Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer (Review)

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer (1984)

Finding their label Music For Nations wanting, presumably puny, Manowar used the budget they were given to record their third album, 1984’s Hail to England, but used it sparingly: covertly working up an additional batch of tracks which they then used to win a record deal with Virgin/Ten Records. Sneakiness aside, Manowar achieved a heroic feat. They had recorded two of the very greatest albums in the history of heavy metal… at the same time.

So here’s the second of those peerless works, Sign Of The Hammer. It’s pure heavy metal, but Manowar’s explosive and idiosyncratic idea of what that might be. Joey DeMaio leads from the front with his humungous bass riffs and leads but the whole band is on stellar form. Eric Adams sings with absolute authority and commitment, Ross The Boss’ wild, off-the-cuff guitar solos are impossibly exciting and Scott Columbus pounds out the drum equivalent of shouting “FRESH HORSES” at the top of your voice. The songwriting is also godly, with opening lines like “black clouds on the horizon” and “burning embers of the second death will come in the night” 100% guaranteed to give all but the false true metal stirrings.

The album is near flawless. All Men Play On Ten and Animals kick the album off like KISS-on-steroids. Thor (The Power Head) is as thunderous and warring as its title suggests. Mountains is elemental in its epic scope and the black wind conjured up in The Oath and the Sign Of The Hammer tips the album into sheer aural chaos. There’s only one chink in the armour here and that’s the bass noodling of Thunderpick. It’s extremely skippable but, as always with Manowar, there’s mad genius at work as the workout proves to be an effective overture to the sublime album closer Guyana (Cult Of The Damned). Eric Adams excels here, delivering an account of mass suicide with chilling and heartbreaking sincerity.

This album has hopped around the top spot of my favourite albums of all time for decades now, vying with that other work of genius Hail To England. There are times when I seriously wonder if I’ve wasted my time listening to other music when I could have been listening to this and, listening to it again now, I reckon I probably was.

23 thoughts on “Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer (Review)”

  1. I can’t tell if you like this one or not. 10 out of 5…Is that good? Kidding aside, Nothing like that one album you just love. For me, it is Queensyrche’s Operation: Mindcrime. I would rather just listen to it than other stuff some times.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Empire’s The Best I Can and The Thin Red Line are often re-loaded in my cannon of creation, my faves playlist. No Manowar tracks there, however, I think some of their lyrical phases are brilliant and inspiring.

      “Fresh Horses” just speaks to me in a way that releases a bit more vigor in my brain to keep going even when exhausted. I haven’t listened to that track yet. The title is fuel enough for now. Thanks for calling that to my attention, Scott.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. The Thin Red Line is one of my faves too… sexy tune, great sounds and atmosphere.

        Actually “fresh horses” was a Blackadder reference… meant to add a link but forgot, so thanks for mentioning it! Link added now. Don’t think Manowar have ever used the phrase, which is a shame because it would really work for them.


  2. So……
    Where shall I begin???
    82 my buddy Muc bought Battle Hymns and shortly after I did as well as it was fantastic …De Maio is a beast on Bass….Plus the whole Warrior like deal flexing there muscles deal was brilliant as they had the chops to back it up….
    I did buy this one and it was good but see Scott here’s the problem….1984 I turned 17. There was so much music coming out than looking back at it it was ridiculous as I tried to keep up with everything which at times was impossible…Manowar fell into the category of not keeping up so….
    They fell by the wayside…
    After reading your review I may have to discover this one again and give it a fair shake after what? 34 years……!!!
    Love your enthusiasm Man!
    Love the go to albums that no matter how old or young they are they resonate with one still!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could see how that might happen. Took me quite a lot of listens to fully appreciate this one… So I can see how it might have got overlooked. But if you dug Battle Hymns (another total classic) then I don’t know why you wouldn’t like this too. Been spinning this regularly since the 80s and it just gets better and better!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No that I didn’t like it there was soooo much metal out..Priest/Maiden/Dio/KISS/Aersomith/plus all the CanCon it was crazy…what I would be on the fence to buy I would make and try to talk Tbone into it liking it enough…..
        Nightranger 7 Wishes springs to mind…haha

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic review HMO – I’m not familiar with this but I like the story of its simultaneous secret recording & your enthusiasm for its contents is contagious.
    When I find myself going through a stretch of ‘OK’ albums on the 1001 list, I find that last line especially relate-able – time spent listening to our favourites is always time well invested!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Manowar! I have a copy of one of Kings of Metal MMXIV, which I like a lot despite it being on for about 4 hours. Always wanted to buy some vinyl, cause the covers always look outstandingly outlandish. Except this one… that’s a boring cover, eh? Still, a HMO 10 out of 5 doesn’t lie.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Strangely enough I don’t tend to see much Manowar out in the wild. Record Fayre had one or two a while back, but I didn’t want to be caught out buying a shitey album.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Don’t talk to me about Danzig! I’m having nightmares about old ladies and the likes snagging copies in charity shops… it’s an endless loop. I keep seeing the first album, but I freeze. I reach and old Jessie gets in there. Then she throws it up on Discogs for £300. “This’ll pay fur ma knitting’ patterns”. Fuuuuuuuuccckkkkkkk!


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