I never truly considered myself one of Manowar's crowd, even if a number of the steel warriors' releases have a big, big place in my metal heart.
'Fighting the World' is probably the album which forever will be my favourite among Manowar's albums for so many personal reasons, 'Kings of Metal' coming in on a close second, 'Sign of the Hammer' and 'Hail to England' being almost twins in terms of quality, then 'Battle Hymns' following them, and of course also 'Into Glory Ride' having a special place in the annals of metaldom. With 'The Triumph of Steel' things started going a bit wrong between Manowar and me. From then on, the cliché became more and more apparent in an uncool way. There's been more focus on image than actual songs and an endless stream of live releases which, to me at least, speaks more of a want for earning money than actually creating something new.
Anyhoo, let's focus on 'The Lord of Steel'. It's first and foremost a pleasure to observe that Manowar has decided to put out a real heavy metal album again. No opera, no epic stuff, just something which actually sounds like four guys with instruments.
Less pleasurable is the
realization that not all the material lives up to the glories of the past. It starts out really well, though, with the title track which rocks the way Manowar should rock. DeMaio's bass sound is really weird, though, and this unfortunately goes on for the majority of the album. Next tune, Manowarriors, is cheesy as fuck, and very straight-forward Manowar with no frills. No surprises there.
Born In A Grave is a more quiet song, but also a song with hymn potential.
The ballad of the album, Righteous Glory, shows exactly why Eric Adams is one of metal's greatest singers. He turns a fairly boring tune into a goosebump inciting piece, and for that he deserves tons of respect.
Touch The Sky isn't that fantastic either, but on the other hand, the chorus of this tune is one of those that just sticks to your mind instantly (well, my mind, anyway). The way Adams sings 'I feel so tall, I could touch the sky' has an almost naïve self-confidence which gets right to me somehow.
Black List starts out with a long intro which most of all sounds like Black Sabbath's Into The Void. Cool, but it goes on for two minutes before the actual song begins. I would probably have cut it down a bit, even if it's a cool riff.
Expandable speeds things up. Crunchy heavy metal riffing, a tune with a really nice flow and a cool chorus.
El Gringo sees Manowar venturing into Mexican territory rather than Viking or metal warrior themes. It works nicely, even if it's not an instant classic.
Annihilation starts with one of Adam's now rare screams. An average quality song.
Lyrically, Hail, Kill
and Die is one of those nice retrospective tunes Manowar always did, i.e. all album titles are included in the lyrics. It's kind of cheesy, but I always liked it. A mid-tempo song, this one, and again not one of the greatest we've heard from Manowar.
The Kingdom of Steel is another ballad, and it definitely has its moments, however, 7 minutes and 20 seconds is about four minutes too long for this one, I reckon.
All in all, 'The Lord of Steel' is an approved effort, but as you can see, there are mishaps along the way. It's an enjoyable listen by all means (apart from that odd bass sound!), yet, it's miles behind 'Fighting the World' and 'Kings of Metal'. Check it out for yourself.