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Sign of the Hammer was written during the sessions as Hail To England, and was released later the same year, so it's quite amazing to see the great difference in the songwriting. This is much more in the vein of straightforward heavy metal like the debut, instead of the epic stuff on Into Glory Ride and Hail To England, and this is what Manowar do best. It is in fact their second best album in my opinion, beaten only by the debut, Battle Hymns.
The production is also much cleaner than on the previous albums, a sound they would go with for the next couple of albums, although it's not quite as developed and punchy-sounding as on, say, Kings of Metal. Nonetheless, it sounds quite solid, and goes very well with the music.
There's only one really bad song on here, obviously the unnecessary bass solo Thunderpick, which is just messy and annoying noise. Aside from that, the album is pretty much flawless.
We have the first two tracks All Men Play On 10 and Animals, which are both asskicking fast paced rockers in the vein of Fast Taker from the debut- And the quality is just as awesome too. Especially All Men Play On 10, which is probably THE most underrated Manowar song ever. The verses are catchy as all fucking hell, and the singalong chorus owns you.
The rest owns just as well. Sign of the Hammer and The Oath are asskicking anthemic speed metal monsters, Mountains and Guyana (Cult of the Damned) are mindblowing epics, the second being the ultimate masterpiece of this album, followed by Thor (The Powerhead), which is the perfect combination of a classic heavy metal anthem, and a huge epic. And check out that scream at the end of the song- Eric Adams shrieks his lungs out for like 30 fucking seconds!
The musicianship on the album is like on any Manowar album excellent. Eric delivers some of his most powerful lines ever, like the choruses of the epics Mountains and Guyana. The riffs and solos are intense and extremely well executed - Ross The Boss truly did own -. Joey's as usual delivers innovative and devastating basslines that are of course put to alot of focus in the production. And finally, drummer Scott Columbus shows that he can handle the classic metal anthems just as well as the midpaced, doomy numbers.
To sum it up: This stuff owns. Their second best album ever in my opinion. Highlights? Everything except Thunderpick will completely own you, if you like true heavy metal. And you do.