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Originally published at http://suite101.com
The last five years have been a very confusing time in the wimp and poseur free land of Manowar. The Kings of Metal were originally set to release an album called Hammer Of The Gods and put the Thunder In The Sky EP in 2009 as a promising teaser, but an apparent change of heart kept the concept from realization. In addition, drummer Scott Columbus departed in 2010 after a few years of ambiguity and sadly passed away shortly thereafter, allowing Battle Hymns pounder Donnie Hazmik to return to the throne as a full-time member.
Unfortunately, the band’s current dynamic keeps this promise from a complete fulfillment. The rhythm section throws things off as the drums are solid but have a rather robotic tone and Joey DeMaio’s bass playing has hideous distortion that somehow drowns Karl Logan’s guitar playing out even more than it already did! On the bright side, vocalist Eric Adams has held up pretty well and his husky delivery carries the hooks pretty well.
Speaking of hooks, the album’s catchiness does redeem it in some aspects. Despite the horribly clichéd title (Seriously, guys, was The Triumph Of Steel not good enough for you?), “The Lord Of Steel” starts things off on a very speedy note. “El Gringo” and “Manowarriors” also manage to be pretty memorable but the insanely catchy mid-tempo pace on “Born In A Grave” makes it the strongest on here.
Unfortunately, the songwriting itself is rather lazy outside of the hooks and the other tracks aren’t quite as memorable. “Righteous Glory” and “Blacklist” are pretty good and would probably go over well in a live setting, but the former is a rather typical power ballad while the latter’s plodding riffs aren’t as powerful as they could be. “Touch The Sky” is also pretty solid but it would’ve benefitted from some aggression to go along with its chorus.
And like every other Manowar album ever made, the lyrics are a mixed bag. After the Norse-centric themes on the last few releases, the band reaches for a good variety of topics as “Born In A Grave” has a fun vampiric theme while “Expendable” and “El Gringo” have action movie aspirations. Of course, the majority of the songs perpetuate Manowar’s prevailing themes of Vikings and self-congratulation. You’d have to be an idiot to expect anything else but did we really need to hear another song with lines that consist entirely of song titles? As if ripping off the title of the best song they ever came up with wasn’t enough of an insult…
…And that sentiment seems to describe this album pretty well: It has a sound that listeners have come to expect and long for but it’s too repetitive musically and lyrically to make a true impact. That said, it is a fun junk food release with a few great songs and I’ll most likely get a copy of this when it is released in a non-MP3 format. Hopefully the band can really look into its past and realize they had more creativity and took more risks than they give themselves credit for. Just don’t bring the bass solos back, DeMaio. You’re the only person that misses them…
"The Lord Of Steel"
"Born In A Grave"
Ah, Manowar. Forever recognized for their trademark macho act and cheesy themes about gods and steel, Manowar is probably one of the most distinctive heavy metal bands of all time. Go forth! Fight! Die with honor! Yes yes, we all know about Manowar. They somewhat remind me of what Slayer does for thrash in the sense of providing a very textbook formula that is used repeatedly to make the same fucking album over and over again. While that would be OK here, as it would honestly be weird to picture Manowar doing anything else, when you throw in the god-awful production it makes matters a whole lot worse.
There really isn't a whole lot to say about this album music wise. Again, it's typical of anything you would hear on a Manowar album. Galloping guitar riffs, arena rock drumming, cheesy lyrics, same old same old. The problem with that is that they took little care in presenting it properly. You'd think that a band that has been around as long as Manowar would be able to make themselves look more professional and not be so lazy as to completely fuck up the production. Feasting in the halls of Valhalla must have smothered Joey Dimaio's brain in fat, although we all know he's always been an egotistical douche. He doesn't even need to say a word to attest to it though, the proof's in the pudding here: EVERYTHING is completely drowned by the bass!!!! WHY?!?!?! It's really a shame, because there are some decent riffs to be found here and there and Karl Logan' guitarwork isn't all bad; he's an extremely skilled guitarist, his solos don't have nearly the level of emotion or originality as Ross the Boss. And the tone is absolute grabage; it has no crunch to it and again, is barely heard thanks to that obnoxious bass. Eric Adams is still Eric Adams, even if he's lost a step or two with age.
The songwriting itself isn't all bad, it's just nothing they haven't done a million times before. Every fan understands exactly what they're getting from a Manowar record though. "Born in a Grave" is one of my favorite Manowar tunes ever and there are a couple other highlights, but this overall is a huge flop. It had a lot of potential. The title was actually pretty cool and gave me high hopes, but count on Joey Dimaio's inflated ego to ruin everything. Odin needs to punch him in the fucking face.
Ahh, Manowar, you bunch of ridiculous, self-glorious egomaniacs, how I've loved and loathed you. Having deemed planet Earth too puny for his ego, Joey DeMaio has relocated his legendary metal band to the dark side of the moon where there are neither sound limits to adhere to nor posers to stand in the way of his plans for total metal domination. The first result of this admittedly unusual recording location is "The Lord of Steel", an album named by the random selection of metal-sounding titles aligned to metal-sounding nouns, which when you consider they've already used "Kings of Metal", "Gods of War", "King of Kings" and "Warriors of the World" for past albums/songs leaves it about the most metal title left going short of plumping for "Kings And Gods Of War, Metal, Steel, The World And Everything Else".
Now, it would appear the zero gravity atmosphere of the moon has inversely weighed down on the sound of Joey's bass tone for this, the Kings/Gods etc 11th studio release ("Battle Hymns MMXI" does not count), as it is positively BOOMING. Think not of the rumble of Lemmy, or the blower bass of Voivod, this is bass distortion like never before, but sadly as I do not live on the moon nor own a remote mountain-top location where "Manowarriors" et al can be blasted for all they're worth I shall never know if this tactic really works as its recorder intended. Instead I shall declare it the very definition of OTT self-aggrandisement and let you judge for yourself.
