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This album blew me away with the sheer amount of raw emotion, power, and musicianship that was present all around. The riders of the 4 winds, the kings of metal, have chiseled into the rock of ages a genuine magnum opus by which all bands in the metal genre should be measured. There is not a bad song on here, nor is there a good song on here, everything is just down right colossal.
The first thing to take note of is the individual efforts of each musician, as Manowar is one of those bands where there really isn’t a front man (though Eric Adams does steal some of the show when singing “Master of the Wind“), but rather each member is a king onto himself, standing from a mighty throne. Rhino lives up to his name with a barrage of thundering double bass pedal madness, along with some classic and simple rock drumming on some slower tracks. David Shankle’s guitar solos are like a raging tsunami, jamming in dozens of notes where one thought you could only fit 4 or 5. Joey Demaio breaks out his full arsenal of basses and gives us some incredible shredding, at times actually seeming to outshine Shankle’s whirlwind leads. And of course, Eric Adams is at the top of his game, belting out notes that defy the male gender, and also gives us some gut-wrenching masculine grunts.
The first work of art that we have here is an epic retelling of a portion of “The Iliad” titled “Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts”. At a whopping 28 minutes plus, this crosses into the realm of becoming a true metal symphony, years before there was such a thing as symphonic metal. Though there is not a dull moment from start to finish, particular parts of interest are the crazy drum work on “Armor of the Gods”, the riveting electric and piccolo bass shredding on “The desecration of Hector’s body Pts. 1 and 2”, the triumphant harmonic chorale of basses and guitars that is “Funeral March”, and the monstrous guitar work on “The Glory of Achilles”. Eric Adams is consistently on point for the whole of his time at the microphone, tearing holes in the ceilings of the human vocal range.
The following work of “Metal Warriors” is a classic 80s metal song in the Twisted Sister/Motorhead vain, with that “screw you, I love metal and I’m proud of it” attitude. Although I live for the more epic and complex music put out by bands like Manowar, straight-forward rockers like this always get me singing along and raising my fist in the air. Heavy Metal is the Law, Heavy Metal or no metal at all!!!
“Ride the Dragon” is a fast cooker with tons of attitude. The intro sounds like a choir of dragons bellowing their songs of war (I think it was a series of talk-box/guitar or bass tracks). The chorus lyrics are quite inspiring, though fairly dark in it’s utilization of metaphors for standing one’s ground and bringing the fight to the enemy.
“Spirit Horse Cherokee” is another mid-tempo rocker with a historical subject matter, beginning with the sound of Cherokee drums and a man speaking in a native tongue of historical events, the English translation being read simultaneously by Eric Adams. The lyrics are the primary focus of this song, though there are some excellent riffs going on as well.
Very dark and in your face lyrics in “Burning”, matched with some very good riffs. I guess that if I had to pick a song that I like the least out of this bunch, it would be this one, though that takes nothing away from this classic track. It’s primary flaw is that it lacks a cohesive structure as most of the other’s do, and is a bit through-composed at times.
“The Power of thy Sword” is a classic Manowar track that rivals the likes of Iron Maiden and Motorhead. One of the most powerful choruses I’ve ever heard out of Manowar, combined with some raw and some musical notes out of Eric Adams at other points in the song. The somber string interlude in the middle of the song is a brilliant touch, as well as the insane guitar and bass work that dominates the louder parts of the song. And let us not forget the thundering drum lines that Rhino continues to beat out of his kit as if they were planets and his stickers were Thor hammers.
“The Demon’s Whip” is another slower rocker like “Spirit Horse Cherokee” that relies heavily on lyrics, this time with some rather dark and mystical ones, that almost seem to be intended to poke fun at many of their critics. Most of the bands that came out in the era that Manowar did faced a lot of opposition from the religious and the politically active amongst the masses. I myself am a Catholic whom regularly attends mass (to give a sense that there has been some progress since then) and this song seems almost comical to me, hardly threatening at all. If Christians really wants something to fear, try listening to some Mayhem, there is some true evil for you.
“Master of the Wind” is the lone ballad (minus “The Death of Patrocles” from track one of course) and a departure from tradition for the band, but ironically possibly the best track on the album. The lyrics are so inspired and moving that they can almost bring one to tears. There are no drums or basses or electric guitars in this one, only a grand orchestra and a couple of acoustic guitars, and Eric Adams’ powerful voice, but it makes a grand noise louder than most thrash metal tracks. Unbelievable.
In conclusion, this is the album of albums for the fan of classic metal, and also a treat that fans of speed and thrash metal can also appreciate. Although they are more renounced for such grand opuses as “Battle Hymns” and “Kings of Metal”, do not overlook this album. It is grossly underrated and underappreciated, and I consider that a genuine shame.