Sunday Old School: Manowar
Some bands play heavy metal music. Others embody it in every possible way. Perhaps the best example of the latter would be a group who formed in Auburn, New York in 1979. A band by the name of Manowar. Fittingly enough for a group so devoted to heavy metal, the seeds of the band were sewn on the touring cycle for metal godfathers, Black Sabbath, who were supporting their album, “Heaven and Hell” at the time. Their bass tech and fireworks manager, Joey DeMaio got talking to former Dictators guitarist, Ross Friedman (AKA Ross the Boss,) who was then performing with Black Sabbath’s support group, Shakin’ Street. They became friends quickly and decided to form their own band, rounding out the lineup just after the tour by adding drummer Carl Canedy and DeMaio’s former classmate, Eric Adams on vocals. They began by performing covers before moving on to craft their own brand of metal, eventually crafting their first demo, "Demo 1981," their only recording with Canedy, who left soon after and was replaced by Donnie Hamzik, a native of Poland. He joined at a fortunate time, as Manowar soon signed their first record deal with Liberty Records, with whom they released their debut album, "Battle Hymns," in August of 1982. The eight song record was perhaps most notable for the inclusion of acting great, Orson Welles who performed the narration on the song, "Dark Avenger." They promoted the album by joining controversial hard rocker Ted Nugent on tour as his support act, but the partnership wasn’t the most fruitful and the young metal act soon arranged their own North American tour, as well as their first gigs in Europe, where they found particular favour in Germany and Great Britain. These tours proved too much for Hamzik, who decided to leave the group upon returning to America and Manowar soon found their third drummer in Scott Columbus.
Along with a new drummer, the band found themselves a new label after parting ways with Liberty. They signed with Megaforce Records for their North American releases and caused a stir on the other side of the Atlantic when they signed a European deal with Music For Nations in their own blood. They began recording their sophomore effort immediately afterwards, releasing an EP named, "Defender," (it’s title track featuring another collaboration with Orson Welles,) before releasing their second full length, "Into Glory Ride." The album was a big hit with metal fans the world over due to the more adventurous nature of the music and the group planned to tour extensively in support of the album, paying particular attention to the United Kingdom, though they would ultimately be forced to cancel their British shows. To make up for the disappointment they caused their English fans, they titled their third album, "Hail to England," which, as one might expect, gained them an even larger fan base in the title country. The album was recorded and mixed in under a week but was instantly hailed as their best work, going on to be regarded as the pinnacle of their "classic" lineup by many fans. They teamed up with Danish black metal pioneers, Mercyful Fate for a number of shows, where they were initially serving as support, before audience reaction bumped them up to the headline position.
The support they received from the fans encouraged the group to return to the studio to work on their next album, "Sign of the Hammer," which was released a mere ten months after, "Hail to England," on a new label, Ten Records. Its slower paced songs weren’t quite as well received as their previous effort by critics, but nevertheless, the record became their biggest selling album up to that point, allowing the band to embark on a two year jaunt in support of the effort. After taking 1986 off, they signed their first major record label deal with Atlantic Records, releasing the album, "Fighting the World" in 1987, which was the first heavy metal album to be recorded solely with digital equipment. It contained a re-recorded version of the song, "Defender," which retained the speech recorded by the now deceased Orson Welles and was received very well overall. They achieved even greater success the next year when they released their sixth album, "Kings of Metal," which went on to become their highest selling album to date. Such was the popularity of the album that they toured in support of the record for almost three years. However, it would prove to be the end of an era for the band, as DeMaio decided to fire Ross the Boss at the end of the tour, his place being taken by David Shankle, before Scott Columbus also decided to quit the band, though he did choose his replacement, Kenny Earl "Rhino" Edwards.
This new incarnation of Manowar recorded, "Triumph of Steel" in 1992, releasing it in September of that year. Despite the absence of two key members, the record was well received and was praised for its ambitious endeavours, including a twenty eight minute piece entitled, "Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts." It would prove to be the only effort recorded with Shankle, who decided to leave the band after the two year tour, his place being taken by Karl Logan, who made his recording debut with the band on the 1996 album, "Louder Than Hell," along with the returning Scott Columbus. The album sold well, despite some criticisms of the more simple material.
It would be six years before they released a new studio album, the time being filled by the release of their first live albums, "Hell on Wheels" and "Hell on Stage," as well as a new compilation album entitled, "Anthology." However, in 2002, the band finally released, "Warriors of the World," which along with new material, featured tributes to the German composer, Wagner and American rock and roll icon, Elvis Presley. They toured for years in support of the new album, causing them to miss out on the chance to record new material, though they made up for this with no less than three DVD releases. Eventually, Manowar were able to enter the studio and released their tenth studio album, “Gods of War” through their own record label, Magic Circle Music in 2007. As always, they performed tirelessly to promote their new album, most notably performing a show which lasted two nights in Europe, before releasing a new EP entitled, "Thunder in the Sky."
In 2010, it was revealed that Columbus was once again out of the band, his place being taken by original drummer, Donnie Hamzik, whose first foray back into the studio with the band was a re-recording of the debut effort, "Battle Hymns" named, "Battle Hymns MMXI," but shortly afterwards the group were hit by the sad news that Scott Columbus had passed away. The band released their most recent album (and the first to feature Hamzik which didn’t include the words "battle hymns" in the title,) "Lord of Steel" in 2012, which was more of a straight forward heavy metal record than the symphonic elements they’d implemented on "Gods of War." Just over a week ago, the band announced their next intention was to be another re-recording, this time of their classic 1988 album, "Kings of Metal," which will feature one of Britain’s most beloved actors, Brian Blessed. With their new record due out by the end of the year, along with a tour to promote it in 2014, Manowar will once again be seeking to show the world why they are one of the biggest cult favourites in a genre that they truly live and breathe.
Manowar - "Battle Hymn"
Manowar - "Gloves of Metal"
Manowar - "Hail To England"
Manowar - "Hail and Kill"
Manowar - "Return of the Warlord"
Manowar - "Warriors of the World"
Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com for four years and has been a metal fan for ten years, going so far as to travel abroad for metal shows.
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