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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.