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Here, we have a flawed work that clearly shows how Manowar have grown. The production, while being significantly cleaner than Kings of Metal, is wonderfully heavy, with a solid bass and gritty guitar, with wonderful licks courtesy of David Shankle. The drum sound is monumensious, and the performance is bone crushing.
Aside from that, what makes Manowar great? Is it the endless posturing on how metal they are? No, and that's the flaw that grew out of proportion on Louder Than Hell -- a belief that someone possesses a quality simply because he says he does. Manowar are no more metal here than they were on Kings of Metal, yet here, they seem to be more obsessive about it; even on the songs where the subject isn't metal. The lyrical content is matured, approaching other subject areas besides vikings, odin, and battle, like the Cherokee, for which Manowar were brave enough to admit they were pretty good fighters. But behind all that, what's really here? An album with lots of headbanging moments and plenty of anthemic songs, plus an outstanding drum performance. Isn't that what Manowar have always been about?
But, alas, there's the song "Achilles, Ecstasy, and Agony in 8 parts." This song would've been a wonderful, albiet schmaltzy, but overall very epic and incredible if it was a.) at the end, and b.) without the incessent soloing, and c.) not quite as jarring and abrupt. If Manowar had explored the idea enough, it would've made an excellent, albiet not as long song.
So, what we have here is a bunch of great, NEW ideas (that they would milk for another decade), but haven't quite been used correctly. Think of it as Manowar for the 90's. Sadly enough, it would end up being by far Manowar's best CD of the 90's, with Louder Than Hell, too inconsistent to hold much value to anybody who actually appreciates Manowar not for being metal, but for being epic and glitzy.