Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Manowar - Battle Hymns

7/10

Manowar's debut is surprisingly typical for an early 80's metal record; Eric Adams' voice is a bit more restrained than on later releases, and only the last three tracks are quite as silly as much of their later material. I think that's due to the influence of Ross the Boss, who co-wrote six of the songs with Joey DeMaio, the most songs with writing input from other band members out of any Manowar release. The first five tracks aren't much more over the top than what other metal bands of the era were putting out; they're not bad or anything, but they're a bit generic.
Starting with "Dark Avenger," though, we get a taste of what Manowar would be known for- ludicrously bombastic fantasy-based lyrics and hilariously overblown musical backing. "Dark Avenger" tells the story of a man executed by his tribe who comes back from the dead to avenge his death. The middle part of the song is narrated by none other than Orson Welles, who was probably just glad to be working on something other than frozen pea commercials. Then there's "William's Tale," a DeMaio bass solo version of the William Tell Overture, which would be the first of several (bad) attempts to incorporate classical influences. The final song is the 7-minute title track, which is the first of Manowar's battle epics, and it's pretty good, with chanting background vocals that would become a hallmark of the band's sound.
Overall, the first half is a competent but not amazing early 80's metal album, but the second half is where Manowar starts to adopt their best-known tricks. Of course, it's still pretty silly (if not quite as much as the band's later material), but I can't get enough of silliness in metal so I love it.

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