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At last Manowar have released a new album. A long time has passed since Warriors of the World, and even though some of the songs on there are silly and pretentious, the album includes some of the band’s strongest material as well. I like Warriors of the World, and I like Manowar. Therefore I had very high expectations when I noticed that a new album was on its way. Those were raised even higher when I realized that it was a concept album about the Norse Gods. (I got that sort of feeling you receive from listening to Falkenbach, which inspires you to sit and bawl alone in a dark room because everything is so wonderfully, pathetically epic.)
Yes, I am a sucker for epic stuff. I know that it often gets over the top, but I can’t help liking it anyway. This time however, Manowar have succeeded in being too epic, even for me, and that is pretty astounding. I think the problem is that being epic must be the icing on the cake; you cannot take away the actual cake. This is what Manowar have done. Only a few of the tracks on this album are real songs. It is crammed with symphonic intros, symphonic interludes, overlong spoken parts and soft music.
King of Kings is a metal song at least, and it is also one of the best. Then there are a couple of songs which are decent but a little too soft, for example Sleipnir and the ballad Blood Brothers. As a whole I think that the guitars suffer from a lack of distortion, as well as, how shall I put it … a lack of existence. By that I mean that they have lost their dominance on many tracks, and merely function as background to the vocals and drums. That is a pity, because Manowar’s greatness has always relied upon the cool riffs and solos. On this album, they have forgotten that the metal must be the basis, upon which the epic elements can be built, and without it, the music loses much of its quality.
Of course there are a couple of metal songs on here, but many of them are either much less heavy and speedy than Manowar’s usual material or contains long slow parts with sound effects and a narrator. And let me remind you, I like such things normally!
I would say that this album can be separated in three equally large parts: one with symphonies, and other non-metal music, one with spoken parts, and one with metal. Generally the songs are mid-tempo or even slower than that, but that does not have to be a problem. Many of the songs also rely upon a massive, and often repeated, chorus. Manowar do handle these things with skill, as usual, so there are no problems to be found concerning song quality.
The best songs on here are King of Kings, Gods of War, and Hymn of the Immortal Warriors. Especially the last one is good, and if more of the songs had been like these this album could have reached a more equal position compared to the rest of Manowar’s song material. However, this album lacks peak quality as well. There are no moments when I actually bawl straight into the air because of pure perfection.
As a last point, I would also like to comment the story. One thing that is annoying for a starter is that the lyrics are written with some, probably German, rune-alphabet in the booklet, with the key to solve it provided in the end. That is to be too epic and ambitious, even for fans of Manowar. The lyrical content is, as I have mentioned earlier, circling around the Norse gods, and especially Odin. I think that Manowar have either made an innovative, own interpretation of the myths or don’t know that much about the subject. Something tells me that the latter is correct, but what the hell. I just hope the next album is less complex, and … ehh … better.