What of the songs I hear you ask? Well, for a band who have never exactly pushed the boat out with their compositions they have this time dragged the vessel so far inland it has become a museum piece to landlubbers. Guitarist Karl Logan and new drummer Donnie Hamzik compete to see who can be the most boring and uninspired - straight from the title track opening the album their tones sound weak and toothless, as if they've been phoned in at the last minute. Hamzik's beats for the faster songs on the album - "Lord of Steel", "Expendable", "El Gringo" - are monumentally uninspired, while Logan, who has always shown a knack for a good riff or melody despite being the Robin to DeMaio's Batman, does very little of note.
Musically most of the tracks sound like pale imitations of past Manowar glories, ripping off their historic victories while adding an awful bass sound. "Black List" sounds like a reject from the "Warriors of the World" era and takes an age in order to never get going; "Expendable" harks back to "Fighting the World"'s feel; while "Hail, Kill And Die" is so far from the classic "Hail And Kill" and a desperate attempt to reference it lyrically as to be embarrassing. Save for Eric Adams' vain attempts to inject some passion there is no saving what sounds like a band still rehearsing and fine-tuning their songs for the final album recording. Piercing the veil of unending criticism, it’s not all bad – "Born In A Grave" and "Touch The Sky" have a fist-pumping tempo and simple effectiveness about them that would not make it onto a Manowar ‘best-of’ but at least amid the muddled thinking on offer give a brief opportunity for enjoyment.
On "The Lord of Steel" Manowar have attempted to become of their hordes of German imitators - Sacred Steel, Metalium, Metal Force, Stormwarrior etc - but failed in doing so. The songwriting is stodgy, predictable and formulaic and the bass and guitar tones in particular are appalling, leaving me wondering who are the deaf journalists behind the quotes declaring this "flawlessly heavy" and "a brutal and unstoppable force of molten metal". For almost any other band this would be the death-knell on a glorious career but with Manowar and their outsized egos I'm worried it will only go further to encourage them their fight is a true and worthy one against 'posers' like me who just don't get it. Talking from the perspective of a long-time Manowar fan, I do get it, I just don't want to accept it.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
My oh my, what has become of the legendary Manowar? When I heard the first measures of the opening title track "The Lord of Steel", my first impression was actually quite a positive one. There was actually a guitar there, and it was actually playing a riff! However, this enjoyable first impression faded all too quickly, as the rest of the album turned into a rather redundant mixture of supposedly tried-and-true heavy metal and Manowar clichés, ranging from the lyrics which just sound like pieces of former Manowar songs' lyrics put together randomly ("Hail, Kill and Die"? Really?) over bland song structures devoid of the great and epic moments we've loved so much about the band in the past, to a terrible misuse of one of the greatest voices in heavy metal today in Eric Adams, who isn't even given the chance to really shine and showcase his skills.
But that's not even the worst thing about this album. So Manowar haven't written another "Kings of Metal" with this one. Alright, they also didn't manage to do that with "Gods of War". Or even "Warriors of the World", for that matter. But, and this I can but keep shaking my head about it, what in Odin's name have they done to their sound? The artificial drum computer sounds like it's coming straight out of a cheap PC sound card, the guitars pack little punch and the bass... oh Lord of Steel, the bass... seriously, I don't know what Joey DeMaio was thinking when he told his sound engineer to mix his bass sound the way he did, but this just sounds like an explosion in an old 8-bit video game, and nothing at all like a heavy metal bass guitar.
But where there's Eric Adams, there's usually always hope. Even if it's but a faint glimmer, even if it is but a straw to cling to; there is always Eric Adams. And this Eric Adams, who in my mind is the single perfect vocalist for this type of classical heavy - or "true" - metal; well, he stays rather bland and non-descript in this outing. Not because he can't do it anymore like he used to, but because band mastermind Joey DeMaio obviously doesn't let him do his thing anymore. Where are the insane screams, where is Adams' world-renowned "Evilizer"?! Over most of the record, he just sings in a middle range, and while the feeling and accentuation are definitely there, his great voice is just never given the chance to really impress us. And it's a shame, I tell you.
So what remains after we've sat through songs like the cringeworthy "Manowarriros", the unbelievably cheesily titled "Righteous Glory", the almost poppy half-ballad "Touch the Sky", the uneventful "Expendable" or the at least partially enjoyable "El Gringo"? Unfortunately not much, my friends, apart from a slightly bitter sensation of disappointment on our tongues, and the feeling that the Manowar who delivered groundbreaking works such as "Into Glory Ride", "Sign Of The Hammer" or "Kings Of Metal", are just irrevocably gone, and have ascended into the halls of Odin far beyond. Maybe all Joey DeMaio can really do well anymore is give strange and self-righteous interviews, talk about "trueness" and what it's like to "die for metal"; but I can't shake the feeling that it isn't Manowar who've died for metal, but that it's metal that has died for Manowar.
Despite what opinions you may be having about them, Manowar truly have a knack of descending into utterly horrible depths of self parody. Be it with their macho image or their self proclamation of kings or their war for metal or their utterly laughable lyrics, this band has literally become the laughing stock of heavy metal. Things did not improve as these guys failed to mature with age. Actually as time has progressed they have gotten more mediocre by every release both in musical and lyrical terms. Things does not change very much with their full length and this band walks down shitting over their own career which earlier contained some at least listenable, if not sensible material.
Eric Adams is horrible behind the mic. His voice has practically no charisma and whatever power his voice once used to command has totally been lost. He barely manages to keep up a steady note and the performance to a professional level. But still the fact that he lacks proper singing range and an intensity in his voice is very negative. Karl Logan is horrendous with his guitars. The riffs are basic Judas Priest ripp off triplets that do not work well; not even for the first listen. Lead work is better but does not rise up to be the saving grace of the album. The production is at least guitar oriented and we finally have something to cheer about. But production can never be the saving grace of any album, no definitely not with shitty music written underneath it.
