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After reclaiming a great number of fans with the release of 1988’s "Kings of Metal," Manowar sought another new direction for their seventh effort. The music became even more epic and complex, the lyrics feature more variety than before, and guitarist Ross the Boss and drummer Scott Columbus were replaced by the technically superior David Shankle and Rhino, respectively. Unfortunately, this may be the only album to feature the new recruits...
Musically, this album may be one of the band’s most eclectic and diverse to date. Songs such as "Ride the Dragon" and "The Power of Thy Sword" are some of the fastest that Manowar has ever written while mid-tempo tunes like "Spirit Horse of the Cherokee" and "The Demon’s Whip" stay interesting thanks to a menacing atmosphere and commanding performances courtesy of each member. Also worth mentioning is the album closer and sole ballad "Master of the Wind." After hearing all the slower songs on the previous album, I find it amusing how this song manages to be powerful than the rest of them combined!
Of course, I must give the band credit for composing the opener "Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts." At over twenty-eight minutes long, this remains one of the band’s biggest undertakings to date. It features many different tempo changes throughout that range from mid-tempo marches, fast paced raids, jazzy solos that showcase every member of the band, and even a theatrical melodic sequence that brings to mind "March for Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death)." Add in lyrics that closely follow the story of Homer’s "Iliad" and you’ve got a fairly interesting epic.
Speaking of lyrics, these may be some of the most interesting that the band has ever written. Don’t worry, the lyrics are still about war and true metal, they’re just about different wars and true metal. While Manowar’s other albums typically immerse themselves within the worlds of Vikings and Valhalla, this album deals with topics such as the Trojan War ("Achilles"), Native American conquest ("Spirit Horse of the Cherokee"), and the occult ("The Demon’s Whip"). Also worth noting are "Master of the Wind" and "Metal Warriors" with the former offering some particularly inspired lyrics and the latter featuring more of the metal elitist lines that we’ve all come to love (“If you’re not into metal/You are not my friend!”).
It is fairly tough to identify the flaws that are present on this album. The biggest problem I found was with the album’s track order. While the "Achilles" epic is a pretty strong track, its long length and extensive solo sections may prove to be a little too overwhelming for some and probably shouldn’t have been considered for the opening position. A song like "Ride the Dragon" would’ve been better in its place.
All in all, this may be my personal favorite Manowar album and one that I would recommend for listeners interested in the band.
1) Excellently diverse songwriting
2) Powerful performances by each member
1) The track order could be better
2) "Achilles" may make this album a little too overwhelming for some.
My Current Favorites:
"Metal Warriors," "Spirit Horse of the Cherokee," "The Power of Thy Sword," "The Demon’s Whip," and "Master of the Wind"