Manowar
Sign of the Hammer


4.0
excellent

Review

by Siamois USER (3 Reviews)
January 17th, 2012 | 51 replies


Release Date: 1984 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The definitive Manowar lineup crafting fun songs during their peak years

Released in a compact time frame between 1982 and 1984, Manowar's first four albums are often cited as their best and most influential work. They were groundbreaking at a time where metal had not yet segmented into dozens of formulaic branches and featured elements that would be recycled or expanded by later bands in genres as diverse as power metal and viking metal. Sign of the Hammer was the fourth and last record of this golden era. For those familiar with any or all of their previous releases, this one will not take you by surprise. It features the definitive lineup of Eric Adams (vocals), Joey DeMaio (Bass), Ross the Boss (Guitar) and Scott Columbus (Drums). The production is basic, the music is raw and the performances are wild. Yet for all of this, Manowar did manage to polish their sound a little while remaining creative.

One of the hallmarks of Manowar is to mix themes of heroic tales from ages past with modern, rebellious rock n' roll anthems. This is obvious here once again. The album title and the cover featuring a hammer of battle that would suit Thor make you yearn for that epic feel but the album opener, All Men Play On Ten, is a hard rock statement on the evils of selling out. It's all about refusing to get a haircut and "buy small gear". Quite a catchy song, very lyrical and Joey DeMaio's surprisingly groovy bassline is preeminent and punchy, thanks to the no-frills mix. It's mid-tempo and heavy. Slightly reminiscent of Whitesnake, from the vocal work of Eric Adams to the song structure itself. They follow this with another hilariously cheesy song, Eric Adams likening himself to an Animal whose sex-appeal power will not be denied. The singer roars mightily throughout, the song is at a much quicker pace but fails to hit as hard as the opener. It does end on a high note with Ross the Boss ripping a lead as the song fades out.

It is on the third track that the epic side of Manowar finally rears its head and this will be the case for the remainder of SotH. Thor (The Powerhead) is a prototypical Manowar cut. Opening with drum, bass and guitar following the riff in unison and then developing into classic metal structure praising the god of thunder. Adams is backed up by choir-like synth effects between verses. The chorus features vocal harmonies by Adams that are subtly menacing. The song comes to a close much like it began, on a bang. Sign of the Hammer also features similar ingredients, although it ups the tempo and is quite furious. These two are very powerful. The Oath, is another aggressive track. In fact, more akin to speed metal than traditional metal but despite its frantic nature, it fails to grab the attention.

The band shows a totally different brand of epicness on Mountain, which is the longest track of the record at over 7 minutes and a highlight on this album. This is a completely unique song, very ethereal and haunting. Taking full advantage of the piccolo bass, DeMaio proves himself one of the better bassists in the genre not by shredding but rather with sheer creativity and restraint. The interplay between the vocal and bass melodies is sheer genius. One of the better use of a bass-driven song in the history of metal. The other standout track is closer Guyana (Cult of the Damned) and again, this is in part due to DeMaio as he kicks off the tune with a jaw-dropping intro, using his bass as a lead guitar. It immediately grabs your attention and never lets go. The sarcastic opening line from Eric Adams is intriguing and memorable:

"Thank you for the Kool-Aid, reverend Jim"

This grandiose track was inspired by the mass suicide that took place in Jonestown. It has all the flair and drama which Manowar are capable of unleashing. Joey DeMaio will certainly not go down as history's greatest lyricist but it is fun and refreshing to see Manowar tackle religious fervor, cult mentality and deception. Finally, a bass solo is almost a prerequisite on early Manowar albums and here we have the track Thunderpick. It is rather insipid wanking and with a running time of three minutes and a half, that's three minutes too long.

Following right on the heels of Hail to England, which is still considered by many to be their definitive album, Sign of the Hammer capped an amazing creative period for Manowar. It is quite astounding to think the two aforementioned albums were released mere months apart from each other, in the same year. The production may be a little dated but still delivers. Manowar wore their old school rock influences on their sleeves back then and you can definitely hear early heavy metal influences from Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Priest, Sabbath and Maiden. Ross the Boss' pedigree as a punk rocker offers a nice counterpoint to DeMaio's neoclassical leanings and Eric Adams puts the finishing touch thanks to his unique voice and spirited delivery.

SotH will appeal to fans of classic rock and early metal but devotees of various branches (Epic, viking, power) would also do well to check it out as one of the main sources of inspiration for later sub genres.


user ratings (223)
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
PsychicChris (4.5)
A sign of what Manowar can truly be capable of...

marbledking (5)
Give us your word, for the grand final stand......



Comments:Add a Comment 
Voivod
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2012


10832 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This didn't have a review already?



