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1982: Let's imagine Manowar at this point in their lives:
Bassist and mastermind; Joey DeMaio, 28, desperate to make his mark in the metal world, head swirling with lofty aspirations. Frontman; Eric Adams, also 28, easily spouting Ian Gillan-isms yet hungry to be recognized as a singular vocal talent. Ross "the Boss" Friedman, 28, eager to annihilate yet still very much restrained and Donnie Hamzik, just a hired hand? (He didn't return for "Into Glory Ride" released just eleven months later).
You'll have to pardon my highfalutin-bordering-on-comic sketch of the guys but Manowar have always been prime candidates for the hatchet. And we all know they had lofty ideals-hell, they signed their contract with Liberty Records in blood and have since gone on record as the loudest band.
For all their ambition however, "Battle Hymns" yields to the traditional form of heavy metal and the epic le grand "Dark Avenger" (complete with Orson Welles' cinematic narration) aside, there isn't much variety. And yet this conformity to tradition-delivered so rawly and urgently-is what makes the album such a wow and essential listening.
Joey DeMaio is showy but not overbearing and his lyrics are not lost in a sea of futile speech. The "call to arms" tone and message in "Battle Hymn" still sounds vital to this day as a part of the Manowar Experience while the wit and leery charm of "Fast Taker" cannot be denied by all in possession of a sense of humour.
This is "Vanquishing Metal" at its best. Eric sounds inciting and tireless on every song, forcefully bringing the full intent and meaning behind every word. Although later this would mean his intonation leaves little to the imagination, here it is all grist to the mill. And if you still think it is overdone - I kindly beg you to have a little perspective. After all, this is Manowar's first full on assault.
Ross The Boss does not let himself be overshadowed by Joey in the rhythm department but it is for his fiery leads that he'll be most remembered on this album and Donnie Hamzik does a good job but Scott Columbus (R.I.P) did an even better one on the follow up "Into Glory Ride" where the ideas planted here were fully germinated.
What does "Battle Hymns" mean to us this day? Well, it shows a band accused of excess at their leanest , playing with such heart and such sonic thunder, and with an urgency that would be severely lessened for most of their career. The close they came to playing such vital metal in their post-"Hail To England" days is a few songs on "Warriors Of The World".
But enough with the gloom, here is material tinged with agelessness. An album worth re-discovering .
The guys unwittingly created a masterpiece! Enjoy it for all its intentions and what it truly delivers.