Among the songs, every song is short, to-the-point and with crunchy guitar riffs and guitar oriented production you cannot have anything to complaint right? Wrong. This kind of music works only when you have strong and catchy choruses to back up the songs an element this album lacks in abundance. All right, goofiness in lyrics is permitted to a point, but please gentlemen don't you find it a bit annoying and silly when Eric Adams sings about waging wars for heavy metal. Musical patriotism aside, a note to all the musicians-please do not sing about “kings/lords/Gods of metal” unless your name is Rob Halford or you can sing Painkiller or Breaking The Law better. Most of the songs are overlong and are worthy of the honor of a skip button. Some variety is offered in the pace among the rockers, but that little to save this record. Highlights (Oh yes if they can be called highlights), include the opener title track and the catchy Born In A Grave where the chorus works just fine for a change. The rest of the songs are lifeless at best and lack intensity to take anything seriously. The total simplicity of the music compounds the problems even more. I would not go on to describe every song in detail using beautiful adjectives as it would be of no practical use considering that I would be describing almost every song similarly.
Bottom line, this album is too cheesy and dullard for even an one time listen. I believe even die hard fans of this band who otherwise would hear every shitty riff this band played, would find this offensive and boring. So I believe that the question of buying this one has not come up, but if it has, I would insist that you remain miles away from this wasted, dullard piece of plastic.
This album has received a lot of stick, both from the Manowar fanbase and the wider metal community. A lot of people have expressed displeasure at the perceived basic songwriting, poor bass sound and less spirited vocal performance from Eric Adams. I personally think these criticisms are invalid.
If there's one thing I'll always love about Manowar it is that they unashamedly embody heavy metal and have done throughout there 32 year history - face it, Manowar are more metal than you. When listening to 'The Lord of Steel' for the first time, I was struck by how it seemed to be an odd term for Manowar who could easily keep much of their fanbase happy by creating another symphonic album designed purely for an epic sense of scale like Gods of War. Instead, we have a raw, aggressive release which resembles much of the more abrasive side of the NWOBHM with the characteristically awesome Manowar lyrics.
That's where I'll start, the lyrics. They will blast you to Valhalla and back! (see, I can write them too) - right from the start:
"In the eyes of the lord you have sinned
Let your punishment begin
Only by death you atone
You shall not die alone
For the glory of battle
I will fight until i die
Live one day as an eagle
Or a lifetime as a fly
Like a candle burning
The wheels of time are turning
The lord of steel commands you
To die by my hand"
Dismiss them as 'cheesy' if you want, but it's a better idea to cheer the fuck up and love them for what they are - awesome heavy metal lyrics. The quality of the lyrics is very high throughout the album.
Of course, as usual these lyrics are brought to life by the outstanding vocal talents of Eric Adams. Some have seen this as a bad performance from him as it doesn't have his usual operatic style, but there are few singers who can create the level of energy and aggression with clean vocals and it definitely displays a side to his voice that has been present throughout their career. Eric sounds absolutely incredible on 'Righteous Glory' - which is a ballad and reminds me of 'Swords in the Wind', prepare yourself for a both powerful and beautiful song coupled with inspired vocal delivery. It is, however, a little disappointing for the big fans that Eric doesn't use many of the high pitched screams which once were so common, but this alone doesn't make the vocal performance a bad one.
The bass guitar sound has been heavily criticised, you either like it or you don't. I think the people who don't haven't turned it up loud enough (yeah, seriously). This album sounds absolutely massive at full volume, the production really comes into its own and it is clearly designed for that. If you listen to this quietly, the bass sound does resemble a wet fart, the solution is to grow a pair and listen to it at a volume which befits a great heavy metal band. Karl Logan's leads are generally quite different to the very precise shred style which he usually employs and in some places sound similar to many old Ross the Boss solos, chaotic and aggressive, which really suits the aggressive tone of the album. A good example of this is on 'Expendable', which clearly is influenced by their classic track 'Kill with Power' in terms of the solo and tone, although with a more modern feel. There is some more of Logan's more trademark style on this record, the solo on 'El Gringo' is characteristically fast paced and precise and is one of the best he's played - up there with 'King of Kings' and 'Outlaw'.
A highlight of this album is definitely Donnie Hamzik's drumming, the man can only be described as animalistic. This is easily the best drumming on any Manowar album and it is perfectly produced.
All in all, a brilliant album with a huge amount of aggression. Highlights include 'Righteous Glory', 'Born in a Grave' and 'El Gringo'. 'Hail, Kill and Die' is also epic and sounds like a marching anthem.
Manowar's latest album has been the subject of much criticism in the metal world; and not undeservedly. I tried to engage it with an open mind. I tried to look at the bright spots and I'm not saying there aren't any. Truthfully, this is pretty much a dilapidated, decrepit version of the Manowar seen on recent albums like Gods of War, Warriors of the world, and what have you. It carries the standard Manowar sound and retains all of the themes that have given this band so much recognition, be it positive or negative, over the years. Their ego is as bloated as ever, and as such, you can expect to sit through a plethora of cheesy shameless self promotion, with the word steel employed at every possible twist and turn, slaying the hordes, ascending to valhalla; pretty much standard Manowar with the exception of musical quality.
Sooo...the quality. Yeah. Manowar have taken a pretty significant dip in quality on this record. There isn't a single memorable track on this record, and the music lacks the ferocity displayed on older records. One of the main deplorable aspects of this album for many people is the bass. I'll admit, I'm one of those guys who never really pays much heed to elements outside of the rhythm guitar and vocals on Manowar records, or almost any standard metal record for that matter. As such, the screeching prominence of the bass on this album may not bother you if you're anything like me. Eric Adams doesn't do any high notes on this record to the best of my recollection. This isn't to say his performance is particularly bad, just lacking. This album also seems to have traded in Manowar's power metal edge for a more straightforward approach. I fucking hate that. I loved power metal Manowar. The songs are mostly mid tempo, they're not particularly catchy, and the riffing is average at best, although there are some pretty nice leads at moments, such as on "Black list".
The best songs? Well, truthfully, that's kinda tough. Like I said, none of the songs are really memorable, but I suppose I should point out that they're also pretty repetitive. I do feel I enjoyed the first half of the album more than the second one, though. But that could just be my brain growing tired. The song "Righteous Glory" I guess could be considered the best on the album. It's basically the only ballad, and it features some pretty cool notes from Adams. I may just be favoring it because it doesn't put emphasis on those bland riffs like the rest of the album.
Well that pretty much covers what I have to say regarding this record. I may dare to call it Manowar at their worst, and I wouldn't advise wasting good money on it, unless you have tons of money to waste, or have trouble falling asleep at night.
