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Manowar's best, very epic. - 94%

The_Ghoul, May 7th, 2006

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.