Manowar – Hell on Wheels (Review)

“Ladies and Gentlemen. From the United States of America… all hail… Manowar.”

Being a Manowar fan brings with it both agony and ecstasy. Ever since their debut Battle Hymns in 1982, the New Yorkers have pounded out albums where epic, awe-inspiring classics have been accompanied by unwelcome bass solos and monologues. So the question that always has to be asked of any new Manowar release is: does the filler outweigh the killer?

Arguably, the band’s golden-era ended with 1992’s Triumph of Steel so the release of their first live record Hell on Wheels in 1997 seemed a bit belated but also had a tantalising wealth of material to draw from.

The album kicks off in thrilling style. Orson Welles heralding the band’s arrival on stage for their signature tune, Manowar. The album does a fine job of capturing Manowar’s punishingly loud live sound, vocalist Eric Adams fighting to be heard amongst the din. Unfortunately, the momentum created by the strong opening is damaged by the ill-conceived grouping of a guitar solo, piano interlude and the ballad, Courage, which creates the feel of a last dance too early in the album’s running time. Blood of my Enemies and Hail and Kill close off the first disc and should be the album’s centrepieces but their effect is neutered by the poor pacing.

Thankfully the second CD is slightly more even. Once again it opens well and although Joey DeMaio’s bass solo Black Arrows is well played and varied, it’s too long and Fighting the World struggles to restore the excitement levels. The back end of the album is over-weighted with newer material from 1996’s disappointing Louder Than Hell but the songs are more convincing live than in the studio and the final stages of Hell on Wheels are great fun, culminating in the moving Battle Hymn.

Ultimately, what should have been the definitive statement of Manowar at their absolute best is hobbled by the inconsistencies that often dog their studio output. You can press “skip” or stick the kettle on and this is a great live album, but victory is barely snatched from the jaws of defeat and I expect more from the Kings of Metal. Thankfully, Manowar had now developed a taste for the live album. There would be more… and they would be better.

HMO Rating: 3.5 out of 5

17 thoughts on “Manowar – Hell on Wheels (Review)”

  1. I can’t really offer much of a comment as I, sadly, don’t really know much Manowar. I remember Gene Simmons calling them the worst band in the world several times. And I recall one kid in highschool loved them. Especially a tune called “Guyana Cult of the Damned”.

    So, to quote Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that!

    But seriously Orson Welles did a voiceover for this? Before or after this?


    1. Fair enough, they’re a bit of a Marmite band certainly! I’ve heard Robert Plant have a pop at them too! In the immortal words of David Coverdale “if you don’t feel it then you’ll never understand”. 🙂
      Guyana is a TUNE. One of my very favourites.
      Haha that Orson Welles clip is amazing. I’d imagine he worked with Manowar after that… in 1982 I think. He did narration for 2 songs and recorded the fantastic stage intro announcement. One of the best concerts intros… really gets the blood pumping! What a voice!


      1. I need to hear these guys so I can decide for myself. I wonder why I never heard them before? Did they make music videos?


      2. Only a few but I probably wouldn’t start there! Haha. Well, check out Gloves of Metal on youtube for a chuckle.
        Album wise, Hail to England is essential! Seriously, at their best the band is peerless. Any of the 80s albums with Ross the Boss are worth hearing though if you like 80s Metal. And I know you do!


      3. I like the juxtaposition of the caveman Flintstones clothes, with the spikes. Surely that must have been a first.

        Musically I don’t mind this at all. Lyrically I don’t think I can shout along in the car with the windows down!


      4. It’s good stuff! The first song I ever heard and the one that converted me was Battle Hymn off their debut album. So I thought that might be a good place to start for you.

        I think Manowar lyrics would be the ones I’d be most likely to sing from a car! Haha thankfully I don’t drive…


      5. How cool, to live in a city and therefore not have to drive. We had that, when we lived in my favourite city (Montreal). In these parts, man, without a car… it’s unimaginable. I remember being over in Scotland, meeting a minister/priest (whatever, a religious guy) and he’d come here to Ontario and been driven from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie and just boggled at how long it took, and all the rocks and trees and water and rocks and trees and water… and then we took the bus from Glasgow to London and it took, what, 6 hours? Which was a major investment in time for you folks. And here, man, that’s from my house to Ottawa. Same province. And not even close to all of it. And then we drove Glasgow to Edinburgh in what, 45 minutes? An hour? Ha. My wife drives that to work every day. It’s awesome. So yeah, anyway. Having no car. That would rule. Imagine how much money we’d save. Good on ya, man!


