Manowar is one of my first loves when speaking of metal music and, with that said, it still houses a special place within me.
Now I’m not naïve, like many fans of Metallica that await every “next album” to be the return to glory, and accept the facts that many legendary albums have thick coats of nostalgia and patina upon them.
The 21th century Manowar has many attributes that I appreciate: The sure execution of larger than life metal hymns and the speed metal races with Eric’s piercing vocals.
Of course in some regards the over scaled bombast of their modern concept albums and covers of Elvis or Puccini’s Nessun Dorma are more in the “miss” department... however you can’t get it all, right? When it comes to the latest effort of Manowar, for their Manowarriors (pun intended), I accept it with mixed feelings.
The album starts out with such a precision targeted strike that you grasp for air and hopes are fairly high.
The opener is classic an instant classic Manowar hymn with all the clichés you want and need to hear. It’s a fast piece in the vein of the aggressive pieces on “Louder than Hell”.
The race goes on from track to track, songs filled with battle and warriors, Valkyries and Odin… It even features some brothers and Metal.
Most tracks are straightforward and simple in terms of construction.
Among the numerous listens a thought, or idea, starts taking form: “Manowar is but a pastiche of themselves”.
Now to start untangling this thought we have to start with the songs, they have all been done before and they have all been done before by Manowar. How does “The Lord of Steel” differ compared to earlier, more vital, versions of these songs?
It’s just that: The vitality and soul.
Overall The Lord of Steel sounds like an old-tired band have made it, ideas and inspiration is low so we do what we can. The album lacks life-force and power.
Above all, Eric’s voice lacks life-force and power!
The last notion is sad for me as Eric’s voice has been one of the main elements for me concerning Manowar. There’s no denying his voice is great for a man in his age, but it lacks the strength and range I’ve always appreciated.
Studio gimmicks have also played a large part of Manowar during the third millennium. Press releases stated how Joey investigated and selected carefully microphones and equipment so the recording would sound crisp and powerful and whatnot.
Sad to say - FAIL!
Let me state this important fact again: The album lacks soul.
The most high-tech digital studios and perfectly synced lines can never replace the feel of joy and inspiration. The Lord of Steel feels more like it was put together in a factory by hired hands at the construction line.
The weird choice of sounds for album is beyond any excuses, specially the low fuzz bass sound is completely misplaced and kills with power much of the punch the songs might have.
It’s strange that a veteran band that takes pride in their sound and technical output will give out an album sounding like this.
No excuses, but praises of the best technical helps ever... EVER!
However, after all this rant about the multiple mis goings of Manowar this time around, the album has spinned time after time in my player. There is the sense of familiarity and a soothing feel of security within the songs. After one listen you can raise your fists high and sing along to any of the hymns. The glory of metal is always there. The brotherhood of metal.
...and the Lord of steel.