Just say the word Manowar to a random rocker in a club or whatever and see what kind of reaction it brings. Either the person is a fan and goes “YEAH! HAIL AND KILL DAMMIT!!” or he / she will give you a smile or just laugh out loud. Because no matter if you’re a fan or not, it’s pretty hard to take these guys seriously. At least in year of 2012. When they started out they were a bunch of testesterone filled boys in their mid – late twenties, all dressed up in leather underwear, animal skin and fur with fists held high and swords swinging. Today, these guys are in their late fifties and they still look the same, they also sound the same and their lyrics are about exactly the same things as they were 30 years ago.
Which is death to false metal, the love for heavy metal, going out to war, vikings and cutting the throats of their enemies. I’m dying to know exactly what goes on inside their heads. But you have to give them this – They have never, ever sold out. No matter what the current musical trends did look like, be it glam, AOR, funk or grunge, they have always stuck to their guns and done their thing. And nobody, but nobody has managed to tell them what to do or to change their ways and for that, they deserve some respect, even if you think that they’re the goofiest band on earth. Which many of you probably do.
Me, I became a fan after the first time a friend of mine played Battle Hymns for me a cold winter day back in 1982 and I still love their earlier albums such as Into Glory Ride, Hail To England, Sign Of The Hammer, Fighting The World and Kings Of Metal. After that, all of their albums have been a bit uneven or just plain bad. Of course lots of that has to do with the fact that Manowar’s main songwriter and bass player Joey DeMaio’s sidekick Ross The Boss left the band after that album in 1988 and after hearing Ross’ solo albums it’s easy to state that Ross needs Manowar as much as vice versa.
The uneven quality of Manowar’s albums after 1988 is a bit of a mystery, though, because they do take their time in between records. Up to some 5 years are not unusual and when you have that much time to write and record it’s really strange that they can’t make the albums better. Or maybe they do believe that their albums are all killer, no filler. Or maybe this is just as good as it gets for them nowadays. I still think Ross needs to come back, though.
Their last album Gods Of War came out back in 2007 and was, in my book, their best effort since Ross left. But many beg to differ on that one, I have learned. So, when they return 5 years later with a new release, I hoped that they would have followed the path of that album and delivered the goods once again. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen! Once again, Manowar releases an uneven album. Because even if this CD had been a true Manowar -killer, the poor sound probably would have destroyed the experience anyway. But this album is not a killer. Not even close. More of a filler!
The title track is confusing as it sounds like a demo. The song feels rushed and not quite finished and in “Manowarriors” they have tried to write one of those “Metal Warriors” / “Brothers Of Metal” kind of single-fist in the air songs. The problem is that they have already done those kind of songs a lot better than this. On “Black List” and “Expendeble” things turns real bad. This is the kind of stuff that should never have left the studio and are songs that both fans and band could do very well without. Then there’s “Hail, Kill And Die”. This is pathetic. You have already written “Hail And Kill” so there is no need to do it again, even using almost the same title. Maybe they could have gotten away with it if the song was any good. It isn’t.
But all is not bad here. “Born In A Grave” is exactly how I like my Manowar, “Righteous Glory” is a grand ballad, not a far cry from “Heart Of Steel”, that really hits home. They should write more of these type of songs. “Touch The Sky” is one of those tracks where they go all pop on us, still with a metal foundation. This is a thing that they are very good at. Joey DeMaio do have a very melodic vein and clearly a sense for catchiness. There’s a also a movie track on here. It’s called “El Gringo”, just like the movie in question and what a great song it is. Totally classic Manowar. Why don’t they write more of those?
I’m not gonna go as far as calling this album crap, but after 5 years in the making, I expect more. Lots more. Too many of the songs don’t cut it and production is horrible. After spending all their lives in the music business, at least DeMaio must hear how poor this album sounds. I’m all for doing your own thing until you die and Manowar have all my respect for that, but if you do, then make sure that every release sounds good and that the songs are well written. Because this one is actually neither.
Jon Wilmenius (4/10)
01. The Lord Of Steel
03. Born In A Grave
04. Righteous Glory
05. Touch The Sky
06. Black List
08. El Gringo
10. Hail Kill And Die