METAL ESSENTIALS: Manowar

New to the Kings of Metal? Wanting to know more? Metal as Fuck editor Scott Adams selects his five fave Manowar albums by way of initiation into the rituals of steel that await you…

THE DIFFICULT SECOND ALBUM:

Into Glory Ride (Music For Nations/Megaforce, 1983)

Reeling from the lack of success of major label debut Battle Hymns just a year previously, bassist/major songwriter Joey DeMaio rallied the troops (that's guitarist Ross the Boss, vocalist Eric Adams and drummer Scott Columbus) for their back-to-basics second effort, Into Glory Ride. Heavier, darker and, more importantly, better than its predecessor, IGR sets the tone for the ‘real’ Manowar sound we came to know and love; Choc-full of ridiculous Conan-meets-the-vikings conceptual epics – March For Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death) and Revelation (Death’s Angel) are both classics of the genre – this is the sound of Manowar finding its feet and it’s formula and taking to flight. And of course it wouldn’t be a Manowar album without a brainless biker anthem – Warlord opens the album in suitably foolish style here. 

 

 

KILLING WITH POWER:

Hail to England (Music for Nations, 1984)

If Into Glory Ride focussed on the darkly epic, its successor Hail to England cut away much of the excess flab and went straight for the jugular. Shorter, heavier and more melodic when it needed to be, Hail to England saw the band making their first serious inroads into the European market via the gift of gore-soaked anthems like Blood of My Enemies and Kill with Power. There were epics, of course – album closer Bridge of Death saw the band edging towards proto-black metal, if only in lyrical terms, and DeMaio, after an album off, also saw fit to ‘treat’ fans to another in his series of bass solos, Black Arrows, prefaced by a (probably) unintentionally hilarious spoken word intro threatening death to ‘all those who play false metal’. 

 

 

THE MAJOR-LABEL SELLOUT:

Fighting the World (Atco, 1987)

Hail to England may have positioned the band as potential major players in the post-NWoBHM landscape, but they failed to keep up the momentum with it’s follow-up effort, the lacklustre Sign of the Hammer. All was not lost, however, with the band worming their way into the affections of major label Atlantic (only to be shunted into the siding that was Atco records pretty much immediately) for 1987’s Fighting the World. FTW is the love-it-or-hate-it album for many longstanding Manowar devotees, being too full of short n'sharp MTV-targeting anthems like Blow Your Speakers and Carry On for those of a more overtly leather n’studded disposition to stomach; I, however, love it. I love the anthemic call to arms that is the album-opening title track, I love the Rambo-inspired bozo stupidity of Violence and Bloodshed, I love the nascent thrash/power assault of Black Wind, Fire and Steel. And give it an open minded listen, and you will too…

 

 

THE APOTHEOSIS:

Kings of Metal (Atlantic, 1988)

The (limited) success of FTW was enough to convince Atlantic to shift the band over from Atco to the parent label, and what a wise move that was, as the band pulled out all the stops to release what remains to this day their finest forty eight minutes and five seconds of music. It’s the last album to feature founding guitarist Ross the Boss, and what a swansong it turned out to be, packed as it is to the rafters with high quality, high impact heavy metal grandeur. Kingdom Come, the title track, closer Blood of the Kings and the choral masterpiece The Crown and the Ring are all grade-A Manowar masterpieces, but the real jewel is the stompingly brilliant Hail and Kill; Put simply this is the apotheosis of melodic, singalong heavy metal, never equalled let alone bettered, by any band at any time. Vocalist Eric Adams puts in a career-best performance throughout, and Kings of Metal is, as a result, one of the all-time great American heavy metal albums.

 

 

THE RETURN TO FORM:

Warriors of the World (Nuclear Blast 2002)

Sadly Manowar couldn’t replicate the brilliance of Kings of Metal, and spent the next decade casting around with diminishing success trying to regain their mojo. Even I’d nearly given up the ghost by 2002, when a good friend of mine sent me an unmarked CD-R in the mail promising I’d like what I heard… That CD-R was an advance copy of Warriors of the World, and my correspondent was right. By rights, it shouldn’t work; WotW is all over the place, featuring covers of the Puccini classic Nessun Dorma and Elvis Presley’s An American Trilogy, yet… the sum of the parts is spectacular. Adams again stars, completely owning Nessun Dorma in a way only the greats of Opera singing really can – yet adding his own metal scream at the end to really seal the deal – and tunes such as the stonkingly anthemic title track, opener Call to Arms, the furious House of Death and closer Fight Until We Die all slot smoothly into the pantheon of Manowar classics. Sadly this has turned out to be the last truly great Manowar record, with the band’s subsequent policy of rehashing former glories dulling the legend a little, but it’s a great record in it’s own right.

 

So there you have it – five barnstorming slabs of classic heavy metal, forged in fire, moulded on the anvil of the gods and deployed on the battlefields of metal for all eternity – if you love heavy metal, you’ll love all of these album, I guarantee it… Hail and Kill!