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In the vein of "Hail to England", but worse - 61%

Jophelerx, August 13th, 2012

The sad thing about this album is that, unlike most other Manowar albums, it actually has some pretty good ideas strewn throughout; unfortunately, they're rarely nurtured in a way that would make the songs enjoyable enough to listen to all the way through. Sure, if you cut out all of the quality sections, you might have fifteen minutes, give or take, of good music, but it would hardly be listenable like that. If you expected another Hail to England, you're definitely going to be disappointed, though it does at least have some energy to it, unlike Into Glory Ride.

Two things, at least, are in top form here. The production, unlike that of the previous album, is quite good, with a strong guitar, strong vocals, and nice, solid drums. Adams is, as usual, in top form, sounding just as good as he did on the last three albums (for a more in-depth description of his vocal delivery, check out my review of Hail to England). Unfortunately, this also features one of the biggest faults of HtE; the godawful bass solo. This time titled "Thunderpick", we are once again subjected to three minutes of some of the worst shit ever recorded; just a mishmash of seemingly random notes, strewn together actually somewhat masterfully in the least enjoyable way possible; it actually takes some skill to make something sound this shitty.

Thankfully, the rest of the album isn't quite as abysmal. The rest of the songs basically fall into three categories; crappy AOR a la Battle Hymns, ballads, and decent epic power metal. "All Men Play on 10" and "Animals" fall into the AOR category, with few riffs and boring, poppy vocal lines, these songs have very little substance and elicit very little response. They are entirely skippable, with no redeeming qualities. The ballad of the album is "Mountains", which is also quite skippable, with little energy and plodding, meandering riffs a la Into Glory Ride, although in the ballad's defense there are a few good ideas towards the end of the song, they're just discarded almost as soon as they arrive, discarding any sort of structure in favor of the directionless mess we're presented with.

Finally, there are four songs that don't utterly suck, including one song that is actually excellent. "Guyana (Cult of the Damned)" is decent, a song about Jim Jones and his cult that committed mass suicide via poisoned kool-aid; while the material is interesting, the song is pretty inconsistent. There are epic parts of the song, but ultimately it just sort of drones on; overall it's not particularly good, with few good riffs or vocal lines. The vocals towards the end of the song do have some energy to them, thankfully, but it's not enough to make the song as a whole worthwhile. The title track is of similar quality, with a promising opening but just not enough substance to make it enjoyable overall. "The Oath" is marginally better, with good vocal lines and a slightly more epic orientation, the song is reminiscent of Virgin Steele's The House of Atreus: Act II, albeit a bit worse. However, it's worth at least an occasional listen, has some good soloing, and is mildly enjoyable.

"Thor (The Powerhead)", thankfully, is quite epic, and easily stacks up to the best material on Hail to England. Great riffs, great vocal lines, a great chorus, this song is the epitome of what Manowar should have been, creating a wonderfully glorious atmosphere that leaves the listener wanting more. Unfortunately, even an album of this quality isn't consistent for Manowar, and it would be the last "good" album they would release, before descending into complete and irredeemable shite with the follow-up. Sign of the Hammer marks Manowar's dying breath, although, to be fair, they'd been on the brink of death since they began their incredibly inconsistent journey in 1980. Listen to "The Oath" and "Thor (The Powerhead)", and then go check out some quality epic power like '90's Virgin Steele!