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Manowar is a special band. There is no metalhead has never heard of them or heard anything by them. They're pretty much a staple band in metal. So, what makes the band so special? They could make epic music with a computer generated lyrics that have the combination of words such as metal, warriors, brothers, kill, blood, war,and glory. Their early albums range from great to enjoyable silliness that works. Then comes... Kings of Metal.
Every member of Manowar is talented and capable of using the instruments but sometimes, the Manowar cliches along with strange songwriting hinders the music on the album rather makes it exciting. "Hail and Kill" is a very recognizable song and pretty much a fun simple song that works and get the album some recognition but once you start listening to the whole album through, you'd notice some stuff that feels so odd and makes you go "What the FUCK?"
Let's just say, the album is sort of split into 3 parts. The first part starts of with "Wheels of Fire" which is a decent opener starts off with motortcycle engine sort of like the opener of Battle Hymns with Death Tone which we already heard that before and the main comes in with some cunchy riff and the song is on. Honesty, it's an okay song and the chorus is pretty catchy and fun but nothing really spectacular but the verse transition into the chorus is pretty inconsistent which it does not flow well. The second and the title track is next and this is a pretty fun song. It's Manowar over-the-topness but still enjoyably silly and despite the lyrics with "kick your ass" in it is somewhat badass and works fine and puts a smile on your face. "Heart of Steel" is a nicely piano driven ballad with impressive vocal performance by Eric Adams and a very soothing and well-written song. It's Manowar's better ballads and works fine. But you know, when you read a title like "Heart of Steel", you'd expect a very heavy riff filled song but if you're listening to this for the first time, a ballad would just throw you off but eventually, you'd get over it and the song plays nicely and the best track on the album. The first part ends with "Sting Of The Bumblebee" which is nothing but Joey DeMaio's bass wankary with drumming interlude. Joey DeMaio is an accomplished bassist but is it really necessary to halt the flow of the album with this? Not really. I, personally, don't like interludes. They just cut off the flow and it does take awhile until the second part kicks in (I'm just saying this generally with a lot of albums not just this one.)
The second part of the album opens with "The Crown And The Ring" which is another softy, huh! Kings of Metal, my ass!!! Look, it's a very nice song with choir, orchestral, and church organs. I, personally, like it but seems very odd having another ballad after a ballad and an interlude. It just makes the whole "metal" imagery which the band tried to convey is pretty deceiving and weak. I know, metal is diverse and whatnot but if the tracks between "Kingdom Come" and "The Crown And The Ring" is switched, it would have been a bit better. It just slows the album between tracks 3 to 5. By the way, "Kingdom Come" is forgettable track, isn't it?
And now, the first big strike that killed the album with the abomination known as "Pleasure Slave". This has to be the worst Manowar song of the 80's. It's even a bonus track and somehow shoved midway of the album. Why not at the end of them album? It wouldn't had a horrible effect later on. So, the song opens up with an orgy Christmas party and the lyrics are just disgustingly terrible. I know, I've heard black metal and death metal songs with more disturbingly weird shit lyrics but this one is just terribly written on top of that. Someone suggested in the earlier reviews that this isn't meant to be taken seriously. Okay, I do agree on that but what makes it worse is that the music is just fucking bad. It's slow, plodding, and annoying sound riff that makes the whole experience so unpleasant. At least, with black and death metal songs, yes, they are not meant to be taken seriously but at least the music is good. Here, it's neither the lyrics or the music. Eric Adams wailing does get fucking annoying with the moaning sounds just fucking kills it. Even on the guitar solo section, the moaning doesn't fucking stop and it is fucking annoying as hell. The song falls into the unfunny and pathetic attempt as a humor. And what makes things worst is that "Hail and Kill" is next. "Pleasure Slave" effect is still on the back of your mind listening to a great song like "Hail and Kill" which makes it feel really bad. So, I think the earlier edition to the album was better because it has "Kingdom Come" and after it "Hail and Kill" and the flow wouldn't have been butchered by "Pleasure SUCK!!". My suggestion either find the older edition or program the CD player or something to skip over this horse-shit of a track.
So, if "Pleasure Slave" was the first strike and then "The Warrior's Prayer" demolishes the album into stupidity. This is the third part of the album and it's just a stupid track is about some kid asking his drunk grandfather to tell him a story for FOUR AND TWENTY FUCKING MINUTES INTERLUDE!!! Really??? This is on a Manowar album? And let's be honest, do you even care on what this old fuck rambling around. "I was a warrior slitting throat with "hek!" Peter Pan and we fought giant "hek!" robots because we looked "hek!" metal and shit like that!" It's also funny is that the grandfather asks the kid if he liked his insane stupid story. I think the kid just made up his appreciation to him of fear that his grandfather would go more coo-coo on him. Jeez!!! I mean, this track takes out all the seriousness and the "metaness" out of the album.
However, Blood of the Kings does close the album on a good note after several shitty moments. It's an epic song in which the band has decided to put all the album titles and track titles in their lyrics making silly yet awesome at the same time, the last part of the song which seems a pre-Judas Priest Painkiller moment. It's a great closure to a subpar album.
