Of The World (2002) – Over half of this album is pure gold, and good enough for me to want to count it as part of a “golden era” with the previous albums, but there is a bit (lot?) of filler, a few questionable decisions and a little bit of absolute guff that sort of dilutes the overall impact of the record. The highlights are very high, but the low-points definitely weaken the impression of the record and relegate it to “lesser” status in the discography for me.

If someone was to say “I only want to get the best records, where is the cut off point?” I think I would say this is the first one that is skippable. That being said, if you chopped off all the weaker moments from this one, and it was just a super tight and concise Reign In Blood-length rager of just the best of this…. I think it could be a full three or even four places higher up this list. To skip this album would be to skip a lot of absolutely stellar material. Quite a shame really, a lot of people will never get to hear the best moments it has to offer, but then again, they’re lucky they don’t hear the dross. Such an album of contrasts!  

Highlights include: “Hand Of Doom,” “House Of Death,” & “Warriors Of The World United.”  

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10. Gods Of War (2007) – Too many intros, too much narration, too many slow bits, too self-serious and worst of all… the songs just aren’t that good, even the ones that sound like my favourite type of Manowar song are just lesser versions of that. Props to the band for trying to make a concept album, a Norse mythology story always appeals to me (Amon Amarth do it really well and many other bands have had a great song here and there) so its just a shame that for the most part, its one of the least exciting set of songs the band has ever put out.

It also doesn’t help that it doesn’t flow very well, and a lot of the things that could have made this a strong rock opera are a bit overdone and mishandled, so it just ends up being a bit too camp and embarrassing, even by Manowar standards. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t worthless, but its definitely for serious fans only, and only after you’ve collected basically everything else. If this was the first Manowar album you ever bought, you probably wouldn’t buy any more, which would be a crying shame considering how good the band usually are.

Highlights include: “Die For Metal,” “Sons Of Odin,” & “King Of Kings.”  

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11. Into Glory Ride (1983) – I know there will be some fans who say this is blasphemy, but for my own personal tastes, this is the worst Manowar album. It is mostly slow, a bit samey, lacks a certain energy and is just a little bit boring overall. If I listen to a Manowar album from start to finish, I usually have fun, but with this one I only have fun on “The Warlord” and then settle down and then eventually just loose interest, the rest of the record is just tedious, or at least it is when its all in a row. It doesn’t help that the production is a bit thin and the hi-hats sound weird (although that doesn’t hurt Hotter Than Hell by Kiss when the songs are much better than these, so we can’t entirely blame the production here).

I’ve seen some people call this progressive, and I can pick up a slight hint of Audio Visions era Kansas in a few sparing moments, but it doesn’t feel progressive to me. It just has slightly too-long, dull songs that don’t particularly create anything new, and which fail to excite. That’s not progressive, its just bad self-editing.

I don’t want to make it seem like I just like fast songs, don’t mistake me. The band had touched on slower, more serious and moody material on the previous album with “Dark Avenger” and had perfected on the next album with “Bridge Of Death” but this is just that same type of thing but not executed anywhere near as well… then repeated over and over again, without enough life, energy or vitality to really peak my interest.

Now, I don’t utterly hate it, there are some good moments, particular guitar solos etc. There are also some good ideas at times. But remember what I said before about other albums being at the top of the list due to the strength of the songs? Well, this is just the weakest set of songs Manowar have ever written. Even when songs from this turn up on live albums/DVDs its usually a skip-button magnet for me. Sure there might be a moment here and there that is good, but they’ve done so much better elsewhere. I know some other people really like this one, but its not for me.

Highlights include: “Warlord,” & “March For Revenge.”  

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Manowar – Gods Of War Review

Manowar have really become one of my favourite band’s over the past 6 years. I may have been a bit sceptical when I first heard them, but they have grown and grown in my estimation over the years. I keep a vinyl copy of Kings Of Metal framed on my wall, they’re my 8th most-listened to band of the past 12 years according to LastFM, and I’ll defend them to the death whenever anyone makes fun of them or calls them silly.

Some fans say they haven’t made any good albums since the 80s and I’ll disagree with that all day long. That being said, there is one album I don’t really like – their tenth studio album, 2007’s Gods Of War.

My favourite things about Manowar are usually the fast and hard double-kick filled metal songs or stompy mid-paced grooving songs, and my least favourite bits are the intros/outros, spoken word narrations and indulgent solos. I can also be fifty-fifty on the ballads. I guess it stands to reasons that Gods Of War is my least favourite album, as it is a narration filled concept album that has a lot of intros. Its 16 tracks long, and I would classify a full 6 of those as skippable intros. Even tracks which aren’t intros have partial intros or outros. I mean, strangest of all, the first two tracks are in effect intros. Two in a row, before the album really kicks off. There’s also quite a high ratio of ballads to fast tracks. I have Mars Volta albums that get to the point faster than this!

