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I believe this to be the greatest release of heavy metal history. Everything about it is perfect. Here we see Manowar, empowered by the reception of their first release, going down the route of creating the first great epic metal albums in the style of the last two full songs of Battle Hymns (their debut). Having dropped Donnie Hamzik, he is replaced by Scott Columbus (RIP) on this release.
The album starts with a hard and happy speed metal number called 'Warlord'. This is basically a song about riding Harleys and screwing teenage girls and begins in a rather amusing way. It's fast, heavy, and entertaining - a simple song, but executed perfectly.
The rest of the album, however, has a very different feel. All the other tracks are absolutely epic. Secret of Steel is a incredible song: it's haunting, the guitar and Joey's custom bass do some unusual work which still hasn't been matched, and it almost sounds progressive without the pretentiousness. 'Hatred' is a dark, aggressive, and yet slow song; it has some very eerie passages which create an atmosphere not usually found in traditional heavy metal to this extent (with some obvious exceptions).
The guitar on this album is brilliant as Ross the Boss doesn't bother with the fretboard masturbation that was on the ascendency in 1983. Instead, he is a more traditional guitarist who feels every single note he plays. Ross' playing draws the listening into the music and I would much rather have music you can get lost in than the replacements who weren't capable of such magic.
The drumming is brilliant as Scott was a very creative drummer and didn't just rely on recycled, generic beats. 'Gates of Valhalla' particularly showcases his ability to enhance the other instruments with his drumming. Joey, the mind behind most of Manowar's material, gives a sublime performance on the bass guitar and with no bass solo wankery ruining the continuity of the album. Secret of Steel stands out for him.
But the true highlight of the album is Eric Adams' vocals. This is probably the greatest vocal performance in the history of rock music. His voice is power with a tremendous range; he can go from being a speed metal powerhouse to an operatic maestro with incredible ease. He employs beautiful falsetto and death-defying screams, singing a high G and A with his full voice. There are few words which do his performance justice. Just listen and remember that it is unlikely that a singer will ever reach these heights again.
All in all, this is groundbreaking and ultimately is very influential. Highlights include 'Secret of Steel' and 'March for Revenge', but really, every track kicks ass!