Kings of Metal proved to be a big hit with the fans. While its success was commercial rather than artistic, it included some of Manowar’s classics, such as Heart of Steel, Hail and Kill and The Crown and The Ring. More than anything, it restored Manowar’s position in the hearts of the legendary Army of Immortals and repaired some of the damage Fighting the World had caused. In the end, it cost Manowar two members; founding member Ross the Boss and drummer Scott Colombus. It took them four years to find replacements and release a record that could be aptly described as a mighty return to form.
First of all, Triumph of Steel was not a “safe” record. With the exception of the aforementioned three songs, which are standard epic metal, Kings of Metal had found them performing a brand of classy yet not classic heavy/power metal. In Triumph of Steel, Manowar made their intentions clear from the very first track; 28 minute-opener Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy has Homer’s Iliad as the central theme, and serves as a declaration of their return to the epic sound that made them famous. In terms of technical ability, Manowar was never as lethal as in Triumph of Steel. Rhino (who replaced Colombus) is a masterful drummer and Joey DeMaio honored him by letting him play his own solo in Achilles, Agony and Ecstacy. David Shankle, who replaced Ross the Boss, is a shredder (latter, he abandoned Manowar to focus on his guitar studies). Next to them is Joey DeMaio, whose abilities were well known by then, and of course Eric Adams. The respected vocalist chooses to sing in a lower register, sounding confident and strong, while he retains his capacity to master the higher notes whenever it is needed.
Triumph of Steel could be seen as Manowar’s fifth masterpiece (the four first records being the four first masterpieces). It is also by far their darkest and most aggressive record; Ride the Dragon is a power metal song in the borders of thrash with exhausting rhythms and ferocious vocals. The exact same could be said for Death Hector’s Reward, or the last minute of The Demon’s Whip. On the other hand, Burning is viciously dark, with a remarkable absence of structure; no choruses, only Adams whispering and screaming (towards the end), the band entering here and there to play a ritualistic mid tempo riff. Demon’s Whip includes an impressive, Sabbath influenced, very mean riff and a menacing chorus-the last minute, as said before is a pure thrash holocaust. Spirit Horse of the Cherokee is a tribute to the Indians; Manowar imitate Indian rhythms and dress them up with a heroic chorus, resulting in a very distinct track. As usual, there is also a piece which praises the virtues of the Heavy Metal nation. Metal Warriors lightens the overall dark mood and serves as the traditional-metal break in an epic metal record.
The pinnacle of the album is the duet Master of the Wind and Power of thy Sword. The first one is Triumph of Steel’s most special moment, a touching, acoustic ballad with some of the band’s most optimistic lyrics: “and for any day that stinks, two better days it brings, nothing is as bad as it seems”. The latter is the best epic metal song they wrote since 1984 (and until 2002’s Call to Arms), with its fast riffs, glorious chorus and silent atmospheric middle section. With the exception of the opening track, which disrupts the excellence of the record by being overambitious, too long and ultimately weary (it is their most complex song, but there are moments that don’t really fit in such as the bass solo or the drum solo, which ruin the incredible opening riffs), the rest of their record is flawless.
The Triumph of Steel is the closest Manowar got to re-approaching their golden age (1981-1984), but it remains criminally overlooked up to this day. It is true, Triumph of Steel is not an epic tale of glory (like Into Glory Ride was), but an epic tale of hatred and vengeance, which explains its obscure tone and aggressive aesthetics. That is in fact its uniqueness. As a result, it didn’t produce the number of hits Kings of Metal (or the first four albums) produced, nor it ever became a fan favorite, despite the fact that it is one of Manowar’s most varied and consistent works and that its overall quality is of very high standards.