Its all personal preference of course, but this is definitely my least favourite Manowar record stylistically. Of course, that’s not to say it is devoid of quality. ‘King Of Kings,’ ‘Sleipnir,’ ‘Sons Of Odin’ and ‘Loki God Of Fire’ are all exactly the style of Manowar I love the best, and some of the material outside that style, such as choral sounding ‘Army Of The Dead, Part II’ is quite entertaining. Even then however, I feel they did better versions of this type of material on the albums directly before and after this one.

Tellingly; the song I like the most, ‘Die For Metal’ is a semi-bonus track that sits outside the concept. Musically, it’s a stompy mid-tempo track. Lyrically; Its just typical Manowar fun (‘’From a hall I heard thunder and screams/I walked inside so I could hear/And the guy beside me gave me a beer’’). It doesn’t really fit on the album at all, lyrically, or musically, but it makes it into any Manowar playlist I make.

I would caution against anyone who tells you not to try their post ‘80s output, but maybe don’t make this particular outing your first.

Manowar – The Final Battle I EP Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manowar – The Lord Of Steel Review

Manowar - The Lord Of Steel2012’s The Lord Of Steel was the American Heavy Metal band Manowar’s 11th full-length original studio album proper. It doesn’t experiment too much with the formula, it is the sort of default Manowar sound for anything since Kings Of Metal, but with less orchestration and fewer ballads than a lot of Manowar records. Perhaps it was a reaction against the direction of 2007’s Gods Of War album or something, but the majority of this album is just meaty, substantial, catchy Heavy Metal songs, in a mixture of tempos and even things which start off threatening to be ballads have big distorted riffs and doomy hanging chords by the end. It revels in the meat-and-potatoes stuff. And it does it well.

Now, I know that Manowar might be a joke to some in the music community because of the sweaty loin cloth imagery and death-to-false-metal warcries associated with the band… but musically, if you like bands like Judas Priest, Saxon or Iron Maiden at all, it is worth giving them a try. It doesn’t ever really matter about anything non-musical as much as the music itself and this band knows how to make Heavy Metal sound good – plain and simple. If you like steady, pounding drums with double-kicks, melodic guitar solos, vocals with charm and character, fantasy lyrics and NWOBHM meets Power Metal flavoured riffing, then this is an album that will suit you. Opener and title track ‘The Lord Of Steel’ pretty much sums it all up, if you wonder whether the record is for you, give that a quick listen first and it will tell you everything you need to know.

Where does this fit in with the rest of their catalogue? Well, I wouldn’t argue that it is the single greatest effort in their entire career. It is unarguably in the top 50% of their discography though. I can think of other records I like better, but I wouldn’t write this one off as a forgotten late career release “for-diehards-only” until you’ve listened to great songs like ‘Born In A Grave,’ ‘Expendable’ and ‘Hail Kill And Die’ first! …If you want to get yourself in a good mood, stick on ‘Touch The Sky’ let go on inhibitions, and just give in to it. You’ll feel like a glorious hero for a brief moment when that absolutely delicious guitar solo kicks in.

Overall; DiMaio, Adams, Logan and the now-returned early drummer Donnie Hamzik have released a steady, solid, smooth and almost-perfect gem. If there could be any criticism made, it might be that it is so slick that the performance perhaps lacks a bit of urgency or fire, but otherwise, this is such a finely crafted and easily enjoyable album. If you like the band, don’t miss out on it!

Manowar – Into Glory Ride Review

Manowar – Into Glory Ride

A lot of people like to make fun of the legendary American Heavy Metal band Manowar, and the cover-art and lyrics to their sophomore album Into Glory Ride often come into the firing line. I don’t like to criticize music too much on these sorts of aspects (I’m an avowed Nu Metal apologist, so I’m not going to start being hypocritical and judge Manowar on non-musical terms either), but I will say one thing, no matter how much I enjoy the band this is by far and away my least favourite record they’ve released to date.

I know it might be blasphemy to some, as many people consider this 1983 record to be an absolute classic, but this really isn’t what I’m looking for in a Manowar record, personally. I like my Manowar fun. I like my Manowar beefy. I most of all like my Manowar fast. Where Into Glory Ride falls down for me is that it is mostly doomy, slow, and ponderous. Its not just a speed thing though, there’s also the energy, the ‘umph’ …a lot of these songs just sound a bit tame, they don’t rip. They’re not exactly samey per sae but there’s a certain lack of something special with the tracks that makes them feel sort of forgettable to me. After the opener ‘Warlord’ which is like an OK version of what the band were doing on their debut, and ‘Revelation (Death’s Angel)’ which is a decent tune, there’s really nothing that interests me, nothing I look forward to seeing in concert, and nothing I’d want on a compilation or playlist.