I think the album would have worked better if it has a different arrangement to the tracks by removing and replacing them around for something like this:
1. Wheels of Fire
2. Kings of Metal
3. Heart of Steel
4. Sting of the Bumblebee
5. Kingdom Come
6. Hail and Kill
7. The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings)
8. Blood of the Kings
In conclusion, it's not Manowar's best album despite having some strong tracks especially in the beginning but declines as it progresses. "Pleasure Slave" and "The Warrior's Prayer" are the reasons that I gave the album such an average score. Is it worth listening? Yes, it does because it is still a Manowar album but could have been better. Still, Manowar's best albums are from Battle Hymn to Fighting the World and the decline had started from this album.
A word to the wise: Even good bands can pump out really lame material sometimes. Just because you like a band does not mean you are obligated to never criticize them. And just because you wear spandex, sing about fire and steel and have long blonde hair…it doesn’t mean you’re really better than anybody else playing Heavy Metal music. Yeah. Yeah, that about sums up Kings of Metal.
I mean…I like Manowar, and I don’t even hate this album; not really. But I just can’t bring myself to give this a higher score. How can you possibly fuck something like this up? It should be easy – write a bunch of cheesy, fast songs, some heavy riffs and some slower anthems. And, you know, do not put in anything like obnoxious bass solos, pretentious orchestral ballads and even songs that have no music at all and just deep-voiced narration. That would just be stupid, but then, that’s exactly what they did. I guess it’s supposed to be part of their theatrical nature or something, but I don’t know and I don’t care. It is poor writing, and no amount of lovable attitude and charisma can save that.
I just never understand why Manowar assumes anyone wants to hear shit like this. A bass solo? And one that’s based off of a classical piece? The pointlessness just…jumps off the record and hits me in the face. And the narration piece “The Warrior’s Prayer”…why? Why do we need to hear this? Who ever looked at an album like Sign of the Hammer and said to the band “hey, that wasn’t bad, but your next album needs a four minute interlude with no guitars, just narration that nobody will really care about. That will make sure that nobody enjoys it too much.” Bullshit! Well, maybe the rest of the songs are just so good that they would justify such random, whimsical fucking around. Maybe they’re just so damned cool that I will be forced to reiterate my opinion on this piece of work and analyze it from a more open-minded point of view. Maybe they’ll just blow my fucking mind out of the water. So, how are they?
…it’s about half and half. For one, we do get some really good songs like “Wheels of Fire,” “Heart of Steel” and “Hail and Kill,” three all-time Manowar classics. “Heart of Steel” in particular is just lovely, a stirring, manly anthem of warrior-like proportions with a delicate piano backdrop and some truly great, charismatic vocals from Eric Adams, who completely steals the show here. Great, great song. And “Hail and Kill” and “Wheels of Fire” are just overflowing with cheese, manifestos of metallic might indeed. The title track is okay, catchy enough, and “Blood of the Kings” is seven minutes of shredding Virgin Steele-esque guitar acrobatics and wailing that, yeah, I have to admit is cool. But we also get songs like the entirely forgettable “Kingdom Come” (might be good if it was longer and had a better chorus…), the wussy waste of time “The Crown and the Ring” and the nadir of entertainment itself, “Pleasure Slave.” Yes, this song was apparently not released on the original press of the album, but was added at a later date because apparently the band decided this album didn’t have enough suck in it already, and what do you know? It sucks. The riffs are half assed, none of them seem to go together, the vocals are annoyingly unmemorable and the sound effects aren’t even that funny or anything. It just completely sucks, and I don’t see why anyone would want to listen to it.
In fact, you know what this is? I don’t know, maybe I’m completely off on this, but I just get the impression that Manowar just recorded a bunch of stuff they thought was cool or funny, without actually tying it together into a cohesive album. They just felt like screwing around in the studio and then decided that their fans would like a cobble of random ass shit that they could have just as easily relegated to EP status, or even just kept in the studio, never to see the light of day. It’s just so half-cocked, all of it. They could have at least given us a concept album or integrated the oddities better into the songs. And they could have at least written better songs in general.
And one more thing; what the hell is up with the production? It’s tinny, it’s weak, it sounds like it was recorded in a goddamn cardboard box. The guitar tone is a sniveling waste of energy, the drums sound like the rat-tat-tat of a pencil on a desk and nothing jumps out at me at all; it’s all kind of condensed into this weak streamline of dullness. You would think a band man enough to call themselves the Kings of Metal would get a heavier production job. Lame.
This album isn’t bad, but it’s just got so many things desperately trying to make it uncool that it’s really hard to enjoy. I understand the band isn’t taking themselves all that seriously, but there’s a difference between comically goofy, zany stuff and plain old half-assed crap. Half the songs suck, the production is lame and there’s no flow between tracks at all. Seriously, I listen to music to, uh, HEAR THE MUSIC, and this album puts the stop on the metal too much for my taste, considering how much the band wants us to know how metal they are. The good songs are good enough to warrant listening to this album, but you’ll probably have your finger on the skip button a lot of the time. I do not hate Kings of Metal, but really, guys? Really?
That about sums up my reaction to this album.
Kings of Metal is a completely goofy jumble of poppy stuff, and objectively, it should fall apart at the seams. But it doesn't. And while, objectively, it should be annoying as hell in its poppiness and cheesy contrived character, it's not. What it is, however, is something Igor collected and Herr Doktor assembled. It's not pretty, but it's catchier than Ebola and powerful enough to tip over a 2005 Smart Roadster. Igor collected some mighty fine parts on his nightly treks, it's Herr Doktor's aesthetic eye that failed... but no worries, that's a classical origin for a good story!
