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killer overcomes filler - 90%

caspian, August 17th, 2012

Ninety percent for an album in which near half the songs could best be described as "eccentric" or "strangely endearing" at best, or "godawful" or perhaps "what the hell, an opera cover?" at worst, depending on mood. This probably requires some explaining; I guess the simplest way to put it is that an album is an album is an album, not merely a collection of random songs; thus, if the album as a whole gets my dick hard and my neck hurting, I can and will sing its' praises irrespective of how head scratchingly weird some of the song choices are.

The vocals here are a big part of what makes the filler tolerable and the better (heavier) tunes so excellent. Adams' vocals are always goofy, but always super earnest, as charismatic as Hitler, always passionate, manly as shiiiit and they always sound supremely excellent. Sure, 'Nessun Dorma' is nothing if not proof that opera is damn hard to pull off and best left to professionals, but how many other metal vocalists could make "An American Trilogy" sort of (sort of) work? It should sound awful, and I guess if you're looking at it objectively than it is, but as it's hard to hate, say, a retarded duckling, so it is hard to hate Adams' full on, give-everything-to-the-song-and-sing-glory-glory-hallelujah-unironically-over-and-over-again thing that he does in that tune. Despite the flute, piccolo bass, constant talk about living in Dixie and the fact it's some sort of super old civil-war era song or something I've apparently played it 11 times the whole way through. He even pulls off 'Fight for Freedom'- another one that should maybe sound like an Iced Earth b-side at best, but instead is perhaps the best 9/11-never-forget song ever written. Not that the competition's fierce, but still; it works; I think? It's catchy, it's patriotic without being too vomit inducing, and it's catchy, and it's really catchy. Thanks mostly, again, to the vocals.

So it's no real surprise that when there's actually good material to sing over, shit gets really off the hook. Interesting to note that there's not really many- if any?- good riffs at all throughout the entire album; there's a heavy 'Euro power' thing in that most every rhythm guitar part is just a chord progression for huge vocals. Function over form though; most of the songs aren't what you'd call complex but they work for what they are; simple, epic songs with tight arrangements, heaps of energy, and a solid production. Certainly some of the strongest choruses in Manowar's catalogue; 'Call to Arms' is a highly underrated song with a real rousing chorus, whereas the last few tunes on the album tend towards much speedier realms but with a similar dedication to cheesy metal valour. Again; Adams to thank. Shit lyrics, not many riffs; but a very angry american delivering cliche martial lyrics with such authority and enthusiasm that you'll fall in behind Manowar with no reservations.

But y'know, while the rest of the band (even DeMaio's pretty reserved on this album) are there mostly in service of the godlike vocals, they do a good job and serve the songs unfailingly, so credit where credit's due. I was previously only really familiar with Logan's work on the new Battle Hymns which suffice to say hadn't endeared me to him but here he sounds, if not particularly amazing, tight and fun to listen to. Nothing's particularly shreddy or crazy but whether it's the super fun soloing in Hands of Doom or the speed metal freight train (definitely the song with most of the album's riffs) that's House of Death, it sounds like he's having a fun time.

And perhaps that's what sums this album up- perhaps that's why I like despite the few fairly awful tunes, despite the general lack of riffs? It's catchy, it's energetic, and it's fun fun fun. Manowar sound like they're having a good time, and the material is catchy enough for it to drag you into it hook line and sinker. It honestly seems like disliking this album would take serious effort, as turning this up is such a pleasurable experience. A few very very goofy songs, but highly recommended!