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A true lack of new ideas - 15%

The_Ghoul, February 15th, 2014

Whole album rerecords are a tricky business. On one hand, I've heard one rerecord that didn't stink up my speakers, but I would consider that a fluke. Individual song rerecords are a different matter, and often I enjoy those because they offer a fresh perspective and often times inject a new creative outlook into the song. But albums are a different story, and the tendency is that the new product is a much more lifeless, restrained affair since the creative mindset that went into the original album simply isn't there.

Of course, that Battle Hymns wasn't my favorite Manowar album to begin with does this rerecord little favors in my eyes; but I'm not judging it based on such feelings. Really, what I wanted to know was this: did Manowar use the tools and talent they've acquired since the early 80's to successfully re-envision a classic album? No. Dimmu Borgir successfully reinvented Stormblast as a modern melodic black metal album (and even that was dicey) but Manowar offer no new insights here. The key issue here, then, appears to be that Manowar completely forgot what made them good in the olden days. While I preferred the more honed approach of Sign of the Hammer and Kings of Metal (which they are also recording), I understand what makes the original Battle Hymns good: the band was challenging themselves. The band had a fire under their asses, and tried to push themselves beyond what they could do at the time. The result might've been sloppy and Adams' vocals all over the place, but that was part of the charm. After all, if Darkthrone made their first string of albums with polished production and airtight performances, it would have been boring as all hell.

Another way of phrasing the criteria for a successful rerecord would be this: Does it add anything to the legacy of Battle Hymns, or does it cash in on said legacy? After describing what the original had going for it, I will now say that the rerecord is diametrically opposed to it. While I'm sure the original had equally barebones riffs, I don't remember it sounding this threadbare, and last time I checked Adams didn't sound asleep at the mic, too. While the members are largely the same, do not delude yourself, gentle reader: this is not the same Manowar. The performance is sluggish, more in line with their monolithic recent catalog, and I swear to god Donnie Hamzik did more than just "bass snare bass snare" and did a lot more fills on the original, as well. The simple fact is that nothing on this rerecord eclipses the original except the production values, which mean nothing if the performance can't back it up, and no member really pulls his weight here. Adams' performance is nothing special, Joey is out in front as always, but performs will little intensity, Logan has clearly done better performances, and Hamzik seems to have not taken the years off the stage well, as his technique leaves a lot to be desired. On its own, the performance and content here is about what you'd expect from recent Manowar, with the stripped down tendencies resembling The Lord of Steel rather than Gods of War, however. Still though, that would be if it were a new album. It's not, though. I give no credit for the inherent strength of the material because it's not original material. What matters here is if this added anything to the legacy of the original, or Manowar's legacy as a whole, and this simply doesn't cut the mustard. It's fuckin' BORING!

Perhaps this was simply the wrong album to rerecord; Battle Hymns, in the original version, was raw, unkempt, and wild, and it sounded best that way, and this does no due service towards that ideal. Maybe the subdued nature of Manowar these days will better suit the rerecord of Kings of Metal, which they're doing right now. However, my gut tells me the opposite, and that this rerecord was dreadful because the band behind it has ran out of ideas, and been out of ideas for years now, and thus no new interpretation of the material is present because Manowar has no new ideas. This is most apparent in the faster songs like Fast Taker and Manowar, which despite their classification as "faster" songs, still have the feeling of an imperial procession and less of 4 guys rockin the fuck out. At the end of the day, rerecords are either two things: a band that wants to revitalize their old material with new inspiration and techniques, or a band that ran out of ideas and needs something to feed its fans lest they grow impatient.

Guess which one Manowar is.