Finally the Kings of Metal have one again graced or should that be bludgeoned our ears with their latest opus on all things metal. We've been waiting a long time for this one. I've heard many people saying they were disappointed with the overblown nature of Gods of War. Well this album is for you. They were supposed to do another Odin based double disk but Joey scrapped cause he felt inspired to record something more like the old days with no major concept involved just heavy bloody metal. So did they bring the true metal and then some? Well yes they brought the true metal but it ain't always that good.
Mind you I don't think I ever really truly enjoy a Manowar album from start to end but I absolutely get captivated by some songs and so it continues with this album. Here is my song by song thoughts.
The Lord of Steel - The title track is a typical Manowar firecracker like Wheels of Steel or Warlord or something speedy. The riffs sound simple and very fast with beefy bass. Now let's say a few words about the bass production. The bass sounds unlike any previous Manowar album. At first it completely threw me cause I thought I was listening to a stoner album! The bass takes some getting used to man! It sounds like those fuzzed up sub human hearing bass sounds you hear on Electric Wizard or some such doom fuzz band. Not great to be honest. Anyway the song is ok but it doesn't do huge deal for me. A short note about Eric. He sounds great on this album. He sounds better than ever in fact. Age has not made his voice any worse compared to other big metal singers. The song is ok but not catchy enough in the rather average chorus. 6.5/10
Manowarriors - There's an anthem about the band's fans on almost every album. This is this particular album's contribution to that theme. I quite like this tune. It's silly as hell but the galloping riffs are quite catchy. A short word about the drum sound. It kicks ass! Heavy and thumping. A fun song and you will catch on to the chorus soon enough with the gang shouts. The solo in this song is ok and better than others. A short word about the lead playing. In general it sucks but I don't care. I don't listen to Manowar for guitar solos. 7/10
Born in a Grave - Mid paced, fuzzy pounder with a galloping beat that is broken by whispered vocals from Eric before his smoother voice kicks and propels the song in rather steady fashion. The chorus is rather underwhelming to say the least. It's ok but the song is too plodding. I don't mind slow paced but it needs a focal point or memorable element and this one doesn't seem to gather any steam. Not feeling it with this one but it does get better when the nagging mid tempo sort of pummels you as the song goes into it's conclusion. That fuzz bass is very very prominent in this song and annoys rather as does the boring solo. 5/10
Righteous Glory - I love Manowar ballads. To me they are one of the best Balladeers in all of metal. I can add this song to a long list of fantastic emotional Manoballads now. This song has gorgeous smooth build with slow guitar arpeggios and rough distorted chords when necessary. The song reminds of Swords in the Wind from the last album. Eric is the star of the show here though. His voice sounds beautiful and crystal clear with very cool emotional melodies in the chorus. Joey's bass is again huge sounding in this song but not as fuzzed up as on other tracks. The song builds waves of torch swaying emotion as it reaches relaxed crescendo with the chorus to fade. 8.5/10
Touch the Sky - A good one two this with a mid paced catchy stomper to follow the ballad. This song has one of the best chest beating, life affirming choruses on the whole album. During the verses things are fairly pedestrian however come the chorus you are roused into warrior mode. The solo in this song is not bad either but It's Eric pounding heart beating melodies that captivate my ears. 8/10
Black List - A dark and brooding slow pounder with thunderous drums and pounding fuzz bass providing a long intro before the vocals start. Like Bridge of Death this one is slow menacing and has a foreboding feel to it all. Eric sounds like he's gonna meet you at the gates of hell and show you round your new home with his scything lyrics about making a black list of some kind though I'm not exactly sure what he's going on about to be honest. The song is a dirge alright but the nagging chorus is quite cool actually. The soloing behind the vocals sounds very dirty and messy and personally I don't like to hear solos behind vocals as it just annoys me. The song plods to it's conclusion however it's better than the other dirge we've heard so far which was Born in A Grave. 6.5/10
Expendable - A great big hulking mid paced thumper this one loosely based around the film of the same name. I like the way it rolls along with Eric barking out aggressive lyrics with a crunchy chorus. A very simple and short tune at 3:10 and a bit throwaway maybe but it's ok and I guess if you pump this one loud you can get into it a bit memorable. Not my fave song though but the chorus does nag you into submission on repeated plays. 7/10
El Gringo - I really like this song with it's sweet mid paced gallop and Spaghetti Western feel and "Injun" sounding chants. The melody in this song is enjoyable and pretty cool from Eric and one of the more memorable ones heard on the album. The album surely needed more songs like this one. The solo is also not bad. 8/10
Annihilation - As the title would suggest this is a pretty heavy song for Manowar. The pace is again fairly slow but the riffs are crunchy and Eric's melodies are quite cool come the chorus complete with the "Annihilationnnnnn!" scream although he always controls it well and it never turns into a yelp. The solo is just another average Manosolo that are ten a penny. The chorus is a good one and pretty enjoyable and repeats to fade. 7.5/10
Hail, Kill and Die - With that title you'd expect something special to end with and yes this is a solid and typically aggressive true metal pounder with gang chants for the chorus. This one will go down well when played live no doubt. The used the oft done "let's use all our song titles as lyrics" cliche and whilst cheesy as all hell it actually works for me. However apart from a crunching riff and a repetitive chanting chorus the song doesn't really have too much going for it. It's no way as good as the original Hail and Kill though it tried very hard to be close to it but it just fails. Having said all that it is a good way to end and makes a statement for the band and fans. 7/10
So there the album ends on a very heavy note and we are left with another regular Manowar. No big overblown concept just true pounding heavy metal from start to end. To be honest the album is a bit disappointing. I enjoy it but I wanted more catchiness and memorable song writing. Gods of War gets a lot of flak but to me it had many great tunes which are not quite matched here though this is by no means a bad album. I think the reviews will be somewhat mixed for this one though it sounds like Manowar and they've stayed true the sound more or less. Just watch out for Joey's bass fuzz - you'll get a big what the fuck when you first hear it!
Overall rating - 7/10