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When someone refers to the "classic period" of Manowar, they're generally referring to the first four albums, or possibly the first six, before the departure of guitarist Ross "The Boss". However, despite the mounds of praise that are laid before these albums (the first four in particular), I don't see what's so "classic" about them. Sure, they're early, influential slabs of epic metal (for the most part), and perhaps that alone is enough to grant them classic status, but I'm fairly certain, given the amount of praise these albums receive, that it's not given on the merit of their influence alone. I mean, Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys albums were extremely influential on modern Europower, yet you see plenty of people shitting on them. So why no hate for Manowar's influential material? I mean sure, Hail to England wasn't bad, but as far as I'm concerned, the others are, at best, mediocre.
I will admit that the very fact that they were pioneers should cut them a little slack; given that they were exploring new territory, they didn't have any precedents on which to build, so you can't really blame them, right? I partially agree with this, I suppose. While it's true that they didn't have much to build on, and that they were quite groundbreaking, it doesn't make the music suck any less. Sure, they were pioneers exploring new territory. They also made music that at times is less enjoyable than eating shit. While I'm grateful to them for inspiring much better bands, such as Valkyrie (who took particular influence from this album) and Enchanter, I still find myself wishing they could have done so without hurting my ears quite so much.
However, there are a few positive aspect to the album. The production, for one, is quite good, with a strong guitar tone and solid drums, with the vocals given just the right amount of prevalence. If only the riffs weren't a complete failure on most of the songs, this could have had the makings of a slightly decent album. The other good thing is Eric Adams, whose clear, manly, slightly screechy tone hasn't changed any. He probably should've quit the band and found some musicians who actually knew how to write songs, because unfortunately his talent is completely wasted on this vapid, pseudo-epic, saccharine pile of feces. Okay, so I may be overreacting a little bit - mainly due to the presence of two particularly awful songs in particular - "March of Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death)" and the utterly abysmal "Hatred". Going nowhere from the beginning, the songs manage to descend from the merely boring into actively irritating drivel, from the stupid hard rock breakdown in "Hatred", to the silly, inane chorus of "March", even Adams manages to sound bad at times, particularly some of the screams on "Hatred". Gone is any trace of truly epic metal, and in is everything I hate about Europower; the flowery melodies and the lack of real riffs in particular; add to that a complete lack of direction, and you have these two songs.
Most of the songs, thankfully, are tolerable, merely mediocre rather than actively bad. "Secret of Steel" and "Gloves of Metal" fall into this category, meandering without aim and continuing without energy. There are occasionally some good ideas here, but they're quickly cast to the wayside in favor of slow, plodding boredom. "Warlord" and "Gates of Valhalla" are slightly better, though still not very good, though I will say that the intro to "Warlord" is much more enjoyable than the rest of the album; I would certainly prefer to hear forty-five minutes of female pleasure moans than forty-five minutes of this bullshit. The main song of "Warlord" rides a decent riff, nothing ambitious, but not really a failure, either, as it really just aims for being very mildly enjoyable, and manages to achieve it. The simple, faster riffing of this song is probably what Manowar should have gone for with this album - it might have kept it from being a complete mess. "Gates of Valhalla" has some sections that are actively good, and for some part is enjoyable, but other sections (such as the intro) are completely useless and manage to mostly ruin any success the song might have had.
Finally, "Revelation (Death's Angel)" is the one good song that keeps this album from being a complete waste of time; with a galloping drumbeat, a solidly glorious main riff, and a good vocal line, this represents what Manowar perhaps could have been, had they not seemed obsessed with playing in as asinine, paradoxical, and aimless a manner as possible. This song reminds me of some of Virgin Steele's material, which represents what I just described (at least from 1994-2000). Particularly when Adams sings out "when the end is coming", I'm reminded of VS's "Arms of Mercury"; this song is actually quite epic, which just demonstrates the potential the band are squandering with the vast majority of their songs. A pity, but at least they left us with a few songs to enjoy and wonder what might have been. The album is an utter disappointment, to be sure, but then, I hold such low standards for Manowar that I wasn't very disappointed anyway; rather, I'm pleasantly surprised when the manage to pull their shit together and not fuck up. 1/7 songs is not a very good record, but then, perhaps this should be considered one of Manowar's classics, as after the first four albums it was consistently 0/x. Yes, folks, this is one of Manowar's better albums, which should clue you in on my opinion of the band as a whole. They never "turned to shit" - they've always been shit, since the very first album, and this is a perfect example of that.