      6. Yeah, you can fly down to London from here in an hour, train in 4 hours! It would be nice to have a car so we could get out to the countryside, castles etc… a bit more but it’s too expensive to have a car for just that and we just don’t need one in Glasgow. The public transport and walking get us everywhere we need to be. Love the sound of all those rocks and trees and water though.


      7. Second time, we did fly down to London. That was WAY easier. And a pretty view too, all down the coast… but man, that bus trip. Bus had a cassette deck, driver says “anyone has a tape, we can put it on!” I offer up my cassette of Exile On Main St, but some blue hair had Neil Diamond, and since the bus was full of blue hairs, we listened to Neil Diamond The Whole Way There. Hell. HELL.

        I was so fortunate, when over there, to stay with a family that had a car. We did dayt trips, like out to Prestwick, Dumbarton, Oban, and Glencoe. Then up to Loch Lomond (we climbed the Ben!). Then Bothwell and Craignethan castles, down to Peebles. Then over to Edinburgh, St. Andrews. All of it, gorgeous.

        Canada… well, it’s just SO fucking big. And within that space is everything imaginable. Rocks, trees and water? Man, we have SO much, it’s awesome. And there used to be more, until people came along. Anyway, it’s so awesome here. I think we often take it for granted. The more I travel in this place, the more I love it. And every time I travel internationally, no matter how great the trip was (and it usually is), I am always so relieved to come home. You ever get a chance to come this way, do not hesitate. Just about anywhere you could pick is awesome. But I can recommend, from four years’ personal experience, that the prairies in winter are not exactly a vacation destination.


      8. I don’t get abroad that often but I’m always glad to come back to Glasgow. It’s a nice feeling. I’ve known a couple of people that relocated to Canada and they rave about it so I’d love to see it at some point.
        Sounds like you did the rounds of Scotland! I’ve not even been to some of those places. Haha.
        You’re doing your big city visit with Mike soon aren’t you? Is that a big journey?


      9. Yep, recommend this big ol’ lug of a country for a visit to anybody, anytime.

        I guess I did get around on those two trips, a little bit. That’s the point, right? 😉 Still so much I wanted to see, up into the north. Me, I’d go EVERYWHERE and see EVERYTHING. Ach well, another time. My only regret? I didn’t drink, at the time, and being in Oban would have been great for checking out scotch! Alas.

        Yeah, the Big Smoke excursion was to be tomorrow, but is now postponed until next weekend. From my place direct to Mike’s, it’s about two hours, maybe a bit more since he lives on the far south of town and I’m coming down from north of him. From Mike’s to Toronto downtown, I wouldn’t say an hour and a half, but it depends on traffic. So is it a big journey? For us, not really. We’re a bit more used to traversing big spaces to get anywhere. For you, I’ll let you decide. 😉 And I’m gonna break it up bit anyway, drive down to my folks’ place the night before, which takes over an hour off the trip to Mike’s Saturday morning.

        Oh yes, I have it all mapped out. I know where all the good record shops are (in the area we’re hitting anyway), and hot spots for food too, and it’s gonna RULE. I have my holy grail list all set to go.


    1. Haha totally! The cover for Into Glory Ride is well worth checking out.
      Most their other album covers were painted by Ken Kelly, of Destroyer/Love Gun/Rainbow Rising fame. I think KISS should try using him again…


  2. Live After Death and World Wide Live were great. I liked the Sabbath Reunion as well. Maybe cause it was also one of the most intense concerts Ive seen live…mid 90’s want to say…96ish


    1. All great albums. I was at one of the Birmingham shows that was recorded for that Sabbath album. Fantastic concert!
      I thought you might like Dokken’s Beast from the East? Thinking about doing that one too…


  3. Dokken was hit or miss for me. Like their music I never really liked their act fr some reason. Heard Don might team up w/ Michael Schenker…would be interesting.

    Another great live album If You Want Blood…AC/DC


    1. That’s a good one but that was before 1985… there were loads of great ones up to 1985 but not so many since then! Not so many real classics anyway.

      Thought you might like the Dokken one for the guitar playing. I’m not a huge fan of their albums (not too sure about Don’s voice) but I was surprised how good the live album is.


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