A quick census on the tracklist is quite enough to show the impossibility of finding any logic on the album. On the european CD version, with the annoying "Pleasure Slave" included, the progression of the tracklist follows a path not unlike the EKG of a middle-aged man in the throes of a "widowmaker" class cardiac arrest:
Traditional metal song
-> Hard rock tune
-> Extra cheesy anthemic masterpiece
-> Silly bass instrumental completely unconnected to the rest of the album
-> Another extra cheesy anthemic masterpiece
-> Heavy metal tune with an unsuccessful dash of epic
-> Annoying attempt at appearing sexy/controversial
-> Excellent heavy metal piece
-> Annoying spoken story, theoretically worth two listens several decades apart
-> Traditional metal tune...
Yup, someone forgot to take his ADHD medication. This album bounces around completely devoid of logic, any kind of comprehensible story, or creative restraint whatsoever. It goes wherever it feels like going, and appears to be a kind of contraption build from the contents of the "discards" box in the corner of the room; the only common theme is the mild reek of cheese lingering in the room, and a culinarist into this kind of cuisine is absolutely thrilled. Rearranging the tracks might have resulted in a more logical entity, by simply placing the anthemic stuff on one side; remember, this is a product of the late vinyl age. However, that would also have created a divided album, and most people would probably only listen to one of the sides. There would be the cheesy, anthemic side with "Heart of Steel", "Crown and the Ring", "Hail and Kill" and "The Warrior's Prayer", and another cheesy, rocking metal side with the rest of the tracks. And the choice would be yours: which one to love and which one to forget completely?
"The Warrior's Prayer" takes the cake among the cheesier parts on the album, and lacks any replay value... until you run into a person who has heard it several hundred times, and recites it word-for-word after seven pints while you wait for a gig to start... And suddenly, behold! There's a crowd of a dozen people around, all paying more attention than they should, having overheard the familiar words, some of them timidly joining the recital, only to disperse among the gig audience once the story is over and the short moment of unity has passed. While there's every reason to say that the album would be much better without it, the tale does have its own kind of Cheddar-smelling value.
The other oddities on the album are "Sting of the Bumblebee" and "Pleasure Slave". "Bumblebee" is one of those wheels of cheese that end up on albums all across the metal spectrum, despite the fact that they have absolutely NO connecting factors whatsoever with the rest of the songs, only because they seem so utterly brilliant and totally über-cool when they are recorded, and simply can't be left out, man. It has the sting of Stilton emanating from it, fortunately. "Pleasure Slave", on its turn, tries and fails in what Teräsbetoni's "Orjatar" and Spinal Tap's "Sex Farm Woman" (especially the soul version found on Back from the Dead) succeed in doing. It lacks the necessary dosage of Roquefort, and doesn't appear either anthemic, funny, or self-parody: it just fails, and the fact that it's essentially a bonus track proves the band originally agreed, at least on some level.
If the three oddities and misteps of the album are half failure and half brilliance, the basic metal tracks are reliable stuff, and "Hail and Kill" and "Kingdom Come" even manage to be bloody good. They do smell of Gouda, of course, but not of the supermarket variety. No, these pieces of coagulated udder sweat have been stored in great, chilly halls in a castle on a mountain, and brushed weekly with red wine by a brotherhood of warrior-cheesemaker monks, until their crusts are of the finest royal purple and pleasurable to caress. Maybe "Blood of the Kings" slips into singing praise to the scene, and perhaps "Kings of Metal" could sound more like the metal it is in its core, than the hard rock its crust resembles, but they still deliver good, basic Manowar. With cheese.
And finally, the finest of the fine, the anthems that reek of Limburger, flow like Camembert in room temperature, and have the fine texture of an aged black label Emmental. "Heart of Steel" is one of a handful of songs ever written that actually works based on vocals and piano alone in the context of a metal album, even if only partially, and the restraint the band shows once it turns into an actual anthem is remarkable. "Crown and the Ring" is the equivalent of Old Chimay trappist cheese, and with its characteristic pseudo-choral arrangement, combined with the pipe organ sound and almost symphonic spices, creates a feel of a great hall in a cathedral of the protective saints of cheesemakers.
Yes, even if the cardboard box has been damaged by moisture, and needs a crapload of duct tape to hold all the assorted cheeses inside, it still stays together, and holds a special place in the minds of a lot of metalheads who found their true calling in the latter half of the 80s. The cheeses in the box have been designed for maximum financial gain, and the makers have obviously aimed for optimized mixture of radio-friendly songs and memorable anthems. What they created was Frankenstein's Roquefort Golem, a laboring and insane construction showing no trace of intelligent design, little purpose, and made of tons of living cheese. Just a few bits and bites are bad, and the towering colossus seems to work, against all odds and logic.
