First off, I’ve never cared for Manowar. These US power metal stalwarts have always struck me as taking themselves just a tad too seriously (how about bassist Joey DeMaio’s recent war of words with Canadian metal mag “Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles” over the fact that Rob Halford, and not Manowar, got a cover photo?), and you know, power metal is something that works when its inherent cheesiness is recognized. That’s why, for example, Hammerfall’s first two records worked so well—their tongues were planted firmly in their cheeks. That’s also why, when Hammerfall’s third record—the disastrous “Renegade”—came out, their schtick ceased to work. They believed the hype, they believed that they were “the saviors of metal,” or whatever, and they forgot to have fun. DeMaio believes the hype. He believes Manowar should be taken seriously. I mean, my God, these are grown men, in their 40s, sporting studded leather and proclaiming “Hail and kill in the name of heavy metal.” How can you not laugh?
With their latest, “Warriors of the World,” Manowar take pretentiousness and self-importance to previously unscaled heights. The disc gets off to a good start with the anthemic “Call to Arms,” but very quickly craps out with (you knew it was coming) the obligatory 9/11 homage, “The Fight for Freedom.” Then, they cover Puccini’s “Messun Dorma,” which is dedicated to frontman Eric Adams’ late mother. It sounds good (Adams can pull off opera!), but really doesn’t belong here. And speaking of out-of-place, what is “An American Trilogy” doing here? Hearing Adams warble “Oh I wish I was in the land of cotton…” just doesn’t work (to be fair, Manowar’s jingoism here is not nearly as embarrassing as Iced Earth’s “Ghost of Freedom” from Horror Show Elsewhere, we get Manowar standards like “Swords in the Wind,” “Warriors of the World United,” “Fight Until We Die,” and “House of Death,” which is dedicated to Metal Blade CEO Brian Slagel (is the song a description of life on the Metal Blade roster?).
Look, I have nothing personal against Manowar or Joey DeMaio. This is the career he’s chosen and, as his message in the liner notes states, I can f**k off if I don’t approve. At least the record sounds good and is competently done (if poorly arranged), unlike the pair of inept live albums they released a couple of years back. I’m tempted to think it’s all an act, but I don’t know—DeMaio appears pretty serious, almost to the point where he makes Iced Earth’s Jon Schaffer seem complacent. Yo, Joey—lighten up. It’s power metal. Have a little fun with it. As it is, this is still true Manowar, and I still truly don’t care.