This is just personal preference, but I’d rather have one hundred bangers like ‘Wheels Of Fire’ ‘Ride The Dragon’ ‘Outlaw’ or ‘House Of Death’ than something as hard work as ‘Hatred.’ I might go on say that the production isn’t that great, but in fairness neither is the production on the albums preceding and following it and it doesn’t stop me enjoying them too much. There’s no denying the talent that the band display, the classic status of the record, and the importance of it to the band’s career, but I just don’t particularly care that much for this set of songs.

I feel almost obliged to say something more positive about it because I know some people hold this in huge esteem. I’ll give it this, at least its original… there’s no other Manowar album like it. I like hearing the band with youthful energy, I like hearing Scott Colombus’ interesting wallopy drums. I love Eric’s powerful vocals. This album, simply not for me though.

Manowar – Hail To England Review

Manowar - Hail To England

Manowar – Hail To England

In 1984, two years after their debut album Battle Hymns was released, and in the same year as their fourth full-length Sign Of The Hammer, the legendary American Heavy Metal band Manowar released their third studio album Hail To England… a record that pays tribute to the country in which they formed the band and found an early fanbase, as well as introduced to the public the affectionate nickname for their fans “The Immortals.”

Manowar’s debut had a bit of a ‘70s Hard Rock flavour to it in places, and their sophomore record Into Glory Ride was mostly a bit slower, doomier and more progressively inclined. By the time of Hail To England, Manowar had decided how to balance all of their various influences into one cohesive and uniquely Manowar whole. It contains all the sword and sorcery imagery, self-referentialism, vocal virtuosity, loud bass and OTT extravagance that make the band who they are. Just like all the early Manowar records it has complex awkward drum patterns and a unique sense of rhythm that makes for really interesting listening.

Opening with the now-classic ‘Blood Of My Enemies,’ ‘Each Dawn I Die’ and ‘Kill With Power’ (as covered-by Arch Enemy), the band make a really solid Side-A with no weak links, any song from which could fit well in a concert or hits collection. Try any of these tracks if you wonder if the album (or indeed the band) is right for you.

The three-minute bass solo “Black Arrows” sets the trend for future Manowar releases with their multiple solos (be it bass, guitar or drum solos). It also ends with the lengthier, slower, more progressively inclined ‘Bridge Of Death’ which is ambitious, bombastic and reminiscent of their direction on their previous record.

Overall; Hail To England is a strong record by the band, and contains some of their best material from the early days. This is quite a popular album for the fanbase. (Personally; I enjoy it a lot, although I feel the best was still to come from the band and enjoy the band’s later efforts like Kings Of Metal, Triumph Of Steel and Louder Than Hell even more. This for me is the band finding themselves, and those are the band perfecting it.) If you take it too seriously or use the word ‘cheesy’ a lot when describing music you dislike then maybe avoid, but if you’re in the mood for fun sweaty macho ’80s Heavy Metal then jump in with both feet.

Manowar – Magic Circle Festival Volume II DVD Review

Magic Circle Festival Volume II is a concert DVD by the legendary Heavy Metal band Manowar. This set was to record the impressive endeavour Manowar had of performing their entire first six studio albums in full, during the 20th Anniversary for their seminal Kings Of Metal album in the summer of 2008 at the band’s own Magic Circle Festival. It was produced by the band’s own Joey DiMaio and released on Universal.

The setlist is comprised of highlights from this undertaking, from different venues in different countries such as Germany and Bulgaria. Interspersed between the live songs is documentary snippets firstly about the Magic Circle Festival and then about the making of those first six albums full of archive footage such as photos in the recording studio, handheld camera footage from early concerts and old music videos. Together it works really well (although my personal preference would’ve been to have a full documentary and a full concert but that’s just personal taste) and provides a lot for any fan to find entertaining. In addition, there’s also a second disc with music from the other bands at the festival (Cassock, Sixth Sense, Kobus, Titanium Black, Jack Starr’s Burning Starr, Metalforce and Holyhell) and bonus features.