There was a sermon composed back in 1835 by an esteemed reverend of the Second Presbyterian Church of Albany William B. Sprague titled “Danger of Being Over-Wise” that I read during a study of 19th century American history. While the bulk of it dealt with disputes between differing sects over what constituted proper sacramental observance and church doctrine, one particular passage that struck me was a warning regarding the so-called “Temperance Movement” that was pushing for what eventually became the full out prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States. The gist of it all was basically that in the name of purifying the church of the problem of alcoholism, these fanatical legalists were essentially turning their backs on the entire faith, not to mention unwittingly paving the way for the rise of organized crime and tyrannical encroachments upon the civil liberties of all Americans.
I can’t help but feel an odd sense of commonality with Reverend Sprague’s sentiments, though naturally in an unrelated subject, when I read all of these melodramatic reviews from one end of the internet to the next regarding the so-called flop that is Manowar’s “The Lord Of Steel”, the 11th studio album in a grand 30 plus year glory ride, casting their steel to the 4 winds. The problem is that I literally cannot square a single thing I hear on this album with anything I’ve read in the metal media, be it the bigger names out there or the hardest core of the independent crowd. Far from being the tired, battered, and steeped in ineffective cliché mess that one would guess from all the hoopla, this album is a rather surprising return to former glory that’s been missing from the equation for the better part of 10 years.
If there is one album that this one instantly reminds of, it would be that of “Fighting The World”, admittedly not the magnum opus of the band’s lengthy history, but definitely a respectable work that brought the band some media exposure. This comparison is mostly in the overall spirit of the album, which is an exercise in unapologetic campiness, featuring lyrics that are about as compelling as any low grade, sword wielding barbarian flick from the mid 80s that didn’t enjoy the privilege of a wide theatrical release. The songs are very simply crafted, hearkening back to the most basic tricks of the trade that were brought in with the early 80s offerings of Judas Priest, Twisted Sister and the first couple of Running Wild albums. It’s easy to sing along with, easy to get into, and the hooks stick with you for a good long time.
The overall production of this beast is about as retro as it gets, making the references to reliving the past justifiable, but hardly in a negative sense. The guitars are the one area where things are somewhat modern, being possessed of a chunky crunch that is actually somewhat along the lines of a lot of modern Viking metal bands, while the bass is massively present though not quite as raunchy as on most of their previous albums. The drum work is surprisingly thunderous and glorious, a bit of a surprise given that the kit master hadn’t done much with this band since the original incarnation of “Battle Hymns”. The only thing on here that sounds somewhat aged and limited is Eric Adams’ vocals. He still has most of his former range, but all the years of screaming his throat out on the punishing tour circuit has taken a toll, and most of what is heard here functions in a lower tone growl with only the occasional banshee wail.
The songs are mostly an exercise in 80s heavy and power metal orthodoxy, playing off riff sets and melodic lines that are repetitious and clearly crafted for the live venue. The opener “The Lord Of Steel” has a fairly run-of-the-mill principle riff that is heavily reminiscent of Running Wild’s brand of speeding metal mastery. In fact, along with yet another crowd pleasing, mid-tempo anthem to their fans in “Manowarriors”, the opening offerings of this album all but hint that Joey and company have been listening to “The Rivalry” and “Pile Of Skulls”. Of course, this wouldn’t be a Manowar album without tons of down tempo crushers with drawn out spoken narratives, all supplied by Adams in his usual grandiose storytelling whisper. “Born In A Grave” and “Black List” bring to mind the same pompous largeness that would inspire Quorthon as he transitioned out of 1st wave black metal into his next craze in “Hammerheart”.
No matter how many times I hear this album, it never once gives an impression of being tired sounding, nor any more derivative than any album that Manowar has done since “Kings Of Metal”. But somehow there is a strong contingent of stalwart fans of this band that will tell me, in direct opposition to what I hear, that this album is a train wreck, almost as if insisting that because they’ve stuck with this band for a given amount of time that they are in a position to tell everyone that, to quote Ronnie James Dio, “Black is really white and the moon is just the sun at night”. The roar of the critics is definitely possessed of an unquestionable wisdom, as if every sage I’ve never heard of and a few I have opining on the matter. But thankfully I’m not so wise as to prevent myself from enjoying another fine piece of true heavy metal, and you shouldn’t be either.
I’ve seen way too many horrible reviews on this album so I am glad I get the chance to share my opinion with you all. I will admit in the beginning, listening to the album only a couple times, I hated it. It made me sad to think that this power metal giant had slipped so far down in their career. However, now that I’ve listened to this album a few dozen times, the songs have grown on me and I actually enjoy blasting a few of them out of my stereo. So a fair warning to you all, give the album a chance.
This album is strong and heavy, in true Manowar style, but a wee bit pretentious, I will admit. The album breaks down as follows - half of the album is decent, a quarter of the album is bland and stereotypical but still a pleasant background listen, and the remaining quarter seems like the band said “This song took us ten minutes to write, but we’re putting it on this album because you’ll buy it anyway!” and I’d rather not speak of that. I don’t feel any sort of epic-ness from this album; it’s very stale and bland and could have used a lot more of that old hard-hitting energy the band had in their prime. It’s a solid Manowar sound… only aging. Eric and Donnie feel like they’re giving about half of their energy to the album. I can’t complain about the guitars as a whole, I just wish the verse riffs weren’t so muted, because when the guitar has it’s moment to shine, it REALLY shines. The production is also seriously at question here, I really would like to know who told Joey DeMaio that all of that fuzz and gain on his bass sounded good! I love a loud and prominent bass player, I think more bands need to utilize that instrument, but holy hell… record it a little bit cleaner next time.
“Manowarriors” is a fun song, but the more I pay attention to the lyrics, the more I ask myself why I am enjoying it so much. The drums and riffs are somewhat stale, the bass, though very prominent is hard to listen to, and the guitar solo is great but short lived. This is one of those Manowar songs about how awesome they are “If you don’t like it, time to leave!” is an actual lyric in the song. Righteous Glory, however, is a slower song on the album and I absolutely love this song. It’s well written and recorded, the bass isn’t so awful, and the lyrics are about Valkyries which is my favorite part of Norse Mythology. Odin knows my name in the hall of the slain… YES MANOWAR. More of this! You have a giant hammer on the album cover… give me some more Norse references!
