Sorry guys but I got to skip the classic introduction to the band, because I am more than bored with the “Manowar is cheesy” or “a band you either love or hate” clichés that accompany nearly all the written texts about them.
Instead let’s put Louder than Hell in a musical historical context and draw some conclusions about Manowar. In the middle of the 90’s heavy metal was as good as dead. Pantera was taking heavy metal to the extreme, Korn and nu metal was the new trend in American youth and Metallica gave us Load. The rest of metal bands were looking to expand their sound and mix their influences with other metal sub-genres. As far as the mainstream goes, you know better than me that Oasis was ruling the world at that time and grunge was still getting a lot of praise in 1996.
Inside the mind of Joey De Maio, we go now and may the force be strong in us.
“The last album in 1992, Triumph of Steel was a personal success because we took our music to the extreme. Commercially it was ok and we toured for a whole 2 years to promote it. By now we don’t have a guitarist and a drummer because Rhino and Shankle left us. Phew. Let’s bring Scott back and I’ll call this crazy mother***er Logan to check if he can stand to play simple chords, because he looks like he wants to shred Uli Jon Roth style. Not in my band dude, you ‘ll just get a whole song (today is a good day to die) to sonically masturbate! I want a back to the roots album to get back on the road as soon as possible and record live albums because old school metalheads are only going to buy our albums if we get closer to them.”
And so it happened. Louder than Hell was released in 1996 and for the next 5-6 years Manowar were playing live, recorded 2 double live albums, one anthology and singles in different languages. The music is simple mid tempo 80’s heavy metal, influenced by Judas Priest. For those that don’t know Manowar’s style, imagine a mix of Priest, Queen and Kiss. That means simple riffs, loud bass, symphonic influences and larger than life solos. If you don’t sing along "Return of the Warlord" and "The gods made heavy metal" you never liked metal, friend!
It seems that music stopped at British Steel for Louder than Hell. Although not as brutal as the 1980 Priest masterpiece, Manowar produced an album destined for old school metal bars. The songs "Brothers of Metal", "Courage" and "Number One" were demoed and played live by the band already in 1986, 10 years before their official album release. You see, no time for new material, let’s get quick all the guns blazing! "King" is the song that stands out in the album, speaking strictly about quality. Starts with a typical Manowar piano intro, bursts out in a typical Manowar style rocker and concludes in fade away screams. Classic.
Now about the obvious cons of Louder than Hell. The songs are very, very, very simple. You will hear nothing that you've never heard a thousand times from 1980 and on. So this can get boring really quick. “Why not listen to British Steel instead?” I hear you shouting in the back, dear reader. Well yes you could but you wouldn't satisfy your need for a modern production and the notion that heavy metal is still alive in the nineties in all its’ glory and dumbness. Another misfire is the atrocious ballad Courage. If I was the editor of the album I would close the album with Courage in order to keep the party going with the heavy metal thunders and mellow out in the end. But consistency in Manowar albums was never a fact. You can’t expect of a stubborn act like them to behave in a proper way, they wanted a ballad and they stacked it in right where you were having a blast. At least they keep "The Power" for last practically saying that no matter how many simple crowd pleasers we can write, it’s still easy to rip every wimp band apart.
Well that’s that for a pure heavy metal album -one of the last of the kind- during a period that heavy metal was looking for new audiences. Can serve as an answer to the question “hey dad, what was true metal like in the nineties?”. For me personally, it’s a favorite because I always loved Manowar in their simplest form and still hold Battle Hymns as their best. So for me is a 3.5, for objective listeners is an average record, let's settle for a 3.