Released: 2010, Magic Circle Music
Manowar have joined the ever-growing legion of bands that have re-recorded material from their past. I’m casually keeping track and they are about the 50th Metal band to do this. Consequently, I keep buying this damn record. I bought the original cassette tape many, many years ago. Then in 2001 I bought the re-mastered Silver edition on CD. That was pretty cool with lots of extras in terms of presentation. So here we are 10 years later, the 30th (sort of) Anniversary of the album. I say sort of because the original BATTLE HYMNS album came out in 1982 so it’s a bit premature, but any Manowar is good Manowar so it’s welcome. As mentioned, the whole thing is re-recorded and re-titled BATTLE HYMNS MMXI, and so like a good little Manowarrior, I bought this one too.
The Silver Edition CD was a thousand times better than my old tape and sonically speaking this re-recorded version, Battle Hymns MMXI is a million times better. You can really hear the difference and for those of us intimately familiar with the album there are several little things that add value to this. The first and most obvious are the two unreleased bonus tracks, recorded live in Texas in 1982. The pair of songs are pretty raw tracks, but also pretty cool. This time around Christopher Lee does the narration on Dark Avenger instead of Orson Wells. Sonically, everything is louder, clearer, deeper, crisper and honed to perfection. The drums are monstrous! Enthusiasts will enjoy comparing Adams voice on the original to this version as well. The booklet is not quite as good as the Metal Blade version, but there are a few new (to me anyway) photos of the band in full battle gear, as well as lyrics and the new ‘Gold’ eagle cover.
In retrospect really listening to this again demonstrated to me how underrated the band are. Before Slayer, Pantera and Metallica, there was Manowar. Despite being one of the longest running, best-selling, most influential Metal bands of all time, many people can’t get past the image or lyrics and in a sense it taints the band for some. Manowar really were part of the second big wave of Metal and the American twin-brothers to the NWOBHM. Think about it… Manowar, Twisted Sister, The Rods, Virgin Steele, Riot and yes, even Dio were a part of that whole scene. (Even though people associate Dio with European bands he was part of that whole NY scene back in the late 70’s early 80’s.) Listening to the songs on BATTLE HYMNS MMXI, Manowar were truly pioneers. They were heavier than Saxon, Priest and Maiden. They had faster songs, more epic song-writing, (Dark Avenger) more virtuosity (William’s Tale), more choirs (Battle Hymn) acoustic interludes, narration and it is all clad in warrior-spirit lyrics, both modern (‘Nam) and ancient (Viking). This album is the single defining moment where Power Metal and True Metal all really started.