Manowar is one of the first bands I seriously listened to back when I first was getting into Metal. Into Glory Ride still is one of my all time favorite albums and was the one that got me hooked on them back in the early 80s. Manowar, though, have a somewhat spotty history, with concerts canceled at the last-minute, many years between albums, questionable marketing strategies, unkept promises, the weird “the world is out to get us” speeches during concerts, and apparent dictator like control of their official message board. I love the band’s music, but the other stuff (shenanigans as a co-worker would put it) I could do without. I participate on Fanowar, where we fans can vent our true feelings without being crushed by a moderator. Well, here with The Lord of Steel we have the 11th long-awaited offering from the self-proclaimed Kings of Metal, 5 years after their last album, and their 5th in 20 years after cranking out their first 6 albums in 7 years. Not exactly prolific.
The first thing that really strikes me about this album is the production – and not in a positive way. Manowar (and Joey Demaio, in particular), normally pride themselves on creating albums with top-notch production values. On The Lord of Steel the bass is overpowering and actually a bit distorted – quite disappointing to my ears. Additionally, the lyrical content is the Power Metal cheese one would expect from Manowar (though they have had some outstanding lyricism – Guyana, Achilles). On a couple of more positive notes, Eric Adams continues to set the gold standard for Metal singers, though his upper range is definitely decreasing with time. His lower voice, though, is still powerful and instantly recognizable. His performances are always superb and one of the primary reasons I lament the lack of musical output from the band over the last 20 years – how much more could we have gotten? The album is also the return of drummer Donnie Hamzik, having appeared only on the debut album, Battle Hymns. Sounds like he has been practicing!
After 5 years, I am frankly a bit disappointed in The Lord of Steel. There are certainly some tracks of significance here like the up tempo title track; the salute to the fans, Manowarriors; Expendable, a cool, heavier track, a nice scream or two from Adams; El Gringo has some nice galloping guitars, an interesting bridge and a memorable chorus, disappointingly has a fadeout; Megachessy Hail, Kill and Die wraps up the album, rehash of every album title and many of their songs, still a decent song.
Other songs that just don’t stand up to my (probably unfair) demanding standards are Righteous Glory (ballad that goes on too long – ho-hum), Touch the Sky (mid-paced and doesn’t really go anywhere – kind of pedestrian for Manowar), Black List (plodding, just drags on for 7 minutes – and another fadeout! NOOOOOOO! At least 4 on the album.).
With a couple of other kind of filler tracks, The Lord of Steel comes in at 10 tracks. Unfortunately only about half of it is really good. I have to say I am mostly disappointed in this work, particularly after the promising Thunder In The Sky EP from 2009. After 5 years, I was definitely expecting more. Here is the highlight of the album for me – the title track:
Ultimately I am a bit disappointed in the album we got. I was hoping for more from the band, especially in terms of quality, not necessarily quantity. I feel let down. After a couple of listens, most of the album is just not that memorable. No real striking melodies, riffs, solos, or choruses. That is atypical of Manowar, as all of their previous albums have at least several good memorable songs. I am just not feeling it on The Lord of Steel. I can only hope Manowar rights the ship soon, because time is running out on them.
I hear the sound in a METAL way.