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Manowar's debut album, entitled Battle Hymns was first released in 1982, and is easily my favourite Manowar album. It's simple, everything on it works, and it's fucking good fun. Manowar's songwriting is questionable at times but on this album the lyrics work just fine, with tolerable levels of cheesiness.
Death Tone - The first song on the album, after some rather funky motorbike sound effects the guitars kick in, and we are introduced to Manowar. This song is fun, lighthearted and almost tongue in cheek. The lyrics are typical ass-kicking Manowar fare "I give some square the finger, now he won't look again". It is interesting to see the reference to the vietnam war, and the message of the song basically is, while all the pussies stayed at home, Manowar went to fight. Also, the solo on this song really fits with the atmosphere, unlike some Manowar songs where I get the impression the solo has just been taped on for the sake of it.
Metal Daze - This song IMO is pure pop, there is nothing about this song that would stop it being a major mainstream success. The lyrical content here is more consistent with later Manowar songs; Heavy metal, loud as it can be. It has to be said, as I listen to this song, it has a truly great concert which instantly screams "audience participation", and after watching Manowar's performance of the song at Blood in Brazil, it becomes obvious this is the songs strength; 30,000 metalheads screaming "Heavy metal" is something that really has to be heard.
Fast Taker - After the mid tempo of the first two songs, Fast Taker comes as a welcome fast number. It is not as memorable perhaps as the first two, but still features some great riffage and basswork. Lyrical content is similar to Death Tone, the basic message is, Manowar do what they want.
Shell Shock - Again, a song about the Vietnam war. After Fast Taker sped things up, Shell Shock slows them down again. This is perhaps the weakest song on the album (Not counting William's Tale) but still good fun and much better to some of the songs on Manowar's other albums.
Manowar - Ah, this is more like it. As a song named after the band, it does exactly what you would expect it to do - tell the listener a bit about the band, and it does just this. The verses talk about how the band met, and how they decided they were going to play, and the chorus "Manowar, born to live forever" is basically a message to all that Manowar has arrived on the scene and are here to stay, an accurate prediction, cos they're making another album right now. Another of my favourite parts of this song is the ending. Long and self-indulgent. Heavy fucking metal.
Dark Avenger - The album is definitely picking up here, with this doomy gloomy epic, hinting perhaps at the direction the band were going to take on widely acclaimed follow up Into Glory Ride. The first section tells the story of a man committing some sort of crime against his leaders, and being left to die. At about 2:36 the song changes completely, and the narration of legendary actor Orson Welles kicks in. Listeners at this point may well be wondering, "What the fuck is Orson Welles doing on a Manowar album???" well to answer the question, in Manowar's early days, they were admired by Orson, as their struggle to find fame apparently mirrorred his own and he identified with them because of this. Anyway, after a grim minute of narration, the typical cheesiness given an uncharacteristic gravity thanks to Welles, the song truly kicks in. After the line "The pounding of his hooves, did clap, like thunder" Eric Adams launches into the best scream he has ever done in his career. The last, fast section of the song describes the Dark Avenger himself taking revenge upon the society which cast him out. And as many others will tell you, it fucking owns. "In blood I take my payment, in full, with their lives" oh fucking yes. I love the momentum on this song, despite being an epic, it never drags for a second and I love the way the slow first section acts as a counterpoint to the kickass riffage of the last. A true Manowar classic...
William's Tale - ...and then they go and ruin their momentum with this 1:54 wankfest. I'm told it's some sort of classical piece played on a bass, however there is nothing about this that does not cry out "Skip button". I have never understood why Manowar do this on almost every album, but ah well, I suppose you've gotta take the rough with the smooth. Warlord should be here instead of this, it didn't fit on IGR and William's Tale is just pointless. Thankfully...
Battle Hymn - The greatest Manowar song of all time is next. Battle Hymn is Manowar's most powerful, most epic, and most inspiring masterpiece to date. After an introduction which sends shivers down my spine, Donny Hamzik's drum fill leads into a glorious slow galloping riff. The lyrics are Manowar. That's the only way to describe them. Eric Adams gives a sublime vocal performance on this song, for instance I love the way he sticks to the music in the first verse, and in the second verse bends his notes and throws his voice around more; the song seems to gain more momentum every second. This peaks with the second chorus "Victory! Victory!" after which we see the first in a very, very long history of Manowar habits - the cheesy interlude. However, I must admit I actually quite enjoy this one. Given the light hearted nature of most of the previous songs this particular interlude just makes me laugh. The lyrics are silly, very silly, but it never drags. After another drum fill from Hamzik, the song kicks off again with another scream from Adams, then it's back to "Kill! Kill!" before the final verse is sung a full octave higher by Adams. His voice here is fucking amazing, unlike power metal singers with clean eunuch screams he howls with attitude and just fucking owns almost every other singer out there. The song, and subsequently the album, ends with a trademark massive ending, which just fits perfectly.
In conclusion - Manowar's best album. IGR might be more epic, Hail to england might be heavier, but everything on this album is true fucking quality. The songwriting is never forced or too cheesy, the songs themselves are solid, the synergy between the musicians is just fine, the production is balls but hey this is 1982, and it's got fucking Orson Welles on it!! Kill!