Perhaps the years and memories have grown fine, blue veins of Penicillium glaucum onto Kings of Metal, and the sheer force of nostalgia makes the mind like this album more than it should deserve. Perhaps it really is the mosty commercial piece of metal ever produced. But... whatever! It never slips into industrial processed cheese, and all of it is manufactured by manual labour. For the old rats, this is a bait that draws them close to the stereo, and it seems to work across the field of metal. If you wish to try it, just learn "The Warrior's Prayer" by heart, and start reciting it word-for-word on a gig with metalheads in their 30s in the audience. If you don't get at least a few approving smiles, you must live in a place where cheese itself is illegal.
Don't take Manowar too seriously; it's highly likely that Manowar does not take Manowar too seriously.
Manowar have always been a band torn between two identities. On the one hand, clad in furs and wielding swords and axes, they have been one of the pioneering and most important epic metal groups ever. On the other hand, dressed in leather and riding motorbikes, they have been a rather narcissistic band that impersonated the ideals of rock n’ roll.
During the band’s four first albums, the epic / heroic identity was apparently dominant. However, when “Fighting The World” came out in 1987, it seemed that the rock n’ roll / mucho identity had gotten the best of the group. “Fighting The World” consisted mostly of light and commercial tracks, which lyrically focused mainly on Manowar’ s physical and musical abilities, rather than the heroic feats of savage warriors. In general terms, the fans of the band disapproved of this new approach and that was reflected on their attitudes towards the album, which is considered to be Manowar’ s weakest effort to date.
“Fighting The World” ’ s follow up, “Kings Of Metal”, was released in 1988 and hailed by many as Manowar’ s return to form. The epic element was obviously dominant again, and the group’ s playing had become as tough and cruel as it used to be. Nevertheless, things were more complicated than they appeared. It might be true that “Kings Of Metal” sounded more aggressive than “Fighting The World”, yet the former should not be viewed as a significant improvement from the latter. Rather, it is more of a natural successor, the next step in a declining course within the band’ s career.
In any case, let’ s not jump into conclusions about the album’ s quality: “Kings Of Metal” is far better than “Fighting The World” and indeed has many strong moments. “The Crown And The Ring” is an excellent symphonic track, with a chorus that gives you shivers. Furthermore, it is very original, in a sense that it is something Manowar had never tried before. “Hail And Kill” and “Blood Of The Kings”, despite their flaws, are good and enjoyable aggressive tracks that manage to raise the adrenaline level. Finally, “Heart Of Steel” is a touching and pleasant to hear ballad, even though it’ s not close to what was generally expected from Manowar until then.
However, “Kings Of Metal” unfortunately sounds somehow disappointing at times. The main reason behind this could be attributed to the fact that the rock n’ roll / mucho identity still dominates Manowar’s music. As a result, the band manages to compose some aggressive and brutal tracks, yet the aggressiveness these tracks contain sounds somewhat hollow and fake, being the product of Manowar’s desire to show off, rather than their eagerness to praise the noble deeds of legendary heroes. This drawback constitutes the central argument that explains why “Hail And Kill” and “Wheels Of Fire” could be considered rather good, yet not excellent songs. In a similar vein, as far as “Pleasure Slave” and “Kings Of Metal” are concerned, their childish and simplistic approaches, both musically and lyrically, easily render them two of the worst tracks the band had conceived until then. Finally, “Kingdom Come” seems to be the trivial successor to “Carry On”, whereas “Blood Of The Kings” would be much more appreciated, had it not been for its totally pointless last part, where every member of the band seems to try to do anything possible to destroy his equipment.
Another quite disappointing aspect of “Kings Of Metal” could be summarised in Eric Adams’ performance. Up until “Sign Of The Hammer”, Adams had been an extremely passionate and flawlessly theatrical performer, doubtlessly one of the most complete epic metal vocalists there ever existed. Nevertheless, from “Fighting The World” and onwards, his vocals seem to get influenced by the general show - off tendencies of Manowar’s music and he loses the noble feeling he had so successfully mastered until then. Thus, he ends up developing a seemingly cruel approach, employing an increased number of screams and a “bad guy” attitude that sounds totally hollow. However, in order to avoid generalisations, one should point out that “Kings Of Metal” holds one of Adams’ best performances with Manowar, and that performance is the symphonic “The Crown And The Ring”, where Adams proves that he can still be an excellent singer when he wishes to.
In short, after the disappointment of “Fighting The World”, “Kings Of Metal” was considered to be a return to the old days for Manowar, yet it is questionable whether it deserves this characterisation. “Triumph Of Steel”, which followed, turned out to be a slight improvement, yet it was more than apparent that Manowar were gradually falling into decadence and, unfortunately, they seemed neither willing, nor capable of recovering.
I know may people consider ‘Hail To England’ and ‘Into glory Ride’ to be the best Manowar albums. I myself have always preferred this one, ‘Kings Of Metal’. I have several reasons for this. First of all the album is very diverse and combines most of the Manowar styles in just the right amount. We have up tempo speed metal, catchy mid tempo pounders, epic ballads and even sleazy metal in true ‘Fighting The World’ fashion but without overdoing it. Most other Manowar album emphasise too much on one or two specific styles and therefore become more monotone than ‘Kings Of Metal’. Secondly the quality of the individual songs is very high.
Opener ‘Wheels Of Fire’ is speedy Manowar at its best. This song has balls and is extremely catchy. The intro is predictable but does the trick and is nicely swallowed by the song. The title track is a decent kind of sleazy sing-a-long song but the best song in this style has got to be ‘Kingdom Come’ which is more epic and dynamic.