The next three tracks on the album aren’t awful, but they’re very mediocre and somewhat dull. Some songs have their moments, like in Touch the Sky. I really like the chorus and bridge as the song builds it gets better and better, and it just makes me wonder why they didn’t put that energy into the entire song, not just towards the end. Black List has a nice, groovy introduction, but all I can hear on that bass is gain, gain, gain! It would sound much cleaner without it. El Gringo, though ridiculous as hell, is a decent song! It seems they put more energy into this one and you can hear it right as it starts. Despite its strange concept, I really enjoy listening to it. The guitar riff at the beginning is probably the coolest riff on the album, and I’m bummed it only lasts a few seconds. The song kicks it up a notch with a high energy solo at the end, which I wish was much longer, but it was much appreciated as is. The album ends with Hail, Kill, and Die which has an amazing groove to it. It’s slower, low energy but builds throughout, and has some nice driving drums and riffs. It’s a nice way to end the album, with a chorus chanting HAIL! KILL! AND DIE! and a bad ass solo. Now this is Manowar, and I am proud to listen to this song.
All in all, the album is a slight disappointment, but I think most others are not giving it a chance at all. Upon first listen, it seems stupid, and corny, and not in the good way. Listening to it more and more it has surprisingly grown on me as I learn the lyrics and meaning behind each song. I can understand why so many people are disgusted with it, and are begging Manowar to stop making music, but it's hard for me to sit here and say I'm not wishing for another epic release from Manowar. I will continue to follow them and support them until they either give up, or give us another power metal masterpiece.
Every band that stays around for longer than 20 years eventually will get to the point where they're at a fork in the road; they can either rest on their laurels and rely on a formulaic version of their sound, or they can innovate. Manowar got a LOT of criticism for Gods of War, with fans claiming it was bloated, self-indulgent, and cheesy. Well, my personal thoughts about Gods of War aside, the fans will bite their tongues and curse their wish, for when you took all the symphonics and epic songwriting from Gods of War, you have The Lord of Steel.
The reason I compared this to Yngwie's "Unleash the Fury" is because Unleash was Yngwie's stereotypical sound, minus all the tools he had acquired over the years to improve his sound. Likewise, The Lord Of Steel would've gotten a significantly higher rating from me (still not a good rating, but above 50%) if this had been the debut album of some unknown heavy metal band. Nonetheless, this is Manowar we're talking about. We all know that they are capable of something besides blandly written and played verse-chorus-verse heavy metal, and we all know that their production team definitely earns bou coup bucks, so why does this album sound like shit? The guitars are the weakest I've heard from Manowar, with NO presence, NO kickass riffs, and NO frills with the solos.
It almost seems as if, after Scott Columbus died, Manowar just gave up. They were going to continue their Asgard saga (I would've rated this so much higher if they had decided to do that) but abandoned the project. This, on the other hand, sounds like it was hashed out at the last minute so that they didn't get eaten alive by their long-expecting fans. After four years of touring, we have this. Even on the albums I like the least (I'm looking at you, Louder Than Hell), there were still songs I liked. Many, in fact. On this, no song really jumps out, except for the bottom-of-the-barrel Manowarriors, which struck me for both the songwriting and lyrical stupidity, and Hail, Kill, and Die (the title doesn't even make sense), which was a blatant rip-off of their greater years. Most songs will simply slide right off your ears and you will not remember a single riff from this album.
After listening to The Lord of Steel, I have come to the conclusion that Manowar are entirely a memory now. They may still exist, but they exist only as a memory of their glory days. They create nothing new, and listening to this album, as well as their modern live material, I hear a band living in the past. They as a band only exist to recreate this mythical past constantly, with more and more overt self-imitation. There's nothing for the loyal and hapless Manowar fan. I'm sorry, but unless they start shitting gold, I'll start looking elsewhere for kickass heavy metal.
Oh, Manowar... Even through your ups and downs, I've tried to stick up for you, but after this... I just can't do it anymore. Gods of War? Yeah, there may have been a lot of cheesy interludes and perhaps it was a bit overambitious (but... "Loki, God of Fire?" HE WAS NOT THE GOD OF FIRE) but I replied "It's a concept album! You have to take it as a whole, not a track-by-track basis!" Battle Hymns MMXI? Maybe it wasn't necessary, but I replied, "Lots of bands redo classic albums of theirs! And Donnie Hamzik returned to the band for the first time since Battle Hymns, why not? Plus they got Christopher fucking Lee to do narration for 'The Avenger!' How kickass is that?!" But this... I just can't defend this album. It's like if Majesty (NOT what Dream Theater used to be called, the other Majesty) decided "Hey, we're enough of a Manowar tribute band, let's do a full-out album like Manowar would do! Except take all the triumphant cliches they're known for and just suck the absolute life out of them. And make most of the album a mid-paced plodding bore."
The first 20 seconds of the opening titular track are about as exciting as it gets on this album. A heavy, triumphant and speedy guitar lick from Karl Logan, and it does sound really promising, but then you start to notice something...
"What's that buzzing in the background? Must be a bee in the studio, maybe they'll edit it out of the retail version or something." And then that look of horror comes across your face as you realize... It's fucking Joey DeMaio's bass guitar. Joey's ginormous ego has finally gotten the most of him. Writing and producing all the band's work just wasn't enough for him. He has to stick out musically like a sore thumb. The bass isn't as annoying to listen to as say, Spiral Architect's debut (only?) album, but there are moments when you can't help but notice how distorted and fuzzy the bass is.