Bummer







Will read later.

Siamois
January 17th 2012


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, it was the only Manowar album from their first four without a review yet so I figured I would try my hand. Comments are welcome, this is my second review and I'm trying to refine my reviewing style.

Wizard
January 17th 2012


20530 Comments


Fuck that was a good read. Glad to have you aboard!

MO
January 17th 2012


24054 Comments


nice avatar, falling down is a sick movie

band rules

Siamois
January 17th 2012


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks guys! Glad to be here, lots of great reviews and I am discovering more great bands since joining.



And yeah, Falling Down is amazing

DarkNoctus
January 17th 2012


12243 Comments


no no no no!! >:[ blows dicks, blows dicks!! ]:

Poet
January 17th 2012


6146 Comments


is there a manowar song that you even like?

DarkNoctus
January 17th 2012


12243 Comments


no >:[

TheKleszcz
January 17th 2012


57 Comments


m/

Actually The Oath is one of my favourites on the album.

Siamois
January 17th 2012


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Actually The Oath is one of my favourites on the album."



I have to say, it's a song I used to skip or not pay attention to back in the days but after listening to it a lot while preparing this review, it has now stuck in my head and I appreciate it more.



Animal and The Oath are probably still the two songs I like the least but really, there are no tracks I consider bad on this album except Thunderpick, which I don't consider a song at all.

lostforwords
January 17th 2012


451 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Why do people keep saying that Manowar plays cheesy metal or something?

As far as I' m concerned Iron Maiden, or Blind Guardian write songs about heroes and wsords and honor etc, no one called them cheesy



(Or, how much better is it to speak of Satanism and Death like thrash bands did during the very same period?)

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
January 17th 2012


18997 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

GUYANAAAAAAAAA

pos for reviewing this.

Horsehammer
January 17th 2012


550 Comments


fun at best

MO
January 17th 2012


24054 Comments


"As far as I' m concerned Iron Maiden, or Blind Guardian write songs about heroes and wsords and honor etc, no one called them cheesy"

I think it's more their image, like they seem to live and breathe this stuff and have never once as far as I can tell strayed from the themes at all.

13themount
January 17th 2012


173 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I wish reviewers would stop using the word cheesy. This is a good collection of songs. Manowar should have been bigger; like Virgin Steele they got caught out by the advent of thrash.

TheKleszcz
January 17th 2012


57 Comments


"We wear leather, we wear spikes." No Iron Maiden nor Blind Guardian song approaches Manowar.

Siamois, I dislike Animal too (Pearl Jam also have a song with this name and I dislike it, maybe it's the title thing). Still, I enjoy The Oath very much, it's just full of power and you really want to wear leather and spikes and hang false prophets and deceivers on the trees. I've returned to this album a few times just for this song. Maybe you should drink more beer while you listen to it?

BallsToTheWall
January 17th 2012


51308 Comments


Haven't heard this one, I might check it out at some point. Good review.

Siamois
January 17th 2012


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Haven't heard this one, I might check it out at some point. Good review."



Thanks BallsToTheWall! I checked your ratings and if you like Into Glory Ride and Battle Hymns, this should be something you will enjoy. I didn't see Hail to England on your list. I would pick that one before SotH, even though really, they're all in the same ballpark IMO.

Siamois
January 17th 2012


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Siamois, I dislike Animal too (Pearl Jam also have a song with this name and I dislike it, maybe it's the title thing). Still, I enjoy The Oath very much, it's just full of power and you really want to wear leather and spikes and hang false prophets and deceivers on the trees. I've returned to this album a few times just for this song. Maybe you should drink more beer while you listen to it?"



Beer and loud volume are prerequisites!

Siamois
January 17th 2012


40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

To those who have deplored the use of the adjective cheesy in my review: First of all, I think my review summary was a little inaccurate. Not all the songs on this album are cheesy. So thanks to your feedback, I changed the summary. However, I still find All Men Play On 10 and Animal on the cheesy side. That's just me.



Cheesiness doesn't depend on topic choice alone but a myriad of things. It's about not only what you talk about but especially HOW you talk about it. Having lyrics that are too literal can be a bad idea. The vocal delivery, the context, the backing music. There is sometimes a fine line between something that will be emotional and something that will be unintentionally funny.



Manowar is one of my favorite metal bands thanks to their early albums but I'm not into the whole "brotherhood of immortals" thing. Nor into the "true vs false metal" debate. I mostly enjoy the epic elements they infused on top of really cool and creative rock songs. When it gets melodramatic or bombastic or too over-the-top, I find it a little cheesy.



Regardless, we can't all enjoy the same things and that's just how I see things. I don't claim I am the ultimate authority on those matters.



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