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The 90’s were hard on a lot of 80’s metal bands, but few were hit harder than Manowar. While most bands would make alterations to their sound in order to fit in with the growing wave of crap pouring in from Seatlle, Manowar admirably declared “Fuck that!” and put out even more epic power metal in the form of the very true, yet interminably boring The Triumph of Steel. Not a band to abandon their hardheadedness in the wake of a shitty album, Manowar continued to write music in the same vein as pretty much everything they’ve ever done, resulting in 1996’s Louder Than Hell. And it really makes you wonder if, maybe just this once, a little change might have done the band some good.
Louder Than Hell is just as brazenly metal as The Triumph of Steel, only here they’re defying the growing nu-metal trend instead of grunge. Unsurprisingly, it’s almost as generic and boring as its predecessor. Opener “Return of the Warlord” throws down just about every cliché possible, from the “revving” guitar noises to perhaps the worst lyrics the band has ever penned, even going so far as to rehashing themselves. I swear this band hasn’t written a new riff in the better part of a decade: riffs and words blend together into one tasteless stew of mediocrity. Despite Eric Adams’ ever-powerful vocal attempt, this and most of the other songs on Louder Than Hell just plod along lifelessly. The only thing worth listening to is the guitar solos and you have to sit through several minutes of “song” just to get to them, some more difficult to survive than others (“The Gods Made Heavy Metal” for instance, never seems to fucking die. They recycle the ‘endless outro’ concept that was fresh on “Blood of the Kings,” to less-than-thrilling effect). I can’t understand why this band can’t just write quick, simple songs like they used to instead of the limping snore-fests they’ve been writing since the turn of the decade. Apparently the 80’s Manowar had a natural songwriting chemistry that the 90’s reincarnation (with mostly the same members) has been unable to recreate.
Need proof? Let’s keep looking at the track-list.
“Courage” is one brief stab at something different; different being a churchy sounding power ballad that couldn’t hold a candle to “Heart of Steel.” “Number One” has a nice groove to it, but the lyrics are dumber than hell (“We have come for the number one, not the number two”…….uh….they’ve come to piss, but not to shit? Is this a GWAR cover?). “Outlaw” tries to pick up the pace but fails, having adhered to the standards of Manowar style-speed metal (i.e. one note tremolo picking until the listener dies of boredom). Then there’s “King,” which is actually a pretty solid song, but it’s too little, too late. “Today Is A Good Day to Die” is the super-mega-epic-atmospheric instrumental masterpiece to end all masterpieces, which of course ends up being merely okay. This segues into “My Spirit Lives On,” which begins like it would be a pretty fucking ripping power metal tune, but the drums never come in and you quickly realize it’s just a guitar solo (it’s technically solid, but I want to hear a fucking song already). Finally….that song comes in the form of “The Power,” which is the only truly great Manowar track from their entire 90’s career. This and “King” are the only songs I wouldn’t be ashamed to be caught listening to, something that I can’t say about the rest of this tripe.
Manowar faithful will probably have an easier time digesting this one, so accustomed to mediocrity and disappointment are they. But yeah, this blows. Buy Into Glory Ride instead.