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Ah Manowar, the only heavy metal band in existence at the time this album came out, other than Black Sabbath. This is according to them of course. The irony is that this is as much a rock n roll album as a heavy metal one. There's nothing crushingly heavy about this or anything they've done, despite their claims to the contrary. Like their peers in Manilla Road and Cirith Ungol, they took a few albums into their career to shed their hot rockin' roots.
The first five songs are all rock songs, although they do a bang-up job at writing rock. These are summertime, '70s high-school parking lot songs, especially Metal Daze. Shell Shock has a slightly metallish intro riff and is sort of heavy. The song Manowar, meanwhile, is muscular and has a big, feel-good chorus. If He-Man sang in a rock band this is what it would sound like. Eric Adams sounds so young and vibrant. He comes from the Dio/Dickinson school of vocalists: his strength is in a clear, powerful midrange punctuated by high notes.
Their sound is bass dominated but guitarist Ross the Boss shared equal songwriting credits on this album with Joey Demaio. The man had a positive impact on this band, even though his writing contributions would be scaled back to a song or two per album after this, his solos were always good. Donnie Hamzik meanwhile, is a busier drummer than Scott Columbus.
Dark Avenger is where the band starts to really flex their metallic muscle. A brooding, crushing bass riff drives this song to the narration part, with the guitars complementing instead of dominating the sound. It's different from the conventional rock mentality but adds to the originality of this band. This song ends on a speed metal note with Adams screaming his lungs out and The Boss burning through solos. Williams Tale is the reason this is one of the few Manowar albums that is good right through and that's because this is the one time where they got the bass instrumental right. Every bass solo they did after this is fucking stupid.
Battle Hymn ends the album in the most epic fashion, a fist-pumping anthem that would make even the most pacifist peace-loving hippie want to go to war. It will get you ready for Hyborian Age battle. Robert E. Howard would be proud. The riffs are simple but mighty, the chorus with that ancient background chanting will take you back a thousand years and the solo just rips my head off every time.
Sure, this band would become cheesy and pompous down the road, but in these days they were one-of-a-kind songwriters. I can't really think of anything else to compare this to. Maybe Judas Priest meets Dio meets Kiss, but these guys do their own thing. This is recommended for anyone interested in classic metal. It's got a pump-you-up with good vibes kind of feel to it.