The Manowar setlist is as follows:

Manowar, Fast Taker, Shell Shock, Death Tone, Hatred, Revelation (Death’s Angel), Black Arrows Of Doom (Bass Solo), Hail To England, Die With Honor, Warriors Of The World United, All Men Play On Ten, God Of Thunderpick (Solo), Animals, Blow Your Speakers, Violence And Bloodshed, Defender, Drums Of Doom And Destruction (Drum Solo), Blood Of The Kings, Pleasure Slave, Kingdom Come, The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of Kings), Bridge Of Death.
There’s also a bonus section of Mila Rodino and The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of Kings) on top of that. Sound is available in stereo and 5.1, picture is 16:9 anamorph, and region code is “All Regions.” It comes with a booklet with lots of photographs, tour information and liner notes.

Some of the tracks work really well in a live environment, whipping the crowd up and some may pull the pace back a little but overall the setlist is fairly strong. Eric Adams is a great performer and doesn’t perfectly emulate note for note the oldest material but gives it enough umph to compensate. The rest of the band are all generally enthusiastic, powerful and giving it their all – guitar leads smoke, drum fills are weighty and satisfying and Joey DiMaio lives up to the hype. The production values differ between the German and Bulgarian shows, with the German looking, sounding and being edited to a higher standard, but not enough for you to want to skip anything. The large international audience (filled with more flags than the Warriors Of The World album cover!) eat it all up and it all has that good live energy rather than feeling overdubbed and sterile.

For a band who pride themselves on their ludicrous over-the-top Metalness, they are very tasteful with the stage set, pyro and lighting. The only cringey bit (or awesome bit if you buy into the Manowar Hail True Metal way of thinking) is in the opening documentary bit, when there’s a big speech about Metalness (before the music has actually started). So if you want a Manowar DVD because you like Manowar’s awesome music rather than because you think they’re funny, then this is a very good option. With a huge setlist, a ton of bonus features and all that documentary footage and considering the visual, sound and audio quality of the German concert which makes up the majority of the main feature this DVD is really good value for money, and I’d really recommend it to those interested in the band. Even if you own Volume 1 already, the setlist is so different its totally worth picking up this too.

Manowar – Warriors Of The World Review

Manowar – Warriors Of The World

Warriors Of The World, the American Metal band Manowar’s ninth full-length studio album, is something of a strange record. Its fair to say that it isn’t exactly the fan’s favourite album, and in my own opinion, it is easy to see why.

This is a bit of a bizarre album; the structure feels unbalanced and unnatural. Its more or less half Heavy Hard Metal songs, and half ballads and slow tracks. That’s not so terrible in and of itself, some of the band’s most popular albums like Kings Of Metal are full of ballads and slow songs. However, on this record they’re all bunched up together near the start of the record. Not even in a gradual rise from slowest to fastest and quietest to heaviest. It just feels like a very unnatural hodgepodge. Its almost as if no one put any thought into the order at all and it just flows weirdly. Of those aforementioned quiet songs, three are tributes: to Wagner, Pavarotti and Elvis. The album feels sort of overlong, and three tracks aren’t even Manowar originals. It might have served the album better if they had been bonus tracks, as regardless of how good they are, it is just too long and having three slow non-originals is a bit of a momentum killer.

Of the Hard, Heavy Metal songs on the record, some are mid-paced and some are blisteringly fast. On an intellectual level it is kind of feels annoying that the songs are repetition of previous Manowar tracks, there’s a sense of Deja Vue for sure.

On top of that, the lyrics feel like a repetition of previous stuff, taken almost up to a parody level. In fairness though, that’s been going on for years now and it didn’t spoil previous albums. I don’t listen to Manowar for thought provoking, soul searching lyrics anyway, I listen to them because they make good music and sometimes it’s a lot of fun.

So there we go; cheesy lyrics, repeating old glories, too many tracks, too many quiet tracks, weird track ordering. Sounds like a bit of a stinker, right? Well see, here’s the thing… I really like it. I have to say, I’ve personalized the running order in iTunes so it feels more balanced, and it is overlong but then again that’s extra value, if they’d been called bonus tracks people would accept it more easily. The songs are similar to old songs but hey, I loved those old songs and I’m glad to hear more.

Is this the best Manowar album? No. Should a newcomer get it as a first album? No. Its very much something I would recommend to fanatics and collectors only. It’s the kind of thing you’ll probably only listen to when you’re in the mood or only listen to highlights from. Can I call it a bad album though? Well, I can’t really bring myself to. ‘House Of Death,’ ‘Hand Of Doom,’ ‘Warriors Of The World Unite’ and even the ballad ‘Swords Of The Wind’ are all just too good to allow me to say that.

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer Review

Manowar - Sign Of The Hammer

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer

In 1984, just two years after their debut, the legendary US Heavy Metal band Manowar released their fourth full-length studio album, Sign Of The Hammer. This was no rushed affair, just the shining output of a prolific and incendiary band hungry for success.