‘Heart of Steel’ is a very good heroic ballad with an excellent chorus but ‘The Crown and The Rings’ is even better! What a classic this one is. No wonder a lot of bands (try to) cover this song is various styles. On these two songs you can really hear how good Eric Adams actually is. One of the best voices in eighties metal. ‘Hail and Kill’ is a very dynamic epic sing-a-long which again is very catchy yet powerful. ‘Blood Of The Kings’ however is a top class epic metal anthem and the song that actually got me into Manowar.
Only two songs never caught my attention, being the bass solo ‘Flight Of The Bumblebee’ and the tale ‘The Warriors Prayer’. The band musically sounds very strong on this album and the production is close to flawless for 1988 standards. It proved to be the last album with Ross The Boss on guitar and I have missed him forever since.
This was the first Manowar album that I ever purchased, I bought it on nothing but good reviews of the band and hoped that it would live up to my expectations.
It didn't. I placed it into the CD player and listened in horror as I suddenly realised that I had thrown £8 out of the window. Wheels of Fire was a dull, unsophisticated song with horrible disjointed vocals. Kings of metal was a piece of selfagrandising crap with arrogant lyrics and a dull sing along chorus. Heart of Steel was a boring soft song with stupid lyrics about riding comets and I could barely stomach the chorus. Sting of the Bumblebee was a pathetic piece of wankery which divolved into a horrid mess of wretching guitars at the end. The Crown and the Ring was far too soft, took too long to get going and had terribly cheesy lyrics. Kingdom Come was just some average little metal song with nothing special to possibly offer the world. Pleasure Slave was a funny but awfully sexist number with the worst lyrics ever created. Hail and Kill had vomit inducing lyrics and a lame chorus. The Warriors Prayer was a stupid and utterly pointless piece of spoken word garbage that didn't belong anywhere near the world of metal.
Then I heard Blood of the Kings... From the first smashing drum notes, intersecting beautifully with Adam's manic screams I knew I was in for one hell of a ride. The lyrics were spectacular, a song praising Europe for its fighting might with a chorus to die for. Epic guitar solos gave way to pounding drums and a galloping bass line to rival any Steve Harris number.
I think something inside of me snapped when I listened to that song, I think that I began to understand jsut what Manowar were about and what they had set out to accomplish. Suddenly Wheels of Fire was a blistering speed metal song with clever lyrics and a wonderful chorus. Kings of Metal was a destructive romp with great bass and guitar lines. Heart of Steel suddenly transformed into a sublime ballad with uplifting lyrics and the greatest chorus known to man. Sting of the Bumblebee was a fitting testament to DeMaos awesome bass skills. The Crown and the Ring was another wonderful ballad with great lyrics and wonderful organ work. Kingdom Come was a no frills headbanger again with great lyrics and a great singalong. Pleasure Slave was still a piece of mysoganist crap. Hail and Kill on the other hand was a mighty song with a great chorus, sublime guitar work and wonderful vocals. The Warriors Prayer was a delicious and clever interlude designed to lull the listener into a false sense of security for the bombastic finale that was to follow and the already lauded Blood of the Kings. I sat and listened enthralled as Kings of Metal suddenly transformed into the best £8 I have ever spent in my life.
‘Kings of Metal’ has all the makings of a self-consciously definitive Manowar album, like the Black Album was for Metallica. Now forming the centre of their discography, it does indeed represent pretty much everything Manowar is about: the good, and the incredibly bad. The style is a seamless blend of their earlier, more traditional heavy metal style, and the delusions of Wagnerian grandeur that have only increased in the twenty years since, culminating in the tedious embarrassment of their most recent concept effort ‘Gods of War.’ On first listening to ‘Kings of Metal,’ the same overarching themes appear to be present: songs of Odin, Viking conquest, and drinking thy last ale, but elsewhere the subject matter returns to the other characteristic Manowar staples with songs about bikes, women and the glory of Manowar itself. You would be hard pressed to find a more arrogant, chauvinistic and nerdy album even in the eighties metal scene, and while it’s arguable whether this is Manowar at their finest, it certainly catches them at their most hilarious.
This was Manowar’s second major label album after the previous year’s disappointing ‘Fighting the World,’ and the band put their increased budget to use. The production is pretty excellent for an album of the eighties, surpassing the other major metal albums of that year, while an authentic choir of old European men provides the chorus for ‘The Crown and the Ring.’ This album effectively marks the end of an era, as it would be the final outing for guitarist Ross “The Boss” and drummer Scott Columbus, though the latter would return some years later, but also set the standard for all albums that came after, focusing heavily on the contrast between extremely loud and fast heavy metal and more calm and reflective pieces, all striving for the label of ‘epic.’ Although the album is let down by its numerous weak spots and bold but ludicrous experimentation, it still remains their last ‘classic’ album and stands out from the discography. And not just for the hilarious macho cover, in fact there are far worse examples elsewhere.
