Manowar is one of the most controversial bands in heavy metal history. Fans and haters are distinguished by their tolerance (or the lack of it) towards the innumerous metal clichés presented in any one of Manowar’s records. However, the fact that Manowar are unquestionably talented songwriters and skilled musicians ultimately gives a meaning to the debate; if they weren’t musically challenging, none would even care.
Lately, this controversy was fuelled by the ambition of Gods of War, Manowar’s previous album. Of the two poles that actually form their music, the epic and the heavy/power one, Gods of War was too much on the epic side, with the band taking a European, more symphonic approach (i.e. Rhapsody)and not in their classic Into Glory Ride style. It included many instrumentals and narrations, leaving little actual space for heavy metal. Honestly, the band was in good form, but the record was poor in terms of quantity, as far as the presence of metal in it is concerned.
The band’s twelfth recording, Lord of Steel, stands on the exact opposite side. Lord of Steel is to Gods of War pretty much what Louder than Hell was to Triumph of Steel; straight-forward metal after an ambitious, dramatic, daring epic record. Focusing on their heavier side, Manowar eliminate most of their epic elements in favor of an aggressive, muscular approach. Eric Adams is done with the vocal acrobatics, he uses just the necessary melodies to make any song memorable and only in one or two occasions he reaches for the higher notes. The production is once again amazing in its power and clarity (my sole objection concerns the fuzzy tone of the bass guitar) and Donnie Hamzik, in his return, does a great job in filling the shoes of Scott Columbus (R.I.P.).
Lord of Steel sounds weak during the first three songs, which balance between the generic and the unnecessary. The title track has a Judas Priest (whose influence in this record is striking) vibe, especially the opening riff, that suits them well, but other than that it is typical post-2000 Manowar playing power metal in the vein of King of Kings and House of Death. Manowarriors breaks the proud tradition of successful tribute songs to their fans, a tradition that includes among others Army of Immortals and Warriors of the World. It is the most generic Manowar can get, probably the worst track in The Lord of Steel. Born in a Grave is slower paced, atmospheric and it includes a nice chorus, yet somehow it doesn’t deliver.
From this point on, Manowar’s strong personality finally presents itself and the record lifts off. Righteous Glory, this record’s ballad proves that when Manowar add a little melody, even to their most ferocious tracks, the result can be astonishing. It is an excellent song that stands somewhere between Blood Brothers and Swords in the Wind. Touch the Sky is a Louder than Hell-like song with a very catchy and memorable chorus. Black List with its menacing, mid-tempo riff and overconfident Eric Adams, is the meanest Manowar possible. Expendable is aggressive, with punchy riffs and a barking Adams, simple yet very effective. El Gringo, Lord of Steel’s first single, has memorable vocal lines and a galloping riff combined with a nice guitar melody, a song that confirms this album’s relation to Louder than Hell. Annihilation starts with a staccato riff that becomes impressive once the whole band kicks in, and leads to a powerful chorus. The last track, Hail Kill and Die, has a pounding, super heavy rhythm and it is destined to become a fan favorite.
The fact that Manowar is synonymous with epic metal, won’t help their fans come to a unanimous decision about the quality of Lord of Steel, given that it almost completely lacks the epic element. Personally I missed that element a lot. Then again, they have been a band of many strengths in their own way and the fact that Bridge of Death is the best epic metal song of all times never made Army of Immortals any less enjoyable.
@ Voivod: thanks for the suggestions man, the new album puzzled me at first but it gradually grew very much in me. If you were disappointed in Gods of War chances are that you are going to like this, except if you still expect them to record sth in the vein of their first 4 records. Lord of Steel sounds like a blend of Kings of Metal with a more aggressive Louder than Hell. Very few epic metal moments and too much heavy (really heavy, thank god for the production) and power metal.
I like it, but have in mind I really like Manowar in general
"The only Manowar albun that I have listened to well enough is Kings of Metal, which is great"
Oh you're not familiar with the band's earlier stuff??? then I STRONGLY recommend Sign of the Hammer and Hail to England, then Into Glory Ride, which must be the definitive epic metal album. Three of the best metal records of all time, seriously
Thanks man. Οσο για τις εκλογες είναι κρισιμότατες, όμως η πορεία του χρηματιστηρίου τις τελευταίες μέρες μπορεί να αποκάλυψε τον νικητή. Δυστυχώς χρειάζεται ακόμα χρόνο και θυσίες, η χώρα δεν μπορεί να επανακάμψει άμεσα
I don't know, personally when I think of a "love us or hate us" case, my mind always goes to them first. And when I say controversial I don't mean bands like let's say Mayhem who became controversial for non musical reasons