Another easily apparent problem with the album is a serious lack of inspiration. Just looking at the track titles, "Touch the Sky?" "Annihilation?" "Righteous Glory?" "Manowarriors?" Didn't Manowar wear that shtick out back in '92? At least "Gods of War" branched off into Greek mythology and shit! The whole "battles, glory, and power" schlock is really wearing thin, especially given the band's very uninspired performance. And as bad as the lyrics are (even for Manowar's standards), "Hail, Kill and Die" has to be the laziest and most uninspired song in Manowar's discography. It's literally "Blood of the Kings, Pt. II". (but with an extended title of ANOTHER song from the same album... God, the laziness of this just kills me) I love "Blood of the Kings," but I mean this in the worst way possible. It doesn't even creatively try to incorporate the titles of Manowar albums/songs into the lyrics like the first one did. It just lazily lists them off IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER with no real lyrical connection. Manowar was even so lazy as to incorporate a song title FROM THIS ALBUM! (then again, Blood of the Kings did that too, but still...)
The band's performances also aren't exactly up to snuff. Eric Adams' vocals lack the power they once had (but having been in the scene for 30 years, I can forgive that. He still has a lean, mean mid-range, I just wish he would at least TRY to let out a shriek or two). Donnie Hamzik's drumming is as simplistic as can be (minus the sweet drum roll in the opening of the title track) and Karl Logan's solos just aren't memorable. It's not all bad, though. The lengthy instrumental opening of "Black List" (easily the best track on here) opens up a lot of potential for live jamming and some of the tunes are decent fist-pumpers. But there's a definite lack of a certain spark from earlier albums which left even jaded cynical bastards like me grinning from ear to ear with how over-the-top Manowar were.
In all, this album is much akin to recent Simspsons episodes. All the basic elements are there but over the years, they've lost the heart of what made them memorable in the first place no matter how much they try and revisit the past. Not a definite clunker, but recommended to only the most hardcore of Manowar fans (dare I even say... Completists only?)
Manowar released their brand new album in such a weird way, that I know people who lost interest in it just because of this. Sure, it is available through download, but the only way to get it on a CD right now is by buying a special edition british Metal Hammer. Is it really worth tracking down on ebay or even waiting till September for a retail release? Not really.
First of all, I'm a big fan of Manowar and have favorite songs on every single LP. Even the critisized Gods Of War. I kinda hoped that Manowar would go in this direction with epic melodies and mythological themes. I was wrong. Lord Of Steel sounds like a tribute album to Manowar. Well, not even that, it sounds like some not really good musicians tried to mock Manowar exposing every cliché they ever used.
There aren't really any stand out track here, maybe "Manowarriors", "Born In A Grave" or "El Gringo" are catchy at first, but there is such a high level of monotony that they will get boring rather quick. So I'm just gonna talk about the album as a whole.
The drumming is more boring than ever. It is true that Manowar always relied on simple, solid beats, but this is just primitive. While listening to some songs I just wished that Donnie would at least do a simple drum roll when it was a perfect moment to emphasize the epicness of the upcoming part. But nope, most of the time you will hear simple, hihat + bass, hihat + snare, hihat + double bass, hihat + snare over and over and over, sometimes crash cymbal, that's all. The guitar is boring as well. There are barely any noticable riffs, most of the time it's just single power chord strums. The solos aren't really anything interesting, most of them are short and rely on shredding. Even the bass sounds awful. All the great crunchyness and power of the bass tone from previous albums are gone. Instead it's very distorted in a weird way and sometimes barely hearable. Vocals are rather okay, although Eric doesn't sing so many high notes anymore and some melodies sound forced.
I already said something about the cliches. You know you've heard some parts before in Manowar music, but now it sounds worse. There is chanting like in "Hail & Kill", soft accoustic breaks like in "Battle Hymn" and some guitar licks just sound reused, for example the intro melody from "El Gringo" sounds very similar to "The Power". The only cliché barely used here is the trademark high scream of Eric, which always fits Manowar music, but for some reason there aren't so many of these. He still manages to do them live so what the hell?
Lord Of Steel is a rather boring album and in my opinion the worst Manowar LP ever. It sounds like they are running out of ideas, but it's not only that. It wouldn't be so bad if they just relied on style from previous records and made some predictible songs. The songs here are just really really boring, streched withouth a reason and lack any creativity. It's as simple and primitive as it can be. Some choruses are catchy and maybe you will like a song or two, but it's more painful if you just listen to older stuff. I only used this cd on parties, when no one is paying attention to the music, but it's nice to hear some guitar buzzing in the background and sometimes we chant the "El Gringo" chorus with friends while bored during a car trip. Other than that, it's not worth your money. Stick to the classic Manowar albums.
The new Manowar album finally is out after a long wait and anticipation. At the very second I've heard it was available online I rushed to make the download. My first reaction to the opening guitar riff was "hell yeah!!" but then, the bass.. "WTF!!?"
The Lord Of Steel is the full-length successor to the much criticized Gods Of War (2007). In my opinion GOW had many problems of length, awful narration, and pretentiousness; but it was packed with awesome songs that proved their value on the God Of War Live album, including the new mandatory classic Die For Metal. But I do not like when people overlook Thunder In The Sky EP (2009), All 5 songs kicks so much ass and it's the best from post-2000 Manowar. It showed that Manowar still had the guts to deliver fast, powerful and straightforward songs.
Before releasing this new album Manowar made an excellent marketing campaign with teaser videos on YouTube, songs for the movies El Gringo and Expendables, partnership with Metal Hammer magazine and even put the whole album to on YouTube (!!). For all these reasons I was on high expectations and I fell so hard on the ground. For real, Joey, what were you thinking when you turn that Fuzz Pedal on? Didn't no one on the studio said "man, this sound like shit, its a bee's nest!" Playing straight eight-bars notes isn't helping too, you know. Were did the awesome production from Battle Hymns MMXI go? The sound is unbalanced, peaking on lower notes and losing all the punch on the higher ones. Didn't you tough the title "Manowarriors" were a bit ridiculous? I guess you will have a hard time making people sing that chorus on the concerts.
This problems doesn't kill the album tough, some good tunes are Born in A Grave, a welcome mid-tempo that avoids the words "metal" and "steel", Righteous Glory it's a strong ballad with acctually good lyrics, Touch The Sky has the catchiest chorus and a good guitar solo (it will sound awesome live) and Black List is a real stand-out, with a long instrumental headbanging introduction; it's a sinister song and the first time Joey bass sounds right.