It’s a fairly straightforward task to divide the album into the tracks that are more traditionally ‘metal’ and those that aren’t, with the first, second, sixth, seventh, eighth and tenth being the former, and the others being... well, the best term would indeed be ‘something else.’ ‘Heart of Steel’ is led by piano, and gives Eric Adams a chance to show off his vocal cords in a more refined setting, before crushing drums return to a more familiar heavy territory. ‘The Crown and the Ring’ does something similar, only with a male choir replacing the need for heaviness and Adams reaching the high notes in a very minimal soundscape, with some more rousing lyrics as his character rides between battles. ‘Sting of the Bumblebee’ is the trademark Joey DeMaio bass guitar interpretation on a classical theme, this time Rimsky Korsakov’s speedy piano ditty, and as usual is several borderline-unendurable minutes of a cocky musician showing off, scoring over earlier efforts simply for the inclusion of drums towards the end. The final oddball is the enigmatic ‘The Warrior’s Prayer,’ which I still can’t determine is serious or just an in-joke. I would love it to be the latter, I’d have an enormous amount of respect for Manowar if all of this over-the-top performance has all just been a big laugh, but sadly I have heard all of their albums, and watched some interviews, and the reality is that they’re just pretty dumb. Here we have an overlong narrative between a bombastic grandfather and an annoying child, telling a tale of four ultimate warriors wielding weapons that doesn’t even bother veiling itself as an obvious allegory for Manowar, leading into the self-aggrandising finale.
The majority of the album follows the style that has continued since the band’s debut album, but increased volume of guitars and screams doesn’t live up to the simplistic enjoyment and energy of the first four classic albums. ‘Wheels of Fire’ opens with motorbike sound effects, the third time a Manowar album has done this, and although the increased volume of the chorus allows for the clear production of the guitars and double bass drums to be admired, it does tend to be a little too overpowering. The title track is better, a little unoriginal in its medium speed but delightfully pompous in its lyrics, as Eric Adams sings about how amazing Manowar are for playing loud and ‘wearing jeans and leather, not crackerjack clothes,’ for about the fifth time. ‘Kingdom Come’ is the closest thing to filler on this diverse album, a solid metal song that plods along enjoyably but a little uninterestingly until the incredible screamathon over the relentless guitar solo at the conclusion, but is probably the song least likely to be remembered afterwards.
‘Pleasure Slave,’ on the other hand, is instantly shockingly memorable for the band’s unadulterated honesty about the use of women. It could be argued that the lyrics are written from the voice of a character rather than the band themselves, but as they identify so much with the brave warriors elsewhere, and since, as I said, I’ve seen interviews and music videos, there’s no irony to be found here. Depending on the listener, it will provoke a strong reaction towards laughter, offence or possibly a sincere nod of agreement. I know which group I belong to. The final song, ‘Blood of the Kings,’ seems to pick up where ‘Wheels of Fire’ left off, and is similarly loud and furious, but as with the finale to the previous few albums, doesn’t really know when to call it quits with guitars and drums winding down for a couple of minutes just when you thought everything was over.
‘Kings of Metal’ has a clear target audience, and Manowar is very strict on the issue of compromise. ‘We don’t attract wimps cause we’re too loud, just true metal people that’s Manowar’s crowd,’ they proclaim. While their definition of true metal is a little debatable (half of this album consisting of classically influenced piano, choral and bass songs, with one really stupid spoken word piece), this would nevertheless most likely suit the tastes of someone whose appetite has already been whetted by the more accessible likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Metallica. Then again, anyone who braves the album cover and the track titles should know what they’re getting into, and any offence they find in suggestions that women should remove their garments, kneel before men, and be chained unto the bed is completely their own fault. This borders on being a classic metal album, and was doubtless as influential as its predecessors towards the evolution of fantasy metal genres in the past decade, but far from Manowar’s finest forty seven minutes.
After the mediocre Fighting the World, Manowar turns their shit around and releases this metal monstrosity. It has all the pieces of a great album; epicness, atmosphere, diversity, talent, catchiness, and absolute heaviness. The only problem with this album, like most Manowar albums, is rather than filling the album entirely with the classic songs that they most certainly are capable of writing, they always throw in a couple useless instrumental or interlude tracks that seriously detract from the album. Kings of Metal is no exception, but they're a little less glaring then they could potentially be.
The best songs are absolutely obvious. The moment you hear any track on this album, you'll immediately know one of two things: 1. This song is going to absolutely rule or 2. This song is unbelievably gay. The only case this doesn't apply is the Joey DeMaio bass solo where he obnoxiously apes "Flight of the Bumblebee." That one is entirely dependent on whether you think its brilliant or wankery. The rest are very easily divided into classics and shit. "Wheels of Fire" is a furious speed metal powerhouse that never lets up. "Kings of Metal" is the band's most self-glorifying track, but they do it well enough to make up for it's OTT arrogance. "Heart of Steel" is an amazing piano based power ballad, one of the band's most well-written songs and arguably the best song here. Very moving. "Blood of the Kings" is stirring and epic, with some cool solo work. "Kingdom Come" is a pretty upbeat, but has some cool vocal hooks. "Hail and Kill" is the other song arguable as the album's best, a masterful composition that's both heavy and melodic. These songs are the reason for this album's greatness, each one makes you want to take up your sword and head off to battle.
Now on to the shitty ones. "The Crown and the Ring" is drawn out and boring, and mostly choir based. "Pleasure Slave" is fucking retarded lyrically and too slow musically. "The Warrior's Prayer" is a four minute spoken story. I don't see how anyone could listen to these song's more than once, if at all. Why put them on the album at all?
