Kings of Metal, by Manowar
Reviewed by Ed Ross
What does Manowar mean to me? Well Manowar the creature is one of the best Magic: the Gathering cards ever printed, with its straightforward yet eloquent design. And Manowar the game happens to be my own personal entry point to the fantasy world of Games Workshop back in the early 90s. The question is where in the Manowar pantheon will Manowar the band sit?
I didn’t actually know there was such a thing as pirate metal until a few weeks ago with Craig’s review of Babymetal. With a name like Manowar and an album called “Kings of Metal” surely this would appear a perfect fit for an album full of metal sea shanties? Well, not quite. A cursory pre listen google image search lets me know what I’m dealing with: four hunky barbarians (chest hair optional). All they’re missing are some trusty bwoadswords. If I was to put a name to this genre it would be warrior fantasy metal, and upon listening it’s the songs on this album that unashamedly embrace that theme that I enjoy the most.
Vroom vroom and the album is off to the races with “Wheels of fire”, a fast paced waily opener. Next up is “Kings of metal”: a self-referential ode to their own awesomeness- indeed “other bands play / manowar kill” seems to be backed up by the fact that at the time they were known for playing both the longest and loudest concerts.
Charge your flagons! It’s at song 3 that the fantasy theme really kicks in with “Heart of Steel” – a rousing call to arms which begins with a lovely piano backed vocal before heading into a chant imploring the listener to “stand and fight / say what you feel” replete with anthemic backing vocals. It’s my pick from the album, alongside the other overtly fantasy ditties: “Hail and Kill” (where you can clearly hear the influence on the Viking metal genre) and “The Crown and the Ring” which has the lovely ‘Saddle my horse as I drink my last ale / bowstring and steel will prevail’. Well that’s my DND background music sorted.
“Kingdom Come”, again utilising the backing operatic choir chanting, grows on me but “Pleasure Slave” leaves me troubled. Apparently only on the CD version of the album, it has a loose fantasy theme but is bereft of subtlety or nuance. If Tenacious D penned the lyrics “woman come here remove your garments / kneels before me / please me” perhaps, but, sung without a hint irony, looking at this 30 years on hits different.
The album closes with “Blood of the Kings” which melds the fantasy theme with a more practical announcement for future gig locations. Rightly or wrongly “We didn’t start the fire” gets a lot of critique for being one of the worst songs of all time and I’m getting strong Billy Joel vibes when they rattle off “Denmark , Sweden, Norway, Finland, I-ta-ly.”
Whilst I expect more ardent metalheads might find it a little twee and derivative, taken at face value I did enjoy listening to this album and score it a 6/10, on the back of the handful of standout fantasy tracks. It errs when it mashes in more generic themes. Not bad but if given the choice I’d still rather be bouncing a creature or boarding Bretonnian Galleons.