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Yes, I know I posted a review of Battle Hymns claiming that in my opinion, that was their finest album, but as I've listened to this album again and again, I've grown to love it like family.
Implicit in this is one thing : you won't get everything this album has to offer by giving it a few casual listens. I find the best time to really listen to an album is on headphones on a train journey, though this is just an example; anywhere where you are isolated and with nothing really to do. However, before I give lectures on how to listen to music (!?!) I should probably stop writing this paragraph right now.
After their debut album drummer Donnie Hamzik left the band, to be replaced by legendary master of the sticks Scott Columbus. With this album Manowar moved their sound in a more epic direction, and Columbus' thunderous and often dramatic style of drumming complements this perfectly.
Eric Adams' performance is far more operatic and refined for this album. On Into Glory Ride he gives some of his greatest ever performances, showcasing both his powerful and melodic singing voice (Gates of Valhalla, March For Revenge mid section) and his evil screams (Hatred).
Joey DeMaio, despite his undeniably vast ego, actually gives a refined performance of his own on IGR, note the lack of wank-off bass solo. This is another quality of this album which contributes to it's (near) perfection. Despite being epic, this is a record which is never overly extravagant or drowned in wankery. It also lacks the air of pretense found in some of Manowar's other epics.
Guitarist Ross "the Boss" probably gives the least impressive performance of the band. There is no denying his talent as a guitarist, it's just that there is nothing truly unique about his performance, or anything to really set him apart from other heavy metal guitarists. Still, his soloing is occasionally awesome - Gates of Valhalla being the best example.
Warlord starts the album in pretty much the same vein as the material on battle hymns. Fast and heavy, this song is probably the weakest on the album, if not for the song itself, then for it's irrelevance on the album. The original version of Defender should appear here instead.
Secret Of Steel begins with Columbus' intro, that always reminds me of guns being fired, before that plodding beat and haunting riff kick in, complemented by Adams' softer more melodic vocals. The song revolves around some god revealing some metallic secrets or something. Who cares about the lyrics. Adams makes you believe it. Especially at the end. To my mind, the greatest singer of the time.
Gloves of Metal is kind of an amalgamation of the two "sounds" of Battle Hymns and this album - that is to say a combination of straight up heavy metal and the epic element. This an anthemic manowar all the way. The video is hilarious but so what. It's so bad it's good. British people loved Manowar because they got what the American music press didn't - irony. If you look at the camp self-effacing nature of British comedy at the time, you'll understand why Manowar's image was so appealing. It was camp, it was pastiche, it was ludicrous, and it was honest.
Gates of Valhalla is the greatest song on this album. Everything about it is holy and true and worthy of raising plastic swords to the sky in tribute. Manowar fathered battle metal while Turisas were still learning to read and write. Eric weaves a tale of vikings, gods and warriors with effortless power. He just sounds fucking amazing. And I just sound like a fanboy. So fuck. This song deserves it. Bow down.
Hatred slows things down again, bringing back a plodding beat similar to that of Secret of Steel. As Adams explains himself, his motivation for the vocals was everything that went wrong with his life, and it's this personal involvement in the song which produced another classic performance. I don't know all the details, but apparently Adams was looking the record company boss right in the eye during the song, as the band at this point were (according to Joey) being fucked over, surviving on one meal a day and generally suffering impoverishment. This song kills.
Revelation (Death's Angel) is a heavy and evil gallopfest. Lyrics are metal as fuck "All self righteous fools who lived and blasphemed, drink the wine of his anger" oh yes. All the epic metal cliches are present and correct (except maybe dragons)
- The Apocalypse
- The Gallop
- Massive Ending
Oh yes. Manowar know what makes a good song.
The album closes with March For Revenge. A thunderous drum intro punctuated by Adams' screams explode into a riff reminiscent of that of Battle Hymn. And indeed the lyrics tread the same ground - an epic battle, legendary warriors with various spiked implements, except when the cool down section comes, it is far more impressive than in Battle Hymn.
Adams powers his way through a story of a dying comrade. Listen for yourself. I don't know if Adams had a sibling who died, but this passage is sung with such conviction it's as if you're there on the battlefield himself watching him hold his fallen brothers body in his arms and scream "NOOOOO!" to the heavens. Magic.
This album is testament to Manowar's songwriting and musical ability. They create an epic, almost mythical feel and from there, take you through 6 tales of Swords, Demons and mystic lands. They also throw in a straight forward rocker to prove that they've not completely forgotten about their roots.
Manowar's greatest album.
...although, Hail To England is pretty swish too...