The other songs are El Gringo and Expandable (good riff, bad chorus) but they don't help the album, Annihilation is a filler. Last; Hail, Kill and Die is an abomination that should never got into the album. It has the same concept from Blood of The Kings but doesn't have half the juice and dirty the name of the band's anthem Hail and Kill. I even think they should made a Blood of The Kings part II with expanded lyrics if that was the point.
With only 10 songs, Manowar have listened (a bit too much) to the fans and cut off all the epic feel from Gods of War releasing a much simpler album, but fails to deliver stronger songs than those on their previous efforts. The bad mixing and fuzzy bass lower the standards and this might be their worst release to date. If you're a fan, tough, I recommend downloading Touch the Sky and Black List.
Ah Manowar, one of my favorite childhood relics. The legend was born in 1980, Auburn New York. Back in the day they were something fresh and original. They had something of a purity about them in their early years. They strove to be the best and the top, yet the mainstream likes of glam metal and new wave bands kept on beating them down. It was this undying effort that brought us timeless classics such as "Battle Hymn" or "Blood of the Kings" or "Bridge of Death" or "Hail and Kill". These days (since Louder Than Hell anyways) their music has gotten progressively worse. I don't know what happened to them. Maybe it was the 1990's and times were changing. No one was interested in the likes of Manowar anymore. They all got distracted by Grunge. Now they bring us a new album "lord of steel". Finally, lets get to the album. I've waited 4 years for a new album to come out. They promised us "hammer of the gods" two years ago but never followed up. Rather than release an album they hyped up that had some promising tracks as exemplified from the "Thunder in the sky" EP; We get this. A trashy last-minute excuse for a CD completely void of humanity and creativity.
First off, this album has not 1 high note scream that passes the 3 second mark in length. In fact, I hear maybe 2 screams on the whole CD. It is nearly void of one of the key elements that make Manowar who they are and gave them some identity. This alone cuts the final rating down by 25%. Eric's vocals are harsh and pushed without any soul or effort behind it. Its not even that he is old, its just he doesn't seem to care anymore. Even at his age he should be able to diversify his singing from high notes to low notes and belch a few rough screams. Joey needs to back off with the overly fuzzy and distorted bass. Where is the nice clean sounding distorting we heard from "Battle Hymns" or "Hail to England"? Now it sounds like he recorded the whole CD with his bass plugged into a broken speaker. BUZZ BUZZ BUZZ was the obnoxious noise that I heard in the background through almost every song. What was Joey smoking when he thought this distortion sounded nice and was a good idea? Karl Logan's guitar playing is more stale than ever. Come on dude, cant you do anything else besides play a rift in E and shred without thought? Karl has no creativity and because of him many of the songs sound the same. The drums are exactly same throughout the whole album. 48 minutes of the same single bass with snare drum and occasional high hats.
The lyrics are predictable and repetitive along with the instrumental lines. Not one song doesn't include at least 4 of these words "Grave", "Battle", "Die", "Glory", "Hell", "Steel", or "True Metal". The album opens up with "Lord of Steel", the single most forgettable song they have ever written. The first 30 seconds sounded promising, that is all. "Manowarriors" and "born in a grave" are both repetitive and without any humanity, period. They both actually sound like the same song with switched out lyrics with one having rehashed lyrics that sound like "Army of Immortals" and the other sounds like it rehashed its lyrics from "House of Death". The main point is that they aren't doing anything new or creative with these two songs.
Then came the power ballads that followed after the first few tracks. Its hard to believe that there is no soul in this ballad either. Like the past few tracks, the lyrics are without any real emotion or thought put into them. Keep in mind that this is from the very same band that brought us awesome ballads of the likes such as "Master of the Wind" and "Mountains". The rest of this album does nothing new in terms of music. "El Gringo" and "Annihilation" are kinda catchy. Possibly the only two tracks that are worth a few listens and have some memorable chorus? To bad both their choruses get old after being repeated for like 6 minutes straight without any real solid input. These two tracks however do not make up for the other eight plain tracks on this album. They finish this album with "Hail Kill and Die". Yawn, what happened to finishing their CD's with epic tracks and actually offering some good closure? This song is anything but good closure to the album and only sounds like something you would hear at near the beginning. Once again they rip off their own lyrics from one of their earlier works.
I was really looking forward to a new Manowar album after all this time. When they stopped working on "Hammer of the gods" and the whole Asgard saga thing I was very disappointed. It just pains me to know that they let themselves get this bad. I listened through this CD so many times, just trying to convince myself that there might be something of a gem hidden somewhere in the depths of this album; But no.Everything about this album is sterile, even the album cover. Where is Manowar's mascot? Where is the army of guys bearing the flags of the world which symbolizes their unity? I guess Manowar has forgotten what they are about. Or is that just Joey Demaio. Maybe that's the problem? Joey himself. Joey is the guy behind every interview, the man working on every one of their DVD's and songs. He seems to think that he is Manowar and all the other band members should just do as he says. I think that the other members need challenge him more on his writing and give some of their own input. Because from my understanding, he is the one that wrote the whole CD on his own. A band is a team effort, and everyone needs to pitch in with some of their own creative juices, or if their isnt any left; then I think its better if they just take a break for a little while. Manowar is one of my favorite bands, and that is why I am being generous on my final rating. Better luck to their next album which should come out in another 6 years or so. Hail and Kill!
We always learned about the real taste of Heavy Metal from old-school Metal bands. Great bands like, "Black Sabbath" and, "Iron Maiden" were a great example of professionalism and energetic music that inspired people for decades, the only downside about the old-school sound is that it has been changed by the emergence of new sub-genres. Consequently, the original sound of the old-school became extremely rare, although, on the bright side, there are some old-school bands always trying to keep this kind of music alive for the next generation. This brings me as to why I am here, celebrating the release of the 12th album by the legendary Heavy/Power Metal group, Manowar.
