Manowar - Kings of Metal
Atlantic Recording Company
Heavy Metal
10 songs (48'09")
Release year: 1988
Reviewed by Alex

Manowar … Say what you want about this band: cheesy, over the top, redundant, repeating themselves over and over again. However, don’t disagree when you hear in response: large and devoted following, music played with balls and conviction, refusing to bow to trends. Most importantly, don’t disagree when you hear in response: every self-respecting metal fan has heard of Manowar AND the band has left its mark on the genre. So, having one of Manowar’s albums reviewed as a classic was not a question. The question rather was which one do I pick?

Having consulted with my Metalreviews brethren and my metal-loving friends I decided to settle on Kings of Metal. I believe that an album should be considered a “genre classic” if people use it as a reference point to say X album of the band Y is in the vein of the “classic” album of the band ABC. In this sense, Kings of Metal probably does not qualify. However, it is a “personal classic” for me, as it signified a page in my life.

The year was 1988. I was 2 years removed from my metal life in Kiev, Ukraine by virtue of attending college in Moscow where metal life wasn’t exactly bustling. Brief enlisting in the ranks of the Soviet Army didn’t help either. So, I was very delighted when my friends, whom I entrusted with my underground metal trading business back in Kiev, sent me a copy of the new Manowar album. It was Kings of Metal and, believe it or not, it rejuvenated my love for metal, and for my life in general. Having listened to the album a thousand times by now I would agree that it is not revolutionary in terms of musicianship, but the energy of the music is boundless and never seizes to provide me with a quick mood picker-upper.

Kings of Metal opens with Wheels of Fire, one of the most energetic album openers I know. Race car effects quickly change into almost thrash riffs. I wonder how this song would sound if the mix was a bit better and we could actually hear the fast drumming by Scott Columbus. Otherwise, bass lines by Joey DeMaio carry the song. Eric Adams lets you know he is in fine shape by delivering the last verse with the trademark screaming. Ross the Boss pitches in with a screeching solo very fitting to the concept of the fast automobile driving. Without a pause, Kings of Metal track follows. Pure classic stadium rocker with the best square riffs this side of Accept. In this sense, the band did very well having included the crowd, which contributes phrases like “Manowar kills” and “kick your ass”. This helps to capture the headbanging spirit. A short solo always reminded me a bit of the rock’n’roll classic Johnny B. Good. Ready to catch your breath? Well, the band provides the break. Heart of Steel is an example of what an epic ballad should be. Please, don’t tell me that True Metal bands never heard of Heart of Steel (Hammerfall), and their epic ballads are not inspired by this song. Even now, at the mature age of 32, I am bound to sing along with my friends after having a few too many Vodka shots. When the heavy rhythm section kicks in by the middle of the song I am totally floored and the classical piano and bell ringing effects simply finish me off. I will make an admission and say that in the past I often used to fast forward through Sting of the Bumblebee. The Rimsky-Korsakov (famous Russian composer) inspired piccolo bass acrobatics left me cold. With time I mellowed and now I think that putting The Crown and the Ring right after Heart of Steel would have slowed the album down immensely. The Crown and the Ring goes further into epic territory but it is more “medieval” sounding with Adams’ screams alternating with the male choir. Also, church organs are used as opposed to classical piano. The same bell ringing effects invoke a Knights of the Round Table atmosphere. In the words of the band: “Saddle my horse as I drink my last ale Bow string and Steel will prevail”.

Kingdom Come opens what probably is the strongest B-side of the Manowar catalog. I will borrow two words from Martin Popoff to describe this song. “Dramatic”, especially the solo, and “tuneful” with its vibrato bass lines and “wow, oh, ah, oh” chorus singing. Now that I have a CD instead of a tape a bonus track Pleasure Slave is on it. Slower, heavier and plodding it revolves around basically one guitar hook in the chorus. The band probably did well by leaving it off the tape and LP version of the album. When I heard an intro to Hail and Kill I thought “Here comes another ballad” with its melodic clean singing and electroacoustic guitar. Man, was I wrong. The character of the song quickly changes into very aggressive and almost brutal. Galloping riffs benefit from vocals which border between growls and screams. The lyrics are especially violent and over the top: “Stab them in the eyes, rape their women as the cry”. That demonic laughter sends chills down my spine. If you want to do a narrative, then you may as well turn it into a full blown, and somewhat interesting story (Rhapsody, anybody?). I swear I tried to catch every single word of The Warriors Prayer with my limited English skills back in 1988, so I could explain to my non-English speaking friends what it was about. The album ends with a slightly faster than mid-tempo hymn titled Blood of the Kings. The lyrics in the verses recite the names of Manowar’s previous albums, European countries where a metal flag has been raised and Manowar song names. The chorus is alternating Adams’ blood curdling screams and choir singing. Everything is done to a tune of an extremely catchy melody I wasn’t able to get out of my head for a while. The song ends with all instruments melting in one chaotic combination backed up by the organ playing in the background. Full climax!

Some people (Popoff) complain that Kings of Metal has a lousy mix, some people dismiss Manowar altogether. While not as commercial as Fighting the World, or as thought provoking as Triumph of Steel, Kings of Metal is nestled in between those two to provide this reviewer with constant pleasure and reminiscence of the old days gone by every time it plays.

Killing Songs :
All, with Sting of the Bumblebee and Pleasure Slave being a notch below the rest
Alex quoted CLASSIC
Other albums by Manowar that we have reviewed:
Manowar - The Lord of Steel reviewed by Olivier and quoted 59 / 100
Manowar - Gods of War Live reviewed by Jeff and quoted no quote
Manowar - Gods of War reviewed by Jeff and quoted 70 / 100
Manowar - Sons of Odin (EP) CD ONLY VERSION reviewed by Jeff and quoted no score
Manowar - Hell on Earth, Part IV - DVD review reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
To see all 14 reviews click here
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