Joey DeMaio is an overrated bassist, but his playing is good here, as is Ross Friedman on guitar, whose solos and riffs are impressive throughout. The drumming is fast and technical, probably their best up to this point. The highlight of this album, like most of their albums, is Eric Adams on vocals. Nobody screams like that guy does; he's pretty much inimitable. His voice makes the lyrics come off not as cheesy but just plain cool.
This is an impressive album, if you can ignore the worthless filler tracks. The classics on here more than make up for them.
Manowar is one of those bands that you either completely love or completely hate, there is no middle ground with them. Whether they are going at full throttle, pounding it out slow and heavy, or playing an epic ballad the nature of this band is blatant to the core. They present themselves as they are, and you either take them at face value, or you run like hell before getting your ass kicked off the planet.
"Kings of Metal" embodies the spirit of what Manowar has always been better than most of their previous releases, owing mostly to a much stronger production and a lyrical approach that departs from the MTV subject matter found on "Fighting the World". The guitars are loud, the bass and drums are thunderous, and the vocals pierce through the wall of sound and tell grand tales of true metal.
There aren't really any bad songs on here, but there are some songs that require some perspective as they tend to differ from the more traditional rock all the time approach that Manowar has previously held to. I have thus broken these songs down into 4 categories.
The fast cookers: "Wheels of Fire" is pure speed metal with an amazing chorus and tons of flashy guitar leads. "Hail and Kill" is another fast one with a ton of lyrical metaphors to the take no prisoners approach Manowar has to metal. "Blood of the Kings" is a long winded speed anthem with one of Eric Adam's most amazingly dramatic vocal performances ever.
The power ballads: "The Crown and the Ring" is a slow lamenting orchestral and choral arrangement that focuses pretty much on vocal performance and lyrical storytelling. "Hear of Steel" is by far the greatest track on here, and embodies the same heroic lyrical storytelling that Lost Horizon continues to emulate. Great piano and guitar work on this one, and yet another unforgettable performance by Adams.
The Mid-tempo rockers: "Kings of Metal" is an energetic audience pleaser that pretty much embodies Manowar's live shows. Definately tailored for live consumption. "Kingdom Come" is a bit flat in terms of structure, and is my pick for the weak link on this album, but still has some fairly solid riffs in the guitar tracks. "Pleasure Slave" is definately a lyrical satire, and all one has to do is take notice of the year that the album was released. Obviously Joey DeMaio, being a supporter of free speech, was revolted by Tipper Gore's fascist campaign against lyrical freedom in music and decided to give that prude bitch something to complain about. The song is a bit slow and repetitive, but the lyrics are down right hillarious, and when you take into account who they are intended towards it is twice as humerous. Obviously not for the politically correct, although if you are offended by stuff like this, you probably don't have the intestinal fortitude for the entire genre and should probably check out the country music scene.
The Outliers: "Sting of the Bumblebee" is probably one of the craziest conceptions ever realized, doing a rendition of Rimsky Korsakoff's "Flight of the Bumblebee" on a bass guitar, not exactly the easiest instrument to perform such a piece on. This is the reason why I say Joey DeMaio is a better bassist than Cliff Burton. "The Warrior's Prayer" is a rather interesting narrative that leads into "Blood of the Kings". Although it is a bit overly dramatic at times, it does embody the nature of the band, 4 barbarian/viking lords of the 4 winds.
In conclusion, this is a must have for fans of fast, melodic, heavy metal. With the exception of "The Triumph of Steel", this is about as fast as it gets with Manowar. Crossover appeal to power metal and speed metal fans on this one, as well as appeal to the traditional target audience. I Highly recommended picking it up today.
After the relatively tame "Fighting The World", this was a welcome blast of renewed power and fury from the Kings of Metal, and the title says it all. In fact, as the title of this review implies, for me this was the album where they really started hitting their stride and getting into the groove that characterizes their current sound and style. Those who don't like it, well, they're fucking poseurs. There, I said it, get over it.
There is very little to not like on this album, the only song I really don't care for being "Pleasure Slave". I know Manowar are not to be taken 100% seriously, but this song is just plain silly. And I don't care for a song that says "WOMAN, BE MY SLAVE!" in this context, speaking as somebody who loves women and is at the same time not the most PC guy around, contrary to what you may think here. Other than this, let 'er rip!
The production is excellent, but a little too trebly for my taste; a little extra bottom end would've made this positively devastating and truly speaker-shattering. The drums boom and crack they way they ought to (MINUS triggers!), the guitars are clear and crispy-crunchy, the bass rattles your sternum anyway, and Eric Adams is right in front leading the charge as only he can with his inimitable vocal stylings. Virtually no-one can match his conviction, power, range, and sense of style and class (not to mention his diction) in the American scene, such as it is these days especially. Yeah, I know, RJD, but even he is losing it due to age these days. Sad but true.
"Wheels Of Fire" kicks things off in high gear (pun intended) with a speedy paean to driving entirely too damn fast and loving every second of it. Excellent solo here from Ross The Boss, too. "Kings Of Metal" spells it out loud and clear for the unbelievers: "Other bands play--MANOWAR KILLS!!!" Need we say more? Of course, and this is where a damn fine ballad with balls like Kongzilla rears its head, the beautiful "Heart Of Steel", one of my personal theme songs in life. A ballad with this level of balls is a truly rare thing, so enjoy it when it does come around.
