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as usual, some greatness, some garbage - 71%

Abominatrix, November 19th, 2003

Ultraboris pretty much nailed this band when he said they were inconsistent. So far, the only Manowar album I've heard that I've appreciated and felt moved by all the way through was "Hail to England". Apparently, "Sign of the hammer" was recorded at around the same time as that other album, and, though it's not nearly universally brilliant, offers a few pretty good stompers and epics. I am afraid that what we might have hear is "Load/Reload" syndrome, in that these perhaps were songs that didn't quite make the cut of the original album, but I don't know enough about Manowar's history to say whether this is true. Certainly this album lacks the true anthemic classics that "Hail to England" has got, with the notable acception of "Thor: The Powerhead", but there are at least four great songs here, which for Manowar ain't too bad.

"All Men Play On Ten" rules. I don't care for some of Manowar's "heavy metal anthems", but this is simply the shit. It starts out with a cutting, pounding riff..and the verses give Eric adams full reign to sing about how he'll never turn down low to make money, etc, etc. It's very singable, and catchy, and you'll soon forget your shame and belt out the lyrics along with Mr. Adams. Manowar have stuck to their guns, too, despite how utterly vapid their latest album seems to be. "Thor", as previously mentioned, might be the album's highlight…more utterly great vocal melodies and some really nice pounding drum work. "Mountains", is a ballad…but a very solid one at that. Eric adams delivers one of his least pretentious and most stirring performances during the verses, and the twanging, scintillating bass effects (for want of a better description) are nicely evocative. Massive, proud chorus too, which everyone should agree is something Manowar does best. "Guyana (Cult of the Damned) seems to be kind of legendary among fans, but like "Sign of the Hammer", I think it's only a decent track. Spot the "Star Spangled Banner" melody in this song and win a prize.
What about the overwrought garbage? Oh, that would be a real dud of a song called "Animals", with some stupid oversexed lyrics, and no riff to speak of, and a chorus that is lame and repetitive. Then there's "Thunderpick", three and a half minutes of bullshit bass wankery courtesey of Joey DeMaio, who must have run out of ideas for classical pieces to mutilate this time, as he seems to be trying to emulate the dead-end noodling that can be found on the first King Crimson album or something. "The Oath"?…perfectly forgettable..not despicable but harmless and rather boring.

Really, I think it's Eric adams' vocals that make this album. That, and the true heavy metal attitude, although it still sounds better on "Hail to England". If you're a fan of Adams' singing, some of his best is on here, complete with those trademark piercing wail/shrieks that he always manages to make sound exactly the same every time he does them, which is somehow admirable. Now that that's over with, my one question is, why doesn't the band ever play "Thor (The Powerhead)" in concert?