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.

Manowar – Kings Of Metal Review

Manowar - Kings Of Metal

Manowar – Kings Of Metal

Kings Of Metal was the self-produced classic sixth full-length album by the legendary US Heavy Metal veterans Manowar, released on Atlantic in late 1988. It is one of the fan favourite Manowar albums that contains some of their most beloved and best known tracks that still endure in the setlist to this day.

If you aren’t familiar with Manowar, this album would make a fine first step on the journey towards fandom. It is a powerful, grand and impressive sounding ‘80s Heavy Metal album that contains elements of Thrash and Power Metal at different times, but more or less serves as the distillation and perfection of the original Heavy Metal ideals.

Its got a mix of fun and serious lyrics. Sometimes boastful and silly, sometimes story-telling and evocative. Its got a mixture of all sorts of speeds. Its got aggression and restraint. Its also got a fair deal of variety on here, its not just the same type of thing over and over again.

“Sting Of The Bumblebee” is on there for example; which as you’ve probably heard is Joey DiMaio’s frantic bass solo/instrumental track (even though its essentially a bass solo there are drums in there too at times) based on the famous Classical Music piece “Flight Of The Bumblebee” by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.

There are also three different ballads/slow tracks/orchestral tracks in the form of “The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings),” “Heart Of Steel” and “Kingdom Come.” They are all very different versions of the whole Metal band being quiet theme. Normally three such tracks on one album would be overkill, but somehow the variety and difference in style between them lets it work.

Then there’s also “The Warrior’s Prayer,” which is essentially a four-minute intro. It’s a spoken word story, with some sound effects. No music. Overlong in my personal opinion, but I can’t knock them for variety.

“Pleasure Slave” is a slower number. Heavy, but slow. Kind of Sabbathy. The lyrics are beyond ridiculous to the point, I assume, of parody. Still, it’s a strong track that’s got a nice doomy mood going on. Just not one to listen to with any feminists in the room.

All of these of course augment the faster, livelier, more bombastic tracks on the album: “Wheels Of Fire,” “Kings Of Metal,” “Hail And Kill,” “Blood Of The Kings.” These are some of the finest tracks on the album, the band’s career, or the genre overall. These are catchy, enjoyable, impressive tracks that are really impactful. The sort of stand-up-and-take-notice “did you hear how awesome that was?” Heavy Metal that you’ve been longing for since you first got into this sort of music. You want to know if you should listen to Manowar? Give one of those a listen!

If like me, you weren’t recommended Manowar straight away, or stayed away from the band out of fear that their internet-meme status was ill-deserved and their death-to-false-metal war cries would either ring hollow or obnoxious, then you should right that mistake as soon as possible and fill this clear and obvious gap in your collection. If not, you’d be missing out on some of the finest Metal music ever released.

Do you sometimes get an album and listen to it for a few weeks then sort of forget about it, and most of the time get an album and keep it in regular rotation for a few months then let it slip out slowly too? This is one of those ones that you can constantly hammer for half-a-year or more without getting even slightly bored with. This is the bee’s knees. Do yourself a favour and at least give it a try.