Released: 2014, Magic Circle Entertainment
Manowar is one of the longest running, most successful, most influential, most popular Metal bands of all time. The multiple Guinness World Record holding band can do no wrong. Never a band to rest on it’s past glory or accomplishments, the band are always moving forward. However they also are not afraid to acknowledge the past and celebrate certain milestones on a long and admirable career. This is one such rare and special occasion, as the band celebrates the 25th Anniversary of the release of their ground-breaking sixth album, KINGS OF METAL.
The packaging is extremely well done. The double disc set is housed in one of those double jewel cases. The new album artwork is done by long-time Manowar artist of choice Ken Kelly, but also equally impressive is the art and design inside by up and coming artist Jan Yrlund who has worked with Korpiklaani, Tyr and many others. KINGS OF METAL MMXIV includes not one but two booklets! This is a first. I have thousands of albums and I have never seen a CD set with two booklets. Another Manowar first!
Booklet One is for the Kings Of Metal MMXIV. The full-colour 22-page booklet includes the new cover art lyrics, notes and a dozen photos of the band and studio shots of the band re-recording the immortal album. I love the new cover it pays homage to the original but updates it. In the booklet, esteemed journalist Dom Lawson writes an introductory and flattering essay, in which truer words were never spoke. In the centerpiece of the booklet there are hundreds of photos of the Warriors of The World, those who helped rise the band to the lofty position of Kings Of Metal.
Booklet Two is pays tribute to the original KINGS OF METAL album. Once again, it has 22-pages, full colour with all sorts of treats for the faithful. There three dozen photos all sorts, shots of the band recording the original album, sketches, notes, shots of original lyric sheets, a treasure trove of Manowar memorabilia. There are no less than seven messages, notes and mini essays from the band and related personnel. There is an inspirational message from the band as a whole. Joey and Eric each have a message that is both humble and inspirational at the same time. Never ones to forget the warriors who helped them become the undisputed Kings Of Metal, the band included messages from Rich Breen (Producer), Paul Clark (former Tour Manager), and John ‘Dawk’ Stillwell, the bands long-time gear maestro. The final message is a fitting tribute and farewell to deceased Manowar drummer Scott Columbus, penned by Joey DeMaio with a nice photo of Scott in action, doing what he did best, pounding the hell out of the Drums of Doom.
For the wimps and posers who say that re-recorded albums are just a rip-off can leave the hall. KINGS OF METAL MMXIV is significantly different in many, many aspects and for the price is a real value. Back in 1988, Manowar was the first Metal band to record an album with full digital equipment. They brought in a 100 person male choir to the studio in Chicago. However, even with some of the best producers and engineers in the field it was still hard to harness the primitive (at the time) digital technology. The choir sounded thin and in his book THE COLLECTORS GUIDE TO HEAVY METAL, Martin Popoff said the digital recording, “….sounding all clattering and noisy, little in the way of full-range or bottom end muscle…”. He continues to call it ‘…an uninviting and clanky mix.” (p. 268). I didn’t think it was that bad myself, but this new re-recording is simply superb. The band and crew have had many years to perfect their recording skills and with the new technology available this album sounds magnificent. The highs are higher, the lows are lower and everything just sounds louder and better. The acoustic guitars are clearer and the 100-person choir, now sounds like a bombastic hundred person choir! Eric’s voice is stronger than ever and true fans will delight in the subtle differences in his delivery of the inspiring lyrics. Karl and Donnie also add their own little flourishes adding new exciting parts while retaining the spirit of the original compositions.
Not only has the sound been improved there are many, many little differences in the album. I won’t list them all here but things have changed to give new life to the iconic collection of epic songs. There are differences in the lyrics, in places here and there. Just little touches, for example in the mid-section of ‘The Blood Of The Kings MMXIV’ the band now add a stanza sending mighty hails to even MORE nations, a dozen more, including my own of Canada, which nice to see us get included. One immediately noticeable change is the narration on ‘A Warrior’s Prayer’ which now has the ‘call and answer’ section and more importantly the narration is done by Brian Blessed whose majestic delivery and tone reminds me a bit of Patrick Stewart. Joey Demaio’s bass solo, ‘The Sting Of The Bumblebee MMXIV’ is faster than ever before! ‘Heart Of Steel MMXIV’ has a new extended acoustic introduction and ‘The Crown And The Ring MMXIV’ is now the orchestral version. The band has also changed the sequence of the songs as well adding a new dimension to the running order. There are many of other little musical, sonic and lyrical changes that true Metal fans will recognize as being different, and even superior, but I will not spoil them all here.
As if you needed a reason to buy KINGS OF METAL MMXIV, in addition to all these brave, ambitious changes and improvements, the band still has more to offer! There are no less than nine bonus tracks running over 45 minutes! There are any number of different versions included for our enjoyment. There are instrumental versions, orchestral versions and a ‘Metal Version’ of ‘The Crown And The Ring’. All told the album now runs well over an hour and half.
It takes true Metal balls of steel to even attempt to improve on perfection, namely, the original version of KINGS OF METAL. Tackling the re-recording of such an iconic and immortal album must have been a daunting task, but one that Manowar was more than capable of facing. As one of my favourite albums of all time it felt it would be hard to improve upon perfection but the band somehow did it. So in tribute to the power and glory of Manowar and the majestic triumph that is KINGS OF METAL MMXIV, we at Metal-Rules have, for the first time in almost 10,000 album reviews, awarded the album an unprecedented six out of five. Hail and Kill.