Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Manowar - Kings of Metal

9/10

Thank God the last album was a one-time misstep. Kings of Metal is Manowar's finest album yet, with songs ranging from the by-the-numbers-but-still-great "Wheels of Fire" to the hilarious self-aggrandizement of the title track to another ridiculous classically based bass solo, "Sting of the Bumblebee." Then there's "Hail and Kill," one of the band's best known songs and one of my personal favorites, mostly because of the immortal line "may your swords stay wet like a young girl in her prime." I also liked the synth-based "The Crown and The Ring"; it barely counts as a metal song, but it fits the Manowar aesthetic just fine. The production is strong without being too glossy like on "Fighting the World", with choiral backing vocals that are cheesy but fun. I also love "Pleasure Slave," with its great slow-paced riff, hilariously misogynistic lyrics and women moaning in ecstasy in the background.
This misses the 10 because the spoken-word "The Warrior's Prayer", while amusing, is about twice as long as it needs to be, and because "Kingdom Come" is a pretty bad song that might as well have been on the preceding album. It's still a great album, though, and one of the best places to start with Manowar. After this album, Ross the Boss would leave the band to rejoin the Dictators. I think he thought the band was selling out, which would make sense after Fighting the World, but not after this effort.
I would be remiss to neglect that this was the first Manowar album cover drawn by Ken Kelly, who has done all their album art ever since. His hallmarks are musclebound men with faces that are just pitch black with nothing but featureless yellow eyes, with some naked women sometimes thrown in (we wouldn't want anyone to think these album covers are gay, would we?) His covers are about as closely associated with Manowar as Roger Dean's are with Yes, or Vince Locke's are with Cannibal Corpse.

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