The time machine that is Manowar has been turned once again; the inspirations of the albums, "Into Glory Ride" and, "Battle Hymns" were resurrected from history and were reanimated by once again. I admit that the album doesn't have the same quality of songwriting and effort but, at least it gave us more old-school songs from a real old-school crew. Many expectations are subconsciously created when you read the news about the new album of Manowar for the first time, some people thought that this album is a bad move and could destroy the noble lineage of this amazing band, especially after the album, "Gods of War" that had a lot of haters around the world (actually I loved that album so much though it sounded different than the old Manowar). Though, some people thought about it in an optimistic way, and to be honest, I am of the same outlook. I really loved many touches in this album and it reminded me a lot of the real Manowar, though, the modern production destroyed the theme that we are used to hearing while listening to old-school albums.
The album contains many old influences from, "Kings of Metal" and, "The Triumph of Steel”. The secret power that exists in the previous releases of Manowar is still alive and breathing here but with the addition of modern production and innovative licks that surround the whole record. The result being old and technical Heavy Metal riffs, with modern mastering quality. The hero vocalist, Eric Adams still retains his power as if he protected his golden throat with steel, my first expectation for this album was about the quality of the killing vocal lines, and yeah, I really liked every single word uttered from Adam’s golden throat, the power and strength are still burning bright inside of him.
The guitar work in the tracks, "The Lord of Steel”, "Manowarriors" and, "Annihilation" show the wonderful motion of energy, Karl Logan has tried his best with Manowar since 1996, his magic with the solos and the amazing performance on the tours proved that he is a real guitar hero. The bassist, Joey DeMaio (who also played the keyboards and produced in this album) provided great bass licks and many flexible, warm touches. To be completely honest though, I really hated the production, especially the rhythm guitar that encircled the sound behind the vocals and the solos. It sounded like the backtrack of an old Sega game, which is clearly noticeable in some tracks like, "Born in a Grave".
Behind the noise of the old Sega game sound, Donnie Hamzik was dominating the drums like a real monster, he was the drummer of the band's debut album, "Battle Hymns" so we can easily notice that he gave this record very old-school beats. His flawless work gave so much positive points to this album. My favorite elements presented on the record were the vocals, the solos, the drums and, the bass licks; no one in this world could enjoy listening to such a disturbing guitar sound.
If you are into Manowar, then this album is a must-own for the reason that, not only does it contain a lot of old-school influences, but that it provides the listener with many new places to visit. Though, buyer be warned, some things related to the production will annoy you but I am sure that you will love the songwriting, the solos, the vocals and, performance. Get yourself a ticket to the time machine that is, "Lord of Steel" and go back to the early 80s.
Recommended tracks: Righteous Glory, El Gringo, The Lord of Steel, Black List
Originally written for:
MANOWAR have always been a controversial band because of their primitive lyrics, exagerated bombastic sound experiments and a ridicolously martial image. Even though the band’s last entirely convincing record was “Kings Of Metal” that came out almost twenty-five years ago, the band still delivered a couple of energizing metal hymns in the past years as “Call To Arms”, “Warriors Of The World United”, “The Sons Of Odin” and “Gods Of War” from to mostly heavily criticized records but also some exclusive single material as “The Dawn Of Battle”, “I Believe”, “Die With Honour” or the power ballad “Father” that was released in sixteen different languages.
Normally, everybody should know what to expect when one listens to this band: A superficial cover with many fantasy themes such as muscled warriors and naked princesses, epic metal tracks with simple but efficient choruses with lyrics that any immigrant could write after three years of English classes, interludes with bombastic choirs and artificially flavoured orchestras, fast banger for the old school fans and the usual kitsch ballad about an unsung fallen hero.
This time, it didn’t exactly come that way and this new record came as a very negative surprise to me. The strange release policy with special editions for mediocre metal magazines, downloads and only a quite late release in retail stores was already confusing. The simplistic old school cover didn’t help, too. What finally counts is the music though and from that point of view, this record definitely is one of the worst records I have ever listened to in my entire life. I listened to this record once and I hope I’ll never have to listen to this again.
Let’s start with the production and the efforts the musicians put into this record. The boring, faceless and highly repetitive drumming sound so artificial that I think a drum computer was used rather than a real drummer. The bass guitar heavily dominates the production and sounds very irritating, noisy and unclean. After two sons, the bass sounds gives me ripping headaches. The guitar solos never sounded so uninspired as on this record. They sound emotionless, hectical and simplistic. They seem to never fit to the songs. Even the vocals can’t save this record and sound quite strange as if they were recorded in a hurry. Sometimes they don’t fit to the music and I have never heard the normally very strong Eric Adams sing that bad. The whole production lacks of energy, sounds sterile and very unprofessional. The band maybe tried to go back to their roots as there are almost no choirs or orchestral passages on this record but the loveless production only reveals that the musicians’ talent has heavily decreased as this lack of quality isn’t hidden by bombastic sound samples anymore. This record shows us the true face of these pretentious whimps and posers.
The song structures aren’t any better than the music itself. The lyrics are simplistic as usual but this time the band even cites itself and tries to honour its past days. They fail and damage, dishonour and soil their strong past efforts by creating something as bad as the album closer “Hail, Kill And Die”. The band’s straighter tracks sound repetitive and unconvincing and bore to death, even the shortest ones as “Expendable”. The half ballads or epic tracks have not only a predictable structure but are artificially stretched to unbearable lengths and lack of emotions as in “Black List”. Even the songs that could be mediocre and not plain awful are so repetitive in the end that they simply aren’t anything that disappointing in the end as the weak “El Gringo” that was written for a movie soundtrack and that is the only acceptable song on this record because it has at least some powerful vocals before they get redundant and are repeated to death.
In the end, the so-called kings of metal have fallen and this time, there are no glorious moments at all on this record. The band has become a caricature of their own past and this is their definite low after an unconvincing rerecording of their first record “Battle Hymns”. There are worlds between the band’s first energizing albums when they were still original, faithful to their fans and did many amazing live shows and what they have become today - a faceless bunch of defeated and tired warriors that dig in their own past and who have lost all their promising musicianship as they deliver the worst metal record I have ever listened to in my entire life. This record is not even worth to be written about and I only do this to warn the true metal fans out there to not touch this record and live the biggest musical disappointment ever. Manowar “fail, chill and cry” and have become the true losers of metal.
(Originally written for The Metal Observer)