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Manowar...true metal at it's very best. After nearly 30 years of epic masterpiece after epic masterpiece, Manowar has established themselves as being the metal band. No matter what else has happened in the metal scene, from the death of death metal, to the disappearance of thrash, to last year's destruction of all that was right with black metal, Manowar has always stood proud and true as the embodiment of true, unyielding heavy metal, and despite their laughably over-serious lyrics and image, it's often been said that Manowar can do no wrong.
...And then there was Gods Of War...
Their last album, Warriors Of The World, is often considered to be their weakest album, although is still heralded as a monument of true epic heavy metal, despite the increased frequency of interludes, spoken narration tracks, etc. In short, it was too much on the "epic" side and lacking in "heavy". But there was still enough actual heavy metal to make it a worthwhile, and spectacular listen. Considering the degree of criticism of the excessive emphasis on making the album "epic", and how much Manowar actually cares about their fans, it was widely believed that their new album Gods Of War would be a return to the Kings Of Metal days, and the release of the new album was looked forward to by metalheads the world over. But then February 23rd, 2007 came. A day that will indeed live in infamy...
When this CD finally arrived on my doorstep, I was quite literally shaking with excitement. I'm extremely into black and doom metal, but Manowar has always been one of my three favorite bands of all time. Suffice to say, I was extremely excited about this CD and immediately popped it into my stereo. Despite the lack of the word "metal" in the tracklisting, I was not at all deterred, and the six-and-a-third minute intro track was everything I had been hoping for, and so much more. Epic as fuck, the perfect intro to what I expected to be the perfect album. And then the second track, "The Ascension" came on. "Another epic as fuck intro," I thought. What a poor fool I was.
The symphonic instrumentality continued on for another 2:30, and then I finally heard guitars. Fuck yes. "King Of Kings" took off, and I was very satisfied. Everything we've come to know and love from a Manowar song was here - the wailing guitars, the excellent percussion, and Eric Adams' spectacular vocals. About halfway through the track, there's the odd spoken bit of wonderful faggotry that Manowar is famous for, and it stretches on a bit longer than is preferable, but then it's back to the heavy metal goodness. All in all, a great song, and I sat back as the song died down and waited for the next bit of brilliance to burst forth from my speakers.
And lo! "Army Of The Dead, Part 1" began. And...another overture? Fine. Surely the next track will be metal, right? Of course. And so "Sleipnir" began. Annnd...more spoken narrative bullshit? Fuck. Being a good sport and enduring, I let the track play, groaning when I saw that it was going to be a 5-minute ride. Fortunately, about halfway through, the guitars start up, and it begins to take the shape of an actual song. Tension mounted as the seeming introductory quietness continued on and on, hinting at an amazing crescendo as heavy metal goodness was surely to come in at full force at any moment. And I waited. And waited. And waited. There seemed to be a recurring chorus amongst the quietness, but surely this couldn't be the whole song, could it? While pondering this, the track apparently came to an end, and "Loki God Of Fire" began to play.
Despite knowing that Loki was the god of trickery/mischief/what-have-you, and not fire, I was still pumped for this track, because it also had guitars and everything. About halfway through the track, I was already convinced that it was going to be a repeat of the last track - building up with a lot of quietness and half-assed introductory riffs but never delivering - but it did. Oh how it delivered. A perfect Manowar track, in every sense of the word. I (foolishly) got my hopes up after this and expected the next track "Blood Brothers" to be another full-fledged song, but instead, I was greeted with what sounds disturbingly like a violin, and Eric Adams' voice, except in an unbelievably faggy tone, which it turns out is very fitting of the "song." "Blood Brothers" is, without a doubt, the worst track Manowar has ever put together, and possibly the worst metal song I've ever heard, period. The lyrics, which are all there is, besides a quiet, very slow guitar, and some Valentine's Day-inspired synth effects, are about (it seems) two gay lovers. I'm not even kidding. "Think of me, wherever you are, when it seems like you're reaching the end. Call on me, know in your heart, one who will always be there" - WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?! I actually shouted out in anguish. Refusing to hit Next, though, I endured it somehow and waited for the next track called "Overture to Odin." As the name implies, it is another useless overture. Getting quite fed up with this, I skipped to the next track "The Blood Of Odin."
A suitably badass name for what I hoped to be a badass song. But, in what is apparently typical of this disaster, it's just a 4-minute-long spoken narration of what is quite possibly something that Eric Adams read on Wikipedia. Ever-enduring and loyal to Manowar, (fallen) champions of metal, I waited it out and was greeted (at last) by guitars and some drums, albeit very slow and quiet. And then Eric's voice came in, whispering for the better part of a minute, and I sighed, assuming it to be another faggy narration. Eventually, the vocals come to a crescendo as he shouts some nonsense about the sons of Odin. But then the whispering and barely-audible drums resume...and persist until the end of this non-song.
The next track, "Glory Majesty Unite" is simply more idiotic narration about Norse mythology. Five long minutes of it. It turns out, Odin gave some warriors "THE BERSERKER RAGE", which, according to Eric Adams, makes the warriors no longer mortal. Despite the fact that, historically speaking, berserkers had the highest mortality rate of all Norse warriors...but hey, if you're going to butcher heavy metal, why not butcher history as well, right?
Following that abomination, there is more of the aforementioned leading-up-to-but-never-delivering nonsense, as the title track develops into a circlejerk of annoying chanting with a weak guitar in the background.
After that, there is the second part of "Army Of The Dead." Same as Part One but with different words, still an utter lack of metal, let alone music. After that is "Odin", which has the tempo of a slower-than-normal love ballad, but with more Norse-mythology-based lyrics. There are guitars, yes, and drums, yes, but this, my friends, is not metal.
Finally, the "concept" part of the album was coming to a close with "Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors." It would have been a suitably epic outro track...if the album itself had included something other than epicness. It brings the Norse tale to a close well enough, but again, it's just another gay interlude track that the CD is filled with.
And then, the "bonus" track (which is, incidentally, included on every copy of the CD) - "Die For Metal"! I figured I'd at least be getting one normal Manowar song from this CD, so I was happy. It starts out slowly, and then Eric Adams comes in quietly with "(I) Quit my job this morning//Said forever I would hold my head up high"...I was pissed. Similar wankery ensues until about 1:45, when the song itself takes some form, and it is indeed a typical Manowar track, albeit a below-average slow one. But it's good. The words "metal" "true" and "hall" are used in abundance, and the track is 5:16 long, so it ends the CD on a good note...perhaps to try to make the listener forget the other 1:10:00 of the album?
It does not work. At all. Gods Of War is an abomination unto the metal scene, and incredibly embarassing to even think of. I have no idea what the fuck Manowar was thinking with this, but perhaps they really are getting too old for this. Everyone I've personally spoken to about this CD agrees entirely with me. In the end, I'm not angry - they tried, very hard, and have also given me 27 years of brilliance before this - but I am extremely crushed. Later that night as I was going to sleep, I realized that this is it. Black metal died last year, with such bullshit as The Cult Is Alive and Now, Diabolical, but I always had Manowar to look to, to assure me that despite the death of the black metal titans, metal itself was alive and well. This CD destroyed that in me, and something inside of me died with it. Manowar could have called it quits and stopped putting out new music, and simply toured a bit and then retired peacefully from the metal scene after a final, epic farewell tour, but instead, they chose to do...this. With Manowar out of the picture, the future is looking very bleak.
I do not recommend this CD to anyone. It would be best if we all pretended that it simply had never happened, and that Joey DeMaio died in a motorcycle accident while running down some Hot Topic kids. Manowar is dead.