Review Summary: Manowar does the unthinkable and releases an album that's actually lacking metal. Gods of War is marred by endless overtures and interludes, but the bonus track saves the day.
Germans are sort of an interesting breed when it comes to music. I can say this safely based on a few things, but there's one that stands out in my mind.
David Hasselhoff is not a talented singer. In fact, he's not a talented actor either. The often drunk, often ridiculous 'Hoff can barely carry a tune, yet, somehow, the Germans eat it up. Night Rocker
, his debut album, not only showed us that he was definitely maybe only partially joking, but it got his name out there in the music world. But Night Rocker
didn't garner him the fame I'm talking about, no; it was the release of Looking for Freedom
that skyrocketed him to superstardom. And this is where it gets ridiculous...
The album went triple platinum, and the Hoff was eventually named top selling artist in Germany for the year (1989).
Basically I'm trying to say the Germans are a little odd. There's something else they're fascinated with though, something I actually agree with. The Germans, they love their Manowar. And really, who could blame them?
Manowar is a group that has based their entire career on three things: Metal, Manliness and Sex. They're misogynistic, muscular, hairy, mighty, loud, and they love to ride motorcycles. They're advocates of True Metal, and defenders of all that is real in the Metal world. Though puzzling to some, as it's never quite clear how serious the band really is, Manowar is a group that you can appreciate for more than their ridiculous image. Basically, the music kicks as
But the band is getting older, and I'm led to believe that with age comes maturity. So, with each member getting up there age-wise, maybe this is Manowar's time to really take themselves seriously. Enter Gods of War
Gods of War
pains me deeply. Released in Germany months before it'll see the streets of North America, Gods of War
is the first entry to a supposed series of concept albums based on mythological gods. This is Manowar giving it up to Odin, and it's probably twice as epic as you're expecting. But would you believe that's its biggest fault? Ah yes, chock another one up to the 'too-epic-for-its-own-good' league of albums, and while you're at it, tell Rhapsody of Fire
to change their name back.
If you hadn't guessed, Gods of War
suffers from the same blunders as the latest offering from Italy's finest "Symphonic Hollywood Metal" band, who believe it or not is actually managed by Manowar bassist Joey DeMaio. When I listen to Rhapsody [Of Fire], I expect a lot of drawn out overtures and tacky monologues, in fact, that's the sole reason I started listening to them. But this is fuc
king Manowar, and with Manowar I expect the Metal. I expect TRUE Metal, and I expect it in ridiculously large, loud quantities. That's where this album disappoints.
Gods of War
is a pretty long album, falling two minutes short of an hour and fifteen, and it's honestly too epic for it's own good. It starts off good enough; when I first turned this on I was ridiculously excited."Overture to the Hymn of the Immortal Warriors" is just what it sounds like, opening the album with what sounds like a full symphony and a giant choir to back them up. Strings and organs set the mood with harmonic choir vocals keeping the pace, but what really irks me is that pace is kept throughout most of the album. The fact is that there really isn't much Metal on Gods of War
. The intro is 6:20 in length, and when it's over you expect to hear the protectors of True Metal ride in on their Harley's or something, but no, instead you get another
overture. This time it's "The Ascension". Sure it has his purpose from the point of concept, but it honestly does a great job at killing the mood pretty early on. "King of Kings" eventually starts and finally kicks off the Metal, but I mean, this was off the EP (much like "The Ascension") and though it was live on Sons of Odin
, it's still basically the same track. But regardless, at least we're finally done with the overtures and interludes and monologues...right?
"Army of the Dead Part One" is yet another pointless interlude, but at least it's relatively brief. Finally it's "Sleipnir", our first new Metal Manowar track since the EP was released months ago. It's typical Manowar, and that's why I love it. Sure, they're still singing about Odin and Valhalla (which is apparently only reachable by crossing a rainbow bridge...wtf?), but the music is traditional True Metal. Mid-paced Metal with powerful vocals, thunderous drums and epic vocal prowess, all of which are subtly accompanied by a quiet choir of sorts. It seems we're definitely off to the running, and this is where the album's at its strongest. "Loki God of Fire" is the band's attempt at an A&E style Bio with a Metal twist, and it's yet another Manowar classic. "Blood Brothers" is yet another gem, mischievously starting off like another boring overture only to have Eric Adams enter, accompanied only by synths. This is deep stuff, man. This is the more "inspirational" side of Manowar, one we're rarely exposed to. As a drum-roll enters, some light guitars join in on the fun and Eric Adams lets us know he's here for us, a true friend with no price. It's great. It's hilarious. It's sort of Metal, but it's definitely still Manowar. This is what this album should consist of exclusively; a blend of mid-paced Metal with the occasional Power Ballad thrown in to fill the cheese/laugh quota.
But don't worry, the album quickly returns to the theme of boring and dreary symphonic overtures. 7 minutes pass -that's two more tracks for the record- and then another track off the EP kicks in. "Sons of Odin" is one of the stronger tracks on the album, calling back classic Manowar songs with its powerful and driving bassline and building structure.
Honestly, I could write for pages upon pages about this album and it'd still only be half as epic as this album sets out to be. If you include the AMAZING bonus track (more on that in a minute), this album is one hour and thirteen minutes long. Now, if you do the math, there's about half an hour worth of overtures and interludes on the album. There's 8 Metal tracks on the album, which equals half of the tracklist, and three (four if you count Odin, which was on the EP in string form) of those were off the EP. What you're left with is around 5 new Manowar tracks worth listening to, one of which is a bonus. Honestly, as a self-proclaimed protector of True Metal, I can't help but feel a little cheated. If it weren't for the Bonus Track, I'd feel more than cheated. But...luckily there's that damned bonus track. I mean, there's some really awesome stuff on here, but for the most it's something I've literally heard before, but the bonus track, well...
Playing off Led Zeppelin
's "Kashmir" better than Puff Daddy ever could, "Die For Metal" is the Metal anthem for the 21st Century. This is the Manowar we've come to know and love. The lyrics, which sort of fall in line with every Manowar quote we've ever heard, are all about Metal's effect on the group, as well as their unbridled devotion to the genre. It's anthemic and powerful, 5 minutes of true glory if I've ever heard it. Seemingly live (though not really confirmed), "Die for Metal" has some of the most powerful drumming we've heard from the band in years and has Eric Adams belt out one of his most passionate vocal performances in recent memory. So while Gods of War
is ultimately disappointing, there's a glimmer of hope at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I leave you with the lyrics to "Die for Metal".
THEY CAN'T STOP US LET 'EM TRY
FOR HEAVY METAL...WE WOULD DIE!
Quit my job this mornin', said forever I would hold my head up high.
Cause I need Metal in my life, just like an eagle needs to fly.
So I walk outside into the street, from the hall I heard thunder and screams (YEAH!)
I walked inside so I could hear, and the guy beside me gave me a beer
He had his fist up in the air, and called me brother, said "My friends are over there".
They called themselves Immortals, they're the truest of the true
And in that very moment I was born again like you!
THEY SAID HOLD YOUR HEAD UP HIGH
RAISE YOUR FIST UP IN THE AIR
PLAY METAL LOUDER THAN HELL (LOUDER THAN HELL)
THEY CAN'T STOP US, LET 'EM TRY
FOR HEAVY METAL WE WOULD DIE!
Brothers stand beside me, there's a battle on
Know my words are true
There's a battle for True Metal, they're marching
They're marching on, me and you
Ten thousand strong are here tonight, with twenty-thousand fists on in the air
The power of True Metal's calling you...
Stay true, Metal Elite.