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Headbangers of the World - 88%

hells_unicorn, November 26th, 2007

Manowar was among the latest of discoveries for me as a person who missed most of the 80s. Ironically I started getting into them at around the time that this, their most blatantly patriotic of albums in “Warriors of the World”, was released. Naturally patriotism was a bit en vogue in the aftermath of 9/11 here in the states, and while some releases sacrificed quality for nationalism, all were unified in their effort to capture the spirit of what America is about. This release embodies the most balanced of America’s traditions of steadfastness and integrity without the overt pompousness of Iced Earth’s “The Glorious Burden” or Dio’s pugnacious relationship with the politics surrounding this time period.

At first listen this release seems to give the impression of a band that is maturing into a more mellow formula, such as was the case with Metallica at the turn of the 90s. There is a good deal of ballad work, much of it musically eclectic, yet still maintaining the essence of Manowar’s kick ass approach to things. “Nessun Dorma” is the most unexpected of this lot, showcasing Eric Adams doing a rather exceptional performance of a Puccini aria with some rough edges at the end. “Swords in the Wind” and “The Fight for Freedom” are a bit closer to typical Manowar style ballads, the former reaching towards the “true metal” approach of older models such as “Defender” and “Master of the Wind”, while the latter mostly resembles the grand piano approach off of the “Louder than Hell” release.

“The March” is an instrumental/orchestral homage to Richard Wagner. Not particularly my favorite composer from the Romantic era, mostly due to his meandering sense of harmony, and Manowar’s take on his style is actually not far off from the original in this respect and thus skip worthy. “An American Trilogy” is another mostly vocally driven number and quite a unique rendition of 3 classic patriotic songs. Probably not the most metal thing ever to come out of the band, so it might not play well with people looking for aggression and bloodshed.

The metal on here comes in two basic varieties, one being the beat you to a pulp slowly metal, the other the grind you to oblivion with speed and riffs form. The title track is probably the catchiest song on here; it has that famous bass drone first popularized by Black Sabbath in 1980 on “Heaven and Hell’ as well as some and plenty of the vocal devices to put it in a similar league. “Call to Arms” takes the prize for the heaviest sledge hammer of a metal song. The last 3 songs are all speed metal and tend to run together a bit. In fact, the only really major flaw on here is that they completely back-loaded all the speed metal, which makes for an irregular pacing that was part of why I had a hard time fully appreciating this album at the time. “House of Death” is the best out of the 3; it almost rivals the speed classic “Black Wind, Fire and Steel”.

While I still thoroughly love most of what is on here, most Manowar fans will likely have problems with a lot of the extra non-metal stuff that’s been thrown on here. Back in 2002 I’m certain that even the most core-Leftist of metal heads here in the states was blasting out patriotic music due to the cultural climate of the time, but nowadays we’ve been inundated with it for so long that it’s lost a good deal of it’s meaning. If you’re new to this band, I’d recommend picking up “Kings of Metal” first, but this one would be worth your money if you have it to spend.