Released: 2007, Magic Circle/SPV
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Auburn, New York’s most famous loincloth-and-sword-adorned quartet, Manowar, has remained unfailingly dedicated to one thing for almost a quarter-century: pure, untainted heavy metal. Call them cheesy (and a great many have) but one cannot help but get wrapped up in the conviction of bassist/founder Joey DiMaio’s admittance that “if you’re not into metal, you’re not my friend” and that when the chips are down, he would, in fact, “die for metal.” Along with vocalist Eric Adams, DiMaio has steered Manowar through twenty-five years of changing trends in metal and never, ever wavered from the sound and principle that instantly unite Manowarriors across the globe—Death To False Metal.
On their latest CD, GODS OF WAR, Manowar have created a monstrous concept centering on Odin, the Norse god of war. At nearly 75 minutes, this is an epic musical examination of the mythological figure and with spoken word passages (think CONAN THE BARBARIAN) and symphonic elements bookending the metal fury, GODS OF WAR could easily be envisioned as a soundtrack to a complete stage production of the proceedings. The band previously did this—on a much smaller scale—with the half-hour tale of Achilles on 1992’s TRIUMPH OF STEEL but GODS OF WAR is rumored to be the first in a series of concept albums that will each focus on a different figure in world religions. Manowar sounds bigger than ever on this release as the huge bombastic swells of strings and powerful choral sections get the listener’s heart beating faster in preparation for the searing riffs of Karl Logan, Scott Columbus’ thunderous drums, the mighty vocals of Adams, and, of course, DiMaio’s pounding bass guitar.
After the grandeur of instrumental opener “Overture To The Hymn of The Immortal Warriors” and plot-forming “The Ascension,” the true Manowar sound comes to light on the instant classic, “King of Kings.” DiMaio’s bass rumbles behind Adams’ soaring vocals before Logan unleashes a blistering guitar solo to embody all the elements of a treasured slab of Manowar heft. “Sleipnir,” arguably one of the finest tracks Manowar has ever recorded, boasts a gargantuan chorus whose melody is immediately unforgettable. Look for it to be another anthemic staple in the band’s live set. “Loki God of Fire” is heavier with a galloping, mid-tempo pace. Adams’ trademark chest-thumping screams on this track juxtapose the melodramatic balladry of “Blood Brothers,” whose lyrics will simultaneously inflame Manowar haters worldwide and unite its faithful followers (“Think of me wherever you are… know in your heart…I am thy friend”) in locked-arm, beer-fuelled sing-alongs. The title track is a dark, epic song with a marching, war-drum driven tempo and bombastic orchestral accompaniment. To describe the sound here as colossal would be an understatement as Manowar clearly reaches for Valhalla itself before reaching the final crescendo. The choir vocals on the two “Army of The Dead” tracks are chillingly majestic and will undoubtedly bring a tear to even the most hardened metal warrior. As a bonus track, the non-concept related “Die For Metal” is without question one of the true gems in Manowar’s crown. Lyrics that charge (“Hold your head up high/Raise your fist into the air/Play metal louder than hell/They can’t stop us let ‘em try/For heavy metal we would die”) and a general attitude of masculine superiority drive the song into immediate classic status. One cannot help but shiver when picturing 100,000 sweaty people at Wacken Open Air united in song with fists raised high.
Some may argue that GODS OF WAR is filled with padding and fluff that dilute the power of Manowar’s music. Admittedly, there are several repetitive passages and some of the pomp and circumstance (“Overture To Odin,” “The Blood of Odin,” “Glory Majesty Unity”) may fall victim to the skip button upon repeated listenings but GODS OF WAR really must be taken as whole package to fully appreciate the vision that Joey DiMaio had in bringing the story of Odin to fruition through Manowar’s music. Besides, no one has ever accused Manowar of being subtle and with DiMaio hardly slowing down (he is the owner of Magic Circle Music and manager of Italian “film score” metal band, Rhapsody of Fire), the spirit will surely live on for many years.
With a five-year break since WARRIORS OF THE WORLD, Manowar makes a triumphant return with GODS OF WAR. The album is not without its faults but the overall package is impressive enough to appease. Manowar’s dedicated followers will hail the album as a flawless masterpiece while the band’s detractors will have sixteen more reasons to mock and chuckle. So goes the event—and a new Manowar album is nothing short of such—for it’s time for the metal community to once again clank their horns of mead and raise their swords upon high for the return of true metal’s last men standing, the mighty MANOWAR!!!!!
KILLER KUTS: “King of Kings,” “Sleipnir,” “Loki God of Fire,” “Blood Brothers,” “Gods of War,” "Army of The Dead, Part II," “Die For Metal”