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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.