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It’s often cheesy, it’s gratuitously sexist and geeky, and it’s got a photo of the band pretending to be barbarians on the front, but Manowar’s second album has to be among my favourite albums of all time. In the whole history of the world’s albums – ever! I’m quite clearly insane, but at least I didn’t opt for one of their more ridiculous later albums like ‘Louder Than Hell.’
Picking up right where ‘Battle Hymns’ left off, Manowar’s second album marks a clear decision from the band (led by bass player Joey DeMaio) to embrace the epic sound of the debut’s latter half, mostly abandoning more simplistic hard rock anthems in favour of pursuing this innovative sound. It’s this dedicated focus on perfecting a style, found in various stages across the album which, like the debut, improves as it goes, that makes this a more solid and exciting album than any of Manowar’s later efforts, which mostly relied on safe, tried-and-tested techniques. The subject matter takes an appropriate turn from the debut also, beginning with another song about a juvenile biker before skidding off completely to deal with battles, swords and Viking mythology for the remainder of the record. The lyrics are less absurdly funny than on Manowar’s other releases, apart from the classic opening dialogue where the Warlord is discovered deflowering an angry couple’s sixteen-year-old daughter and has to flee the shouting father, and as the most sensible of Manowar’s releases it’s perhaps the one most appealing to newcomers. Unless, of course, they’re into the band for the absurdity alone, in which case they will be justly disappointed.
The predominant sound of ‘Into Glory Ride’ is that of a slow and heavy march, newcomers Ross “The Boss” on guitar and Scott Columbus on drums completing the band’s classic line-up and providing the memorable riffs and rhythms that were lacking in the debut. Songs such as ‘Hatred’ and ‘Secret of Steel’ crawl along with the crushing heaviness of Black Sabbath’s classic debut album, Eric Adams holding the high notes in some of his best performances, while others such as the excellent ‘Revelation’ are among the fastest and most energetic Manowar would record until the late 80s. With the exception of ‘Warlord,’ which stands out as a more deliberately simplistic single, all of the songs are longer than the heavy metal average and more complex, the later songs particularly featuring several major breaks that could almost make them different songs as part of an epic suite. The sound certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, Eric Adams’ powerful wails going overboard in places such as the soft introduction to ‘Gates of Valhalla,’ and as usual there are several references that openly celebrate the more ravishing aspects of Viking invasion, but as a work of epic metal this album wouldn’t be beaten until Bathory created so-called Viking metal a number of years later, based on many of the ideas found here.
2. Secret of Steel
3. Gloves of Metal
4. Gates of Valhalla
6. Revelation (Death’s Angel)
7. March for Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death)
The primary failing of this album is evidently that it’s fairly short, at least compared to modern releases, lasting the Manowar average of just under forty minutes. Insistent that the sound quality of the record should not be compromised or diluted in any way, the band left off the excellent song ‘Defender’ that was recorded in this session, which featured a second celebrity guest monologue from Orson Welles after ‘Dark Avenger’ on the first album, instead releasing it as a limited edition single before a re-recorded version finally found its way onto 1987’s otherwise terrible ‘Fighting the World.’ The addition of this song would have made this album even more impressive, though perhaps would have been an overkill of slowness for some metal fans, and it’s to its credit that ‘Into Glory Ride’ manages to exude such incredible atmosphere simply from the standard rock instruments without any technical tomfoolery or attempts to incorporate a symphony. As mentioned earlier, ‘Warlord’ opens the album with a comical piece of drama (presumably unintentional, though I’ve never been sure about this one) , performed as usual by laughably inept actors, before launching into a fun and catchy metal anthem that’s up there with anything Judas Priest released in the same era. A marked improvement on the directly comparable songs from the debut album, namely ‘Death Tone’ and ‘Fast Taker,’ it’s clear that the band gels together in its new, fixed line-up far better than was possible with the drafted players on the earlier release.
‘Secret of Steel’ immediately launches listeners into the album’s preferred style, and along with its successor ‘Gloves of Metal’ is a slow and forceful piece that remains far too powerful throughout to ever become dull. The chorus is one of Manowar’s best, evolving seamlessly from the verses and featuring some innovative guitar from Ross “The Boss,” whose clanky melodies would define many of the band’s finest songs, though it inevitably becomes repetitive towards the end. ‘Gloves of Metal’ is similar in approach, but more amusing for its celebration of the heavy metal lifestyle through its clothing (not shallow at all), replete with great heavy riffs but not too remarkable after the second song, mostly memorable for the first instance of the band referring to themselves as ‘the Metal Kings.’ Attempting to top its predecessors in the epic stakes, something the album will continue to do throughout, ‘Gates of Valhalla’ follows a similar style to the classic older song ‘Battle Hymn’ with a melodic, quiet introduction led by Adams in his first real performance as a tenor, before falling back on the familiar Manowar sound, slightly faster here. It’s a great song, if a little lacking towards the end, and the first of a great many Viking epics to be penned by DeMaio, culminating in this year’s Norse concept release ‘Gods of War.’
‘Hated’ is something of an acquired taste, expanding on the slow and heavy style of the second and third songs and pushing it just that little bit too far in the reliable Manowar manner. It can be gruelling and even painful at times, but in the right circumstances the crawling chorus can be just as effective as any of the faster pieces, the guitar work of Ross “The Boss” managing to owe a debt to Black Sabbath without sounding in any way derivative, a true feat. After this exhausting slump (which perhaps should have been replaced by the excluded ‘Defender’ to achieve the same effect, if I’m going to take a Fantasy Manowar angle), the album kicks into its most energetic song yet, with the incredible ‘Revelation (Death’s Angel),’ my all-time favourite Manowar song, charging through and decimating anything they have recorded before or since. The chorus is perfect, Adams wailing with appropriate gusto over the galloping drums and bass while Ross “The Boss” noodles around his guitar, the song beating Iron Maiden’s classic ‘The Trooper’ in conjuring a war-torn scene and really taking the listener along for the bumpy steedback ride. Both ‘Revelation’ and the final song, ‘March for Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death),’ display a self-aware grandeur in their (bracketed) sub-titles, and both utilise their full running times to build upon the songs and experiment, unlike some of the earlier tracks which simply lasted for a long time. ‘March for Revenge,’ like ‘Gates of Valhalla,’ takes a drastic turn part way through from a slow introduction to a rip-roaring finale that it’s impossible not to sing along to, even if the lyrics are ‘maim and kill them – take the women and chiiiiildren.’
Most Manowar albums improve towards the end, as more easily palatable singles make way for experimental epics, but only with ‘Into Glory Ride’ does the onward march truly improve throughout, the possible exception of ‘Hatred’ only coming with someone unaccustomed to such a slow piece, and itself forming a necessary bridge. ‘Revelation’ and ‘March for Revenge’ are both so irresistibly catchy and energetic that you should be sure nobody’s around to see you enthusiastically joining in, while the earlier songs such as ‘Gloves of Metal’ are slow and methodical head-banging heaven. The band’s follow-up ‘Hail to England’ would prove less satisfying and more of a rushed effort, attempting to mimic the style of this sophomore release but ultimately failing to recapture the thunder. Perhaps it was divine intervention from Thor, or simply the result of an incredibly focused year, but ‘Into Glory Ride’ remains one of the most definitive heavy metal albums alongside ‘Black Sabbath,’ ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ and ‘The Number of the Beast.’