Then comes the inevitable bass solo, and again, disbelievers and haters can get the fuck over the fact that Joey DeMaio is one of the baddest bassists in America if not the baddest period. Anybody who can take "Flight of the Bumblebee", one of the most technically demanding violin pieces ever written (by composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), and shred it at full tempo balls out with massive amounts of aggression and passion on the bass is a god, in my book. The walls of wild and crazed noise he unleashes between verses of this tune are terrfiying!
"The Crown and the Ring (Lament of the Kings)" gives me chills to listen to with its male choir and Eric going on about how this will be his last battle, commending his life to the All Father. Fantastic!
"Kingdom Come" is one of Manowar's trademark "follow your dreams" songs, and it has the usual vastly uplifting effect--who says heavy metal is all negative and depressing and evil? "Hail And Kill", well, you gotta scream along with that huge chorus! Ownage personified on that part alone.
And hey...I LIKE "The Warrior's Prayer", it sets up the bombastic and classic ending cut, "Blood Of The Kings" perfectly. OK, so the ending declaration of "THEY...WERE THE METAL KINGS!!!" is kinda silly, but it fits the whole Manowar over the top image, so why the hell not? "Blood Of The Kings" is the perfect and ultimate Manowar album ender to end them all, even over "Black Wind, Fire, And Steel", with its devastating power and sense of epic grandeur. Do I love this album? Does Joey DeMaio have a big ego? Of course on both counts! This belongs in the collection of any headbanger worthy of the ti
Here, Manowar stumble upon what made them great, and fill an album with it entirely -- instantly memorable melodies, an epic, wagnerian sense of battle and a trueness to ones heart. They produce what can only be described as the 20th century version of the Ride of the Valkyries. They sing songs about warriors and their dark journeys, and overall, it is probably the most inspired and least obnoxiously self-congratulatory of their work. Sure, they have the self congratulatory anthems (Kings of Metal, Wheels of Fire), but at least those are GOOD songs.
Here, they explore ideas that work. The riffs here are classic and anthemic, and scream of being warriors, so not only do they say they're warriors, but you actually believe them. They also made their best ballad -- Heart Of Steel. Generally, the ballads and the speedfests are Manowar's strength, simply because they have the courageous abandon not found in their mid-tempo songs. In that sense, the song "Kings of Metal" is almost out of place here, but it still works, so it's forgiveable. The semi-fast songs here like Blood of the Kings or Hail and Kill are possessive of the anthemic qualities, while not overtly declaratory of them; you believe that Manowar are the Kings of Metal, instead of them having to tell you like they did in the title track. They don't have to congratulate themselves on most of the songs -- they simply talk about, well, Hailing and Killing. However, this album isn't perfect. The song Pleasure Slave is out of the general theme of the album, and is quite a non-sequitur. The other, The Warrior's Prayer, is simply pointless and shouldn'tve been there in the first place.
The production here is simply superb. The guitars are expansive and carry the music, instead of simply being dragged along with it. Everything is sharp edged and big here. This release has the best production of any Manowar release, simply because it radiates outward -- a property Manowar found tough to replace, and never did a good job of getting such a radiant production job on any of their subsequent releases.
Ya know what, some of this album is absolutely awesome and perfect, and some of the greatest stuff that Manowar has ever done. Then the rest - WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING?? The good part is, the WTF moments are not quite as excessive as on some other Manowar albums, and there are some really truly great songs here.
The amazingly fucking excellent: "Heart of Steel". Say what you will about the Manowar image, this song just fucking rules, and rules hard. One of the best ballads of all time. STAND AND FIGHT!!
The great: "Wheels of Fire", "Kings of Metal", "Blood of the Kings", "Hail and Kill". Yep, the four fastest songs on here, well at least the three with the most memorable riff work, as "Kings of Metal" is not all that fast compared to the other two - but these three could have been on "Screaming for Vengeance". The thing with "Hail and Kill" is that the intro is kinda boring, but it would have made the second-best ballad Manowar has ever done (other than Heart of Steel, they just haven't ever gotten it right... well, you only need to do something good ONCE to be immortal!), and then after a minute of that, pure headbanging killer frenzy.
The average: "Sting of the Bumblebee", "Kingdom Come". The first is a bass solo - not bad, just not up to calibre of the other songs. It's based on a classical composition that I cannot remember right now, and is executed nicely. "Kingdom Come" has no distinguishing features - just a boring heavy metal song.
The bad: the rest of the songs each suck in their own particular way. "The Crown and the Ring" is just plain boring. "Pleasure Slave" - don't get me started. This is the song that some Manowar fans apparently live and die by - the lyrics aside, the music is so unbelievably crappy. Then, "The Warrior's Prayer" - it's just a little spoken part. Never mind how cheesy it is, but if I want to hear speaking parts, I'll call 1-800 Weather, okay?
So what we have here are 6 out of 10 great songs, and then some crap. Some of it is filler, others just don't execute. Manowar just try too fucking hard sometimes, and they completely overshoot their objective, leaving behind solid songwriting in the process. If all the songs on here were like "Hail and Kill", we would have... well, we'd have "Painkiller" but still, we'd have a fucking metal classic!