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Manowar - "The Lord Of Steel (Hammer Edition)" (CD)

Manowar - "The Lord Of Steel (Hammer Edition)" CD cover image

"The Lord Of Steel (Hammer Edition)" track listing:

1. The Lord of Steel (4:07)
2. Manowarriors (4:46)
3. Born in a Grave (5:47)
4. Righteous Glory (6:10)
5. Touch the Sky (3:49)
6. Black List (6:58)
7. Expendable (3:10)
8. El Gringo (4:57)
9. Annihilation (4:00)
10. Hail, Kill and Die (3:56)

Reviewed by on June 21, 2012

"From the onset, Joey’s bass buzzes louder than an electric razor to Odin’s balls. The relentless 'crash of the bumble bee' continues for the entirety of the album, drowning out almost every other member..."

Over the years, Manowar has the distinction of being both rabidly loved and utterly hated. There is little in between the two battle lines. You either raise your hands clasped at the wrists ready to die for metal or you leave the hall with the rest of the posers. For Manowar fans, new releases are more than just a listening session, but the closest one can get to a religious experience short of attending a Stryper concert. Manowar fans stand at attention with each egotistical lyric, blissfully counting to see if Eric Adams says the words “metal” or “valkyries” more than any previous album. The band is at its best when it doesn’t change and ratchets up the ridiculous with an extra heaping pile of cheese. As the date came, the excitement was palpable and my own metal nerd meter went off right on cue. However, for the first time in the history of the band, I came away less than impressed. Now before critics say “ha ha, told you so,” the reasons are not what one may expect.

I expected and openly welcomed the overly simplistic anthems, ready to chant along about the glory of true metal and manly boasting about fighting, drinking, fucking, and trampling the weak. However, my attention (and skull) was immediately provoked and inexplicably attacked by what I have come to call “The Joey DeMaio Bass Clinic.” From the onset, Joey’s bass buzzes louder than an electric razor to Odin’s balls. The relentless “crash of the bumble bee” continues for the entirety of the album, drowning out almost every other member, including Eric Adams. Karl Logan may not be the best of guitarists, but he is adequate for Manowar and definitely should be heard. I appreciate that Joey is the leader of the band and that he wrote, recorded, mixed, and produced this album, but I felt robbed of enjoying better tracks like “Black List” and “Touch the Sky” with an often painful “drill against skull” bass sound. On “Manowarriors,” his bass line even had a distinctly distracting circa ‘80's Atari game sound that buries Logan’s guitar solo at 2:45.

Now I can almost hear fans calling my attention to “Hail to England,” which was just as bass-centric. Outside of being Manowar’s best album, the major difference is that “Hail to England” was performed in a tasteful way with DeMaio driving the melody for Ross the Boss to follow without drowning out the rest of the band or detracting from any of the songs. Had “The Lord of Steel” been done in similar fashion, the instant release would not see Joey switching from the beautiful melodies of “HTE” to distorting buzzing, leveling any glory the songs may project.

The only respite from the overwhelming “death tone,” is the ballad “Righteous Glory,” which is the typically masterful power ballad that has been a staple of every album (some more than others). “Expendable” and “Born in A Grave” have all the quality trademarks, if not for the glaring distraction. “Hail, Kill And Die” is this album’s version of “Blood of the Kings,” with past album and song titles serving as lyrics (another Manowar staple).

While the album does have its moments, the fullness of sound and the “glory, majesty and unity” of the band’s previous releases (up to and including “Gods of War”) seems to have been whittled down to a dull nub, the sound of which is painfully represented by grinding and sputtering bass lines. Adams, one of my all time favorite vocalists, barely takes his voice above the low end of his once stellar range, another of the disappointments of “The Lord of Steel.” This certainly wasn’t the type of “buzz” I was expecting to get with the mighty Manowar.

Highs: "Touch The Sky," "Black List," and "Righteous Glory."

Lows: The ceaseless and disturbing bass buzzing of Joey DeMaio.

Bottom line: What do Manowar and 10,000 Africanized honey bees have in common? Its all about the BUZZZZ!

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)