The album opens with the absolutely brilliant “All Men Play On Ten” which is like some kind of Heavy Metal mixture between Kiss’ “I Love It Loud” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Working For MCA” with its storytelling approach and behind-the-scenes setting, coupled with the love of high amplifier volumes. Musically, a bit of a slow groover, with lots of neat guitar work and a chorus designed for singing along to.

The rest of the album, with the exception of the brief guitar solo “Thunderpick,” is all pounding, exciting, varied and interestingly structured classic Heavy Metal.

Tracks like the catchy “Animals” and the thunderous Title Track, alongside the Speed Metal of “The Oath” and the absolutely superb album-highlight “Thor (The Powerhead)” are some of the most consistent and enjoyable tracks you could hope for. The band sound so right, but so unique. There’s no messing about, no filler, not even any ballads this time either. Instead the diversity comes from within the tracks themselves, with tunes like “Mountains” containing enough exploration and deviation from the norm to stop it all feeling samey.

If you look at the back of the record and see the title “Guyana – Cult Of The Damned” you’d be forgiven for thinking this was also a track about Greek Mythology… “Who is Guyana? She must be the goddess of cults or something” but it turns out that the track is about the Jonestown mass suicide where over 900 people died – “Thanks for the Cool Aid, Reverend Jim” – and then you remember where Guyana is. The track itself is an interesting, theatrical, seven-minute mini-epic that tastefully explores a lot of ground and is a fitting closer to the well-crafted album. All the choral sounding backing vocals and the “grand” sound of the production really makes it feel like something important.

Overall, Sign Of The Hammer is a concise, interesting and entertaining album from Manowar that is both surprisingly tasteful and still good honest fun. It may not feature any half-naked barbarians on the cover but it should be in every Manowar fan’s collection without exception.

Manowar – Fighting The World Review

Manowar – Fighting The World

Manowar released their fifth full-length studio album, Fighting The World, in 1987 on Attco records. It was the first album of theirs to be self-produced by the band. It can definitely be seen as something as a transitional or experimental record, sitting interestingly between the excellent albums which would follow it and the classic run of the rawer first four albums.

In many ways, not least the artwork, the album feels a bit like Kiss’ Destroyer. After the rawer early stuff, the band start throwing in samples of speeding cars, adding lighter sing-along anthems and in many ways taking a bigger, more commercial sound designed to elevate them to new heights.

At least, that’s how it initially feels. The title-track feels like Manowar only watered down a tiny bit…. “Blow Your Speakers” feels like Manowar lyrically but the sound sounds a bit, dare I say, almost glam? …then “Cary On” seems like an even bigger step too far. Was this the same band who wrote “All Men Play On Ten” and sang about priding themselves on never selling out or having a thin sound? – In reality its just an anthem in the Judas Priest sense, ala “Defenders Of The Faith,” “United” or “Take On The World” but on first impressions it might throw people for a loop.

Even though this first half feels like the mighty Manowar might’ve been considering selling out (and luckily history tells us this didn’t happen, judging by the excellent albums that followed) the second half of the record puts to rest such notions. There’s the epic, grandiose “Defender” and the speedy crushing “Violence & Blood Shed” “Holy War” and especially “Black Wind, Fire And Steel.” These exciting, vital sounding, furiously catchy Heavy Metal tunes are everything that’s great about Manowar… the guitar solos, the double kicks and unusual drum fills, the varied and impressive vocals… the sheer triumphant attitude and entertaining energy. Yes… this is top quality stuff indeed.

The other two tracks are essentially just the slow moody intros to the aforementioned “Holy War” and “Black Wind, Fire And Steel” and to be honest you could easily consider them to be part of those songs if they weren’t written down separately. They provide a little bit of variety and are entertaining, and certainly they augment the tracks which they seem paired with, but don’t feel overly worth writing home about in and of themselves.

When you think of the half-hour album in terms of containing three fantastic, powerful and varied classic Heavy Metal tracks, alongside one vastly entertaining epic, then the fact that the first three songs are of an unexpected musical direction isn’t really too much of a problem. That and well, even if they are stylistically not what you’d go and ask for, they are actually pretty damn catchy and enjoyable once you give them a few listens. Eric Adams goes a bit more Paul Stanley than Rob Halford here, but hey… at least the band isn’t just putting the same record out again and again.

Overall; a lot of people are a bit suspicious and put-off by this album. Despite this if you are into Manowar you should still absolutely give it a chance. If not you’d be missing out on some blindingly good Heavy Metal tunes like “Violence & Bloodshed” & “Black Wind, Fire And Steel” and a bit of diversity.