Review Summary: "We all like it, rock'n'roll!"
Manowar. Unwavering warriors of steel to some, overblown quasi-joke to most, the self-styled Kings of Metal have nonetheless been able to build a solid career, earning the trust of metalheads the world over and spawning ever more overblown descendents in the process (*cough* Rhapsody of Fire! *cough*). And all of that started back in the 80’s, with a bunch of seminal records which helped launch epic heavy metal, as a genre, into the mainstream. There was of course the debut, Battle Hymns
; but more significantly, there were Kings Of Metal
and Fighting The World
. And while the former would go on to achieve the biggest success, the latter is arguably the most instantly appealing, balanced record of Manowar’s career.
Released a year before its more famous counterpart, Fighting The World
saw Manowar more preoccupied with getting heavy metal on the radio than with epic sword-and-sorcery. This change of direction is apparent not only in the lyrics, but also on the music, which often eschews the band’s trademark epicism in favour of a more straightforward approach. Epicosity
abounds in tracks such as Holy War
, one of those semi-narrated, keyboard-driven ballads the group loves so dearly; however, tracks like Fighting The World
and Blow Your Speakers
border on hard rock, and at times the band even finds itself playing straight-out, nondenominational heavy metal, like on Violence and Bloodshed
. The result of all this is a lighter, more accessible sound which may have enraged purists, but certainly helped Manowar get into the public ear.
More significantly, the songs are very strong indeed. In fact, apart from a couple of notable exceptions to be mentioned shortly, one can say there isn’t a weak track on here. Sure, not all of them are that strong, and there is the odd over-repeated chorus, as well as couplets which would make a grade-schooler blush (”stripes on a tiger don’t wash away/Manowar’s made of steel, not clay”
). But from a musical perspective, they are all incredibly appealing. Take, for example, Blow Your Speakers
. It’s actually among the least engaging songs on the album, and its lyrics may seem like a 16-year-old’s idea of counter-culture rebeliousness, but I’ll be damned if that chorus isn’t catchy. Same with Fighting The World
, where Scott Columbus’ larger-than-life drums make up for a few of the track’s flaws.
And then, of course, there are the standouts. Carry On
immediately rockets up to the status of best thing on the album, with its blazing pace and engaging singalong lyrics. Defender
follows suit, working exactly as well as every other ballad of the genre Manowar ever wrote. But really, you could pick any song in the album, and it would have a memorable bit. In fact, most people who heard this could give you at least two or three details, be it the chorus of Black Wind, Fire and Steel
or Carry On
, the drums on Fighting The World
or even the initial verse of Blow Your Speakers
But not everything is perfect on the song front. Looking at the tracklist, you may have noticed there are a couple of tracks I have yet to mention. That’s because, quite simply, they’re stupid. Fortunately, there’s nothing as inane here as the waste of studio time which is that fully-narrated track from Kings Of Metal
; however, there are a couple of decidedly asinine cuts that seem designed merely to beef up the already quite slim 36-minute running time. Drums Of Doom
is exactly what the title indicates, a drum-driven interlude which could have been used as the intro to Holy War
. Similarly, Master Of Revenge
consists of all of four lines, and could have been tacked on to the end of the aforementioned song, making it one longer but relevant track instead of three shorter tracks of which two are silly and expendable.
Still, for all its flaws, Fighting The World
is a hell of a good time, and a very recommended listen to fans of hard rock, epic metal or just good old hard’n’heavy. It would deservedly help Manowar on the road to headbanging stardom, and twenty-five years later it remains a deliciously cheesy, rollicking landmark in the history of metal. ”Born to amplify!”