Saddle your horse, drink your last ale and say FAREWELL to the Kings of Metal! For Manowar have announced that their next tour will be their last.
It’s a sad day and there will be much lamentation. In the 34 years since their classic debut Battle Hymns, the band has become an iconic and legendary presence in the metal genre for their DEATH TO FALSE METAL manifesto, All Men Play on Ten volume and, yes, the mighty loincloths. But their true legacy is their music. Manowar have released some of the best albums and songs you will ever hear.
The best album of all time? Sign of the Hammer.
The greatest song of all time? Bridge of Death.
The greatest guitar solo of all time? Ross the Boss ripping it up on Battle Hymn. Fucking yes.
I could go on. Manowar are my favourite band. They’ve been with me my entire heavy metal life. I sincerely hope that the tour will wing its way near me so I can catch them one last time. I’m going to miss them but, when I march, their sword rides with me.
Modern Anathema albums require supension of disbelief. I’d normally be calling shenanigans on this kind of stuff. “Been listening to Radiohead much?” I’d ask. Oh, here’s the “ump ump ump” drumbeat… this must be the euphoric bit! “Only you can heal your life…” thanks for that, Louise Hay. Got any more positive affirmations for us? Maybe call your next album “Money’s going to rain down on you today. You’re a tiger! Rarrr”?
But, full credit to the Liverpudlians, We’re Here Because We’re Here is so beautifully, crescenduously affecting that none of those criticisms occur to me when it’s on… even though they all apply. It’s risky territory and treads a fine line between the sublime and the mawkish. It’s a line the band are starting to increasingly trip over but on this 2010 album they get the balance just right. And what you get is one of the best albums of the last ten years: a testament to the band’s heartfelt belief and delivery and their excellent way with spiritual, uplifting harmony.
I bought a veritable shit-ton of Virgin Steele albums at Xmas. I’m still working my way through them all but I’ve already got a good few new favourite albums of all time out of them. Yes, they’re that good. The standout album so far is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part One. This is a band firing on all cylinders, veering boldly from strident warrior metal to heartfelt balladry and epic classical pomp without a dull moment. The band describe their music as barbaric romanticism and it’s a great description because, for all the chest beating and sword waving, this is a band unafraid to employ sensitivity and romance, usually via the emotive delivery and passionate lyrics of vocalist/composer David DeFeis. He has a remarkable gift for vocal melodies that lifts songs like I Will Come For You, Trail of Tears, Life Among the Ruins and Blood and Gasoline (one of the best songs I have ever heard in my puff) to the sublime level of the godly. Essential.
I’ve been getting into this album way more now than I did when it came out. There were loads of great albums out in 2013 and this one just got lost in the stampede. I’d have rated a good 5 or 6 albums above this back then but I’ve not gone back to any of that year’s albums as much as this one. I attribute its staying power to its classic none-more-metal power. I did think some of Fenriz’s tracks were a bit cartoonish when I first got it but really he’s just going for broke in a way too few metal acts do anymore. Endearing enthusiasm and naivety. His three songs here are just an absolute hoot. And on the remaining three, Nocturno Culto delivers the type of frosty misanthropy that he is still the master of. Genius, biting riffs and his incredible decayed growl. Darkthrone totally understand the execution and the spirit of 80s metal. NWOBHM, speed, 1st wave black… the kind of stuff that never gets old. And if it’s not totally perfect? Who needs perfect when you can have awesome?
[Darkthrone – The Ones You Left Behind]
Here’s the best, and most fun, song on The Underground Resistance. Totally boisterous, simple and… check out that bridge riff.
Welcome back to another edition of the Noise-some Notes, my weekly(ish) look at what’s been happening in my Metal World.
Not much has been happening news-wise. Paradise Lost have issued a cryptic image and date which fans will recognise as a detail from their Gothic album artwork and 2016 also marks the album’s 25th Anniversary… so maybe an anniversary reissue or performance lined up? And on the subject of anniversaries, Anthrax are lining up a deluxe 30th anniversary edition of Spreading the Disease. Their best album if you ask me. And there’s a box set (vinyl and CD editions) due out of The Faces studio albums. I’ve got my pre-order in for that already! I got rid of my Faces CDs quite a few years ago as remasters were being mooted but they didn’t happen for some reason. But now they’re here and I can’t wait! Can’t beat a bit of Rod.
And now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the highlights from my recent listening:
Macabre Omen – Gods of War – At War
This is my most recent purchase. Macabre Omen are a Greek Black Metal band and this is shaping up to be one of the best releases of the year so far. A lot of bands rely on all sorts of bells and whistles to give their music an “epic” scale but here it’s all in the writing and delivery. Much in the way of albums like Bathory’s Hammerheart and there is a strong Bathory flavour here too. I listened to this on the bus today and felt… stirrings.
Manowar – Gods of War
And speaking of stirrings… here’s Manowar! With more “Gods of War” no less! This is quite a brave album of theirs and one that has grown on me very much since its release. I mentioned bells and whistles earlier. Well, this is slathered in them. Orchestras, choirs, narration… you name it. But it’s all very dramatic and the right atmosphere and epic flavour is captured in the actual Metal too. Listen to the title-track and tell me that isn’t music to row longships to! Stirrings happened.
Uriah Heep – Demons and Wizards
This was a good Sunday night listen to accompany some slovenly couch-potatoing.
Def Leppard – Adrenalize
LeBrain has been doing excellent coverage of the Adrenalize-era Def Leppard singles and his reviews got me digging this album out for another listen. It’s not their best album by any means, but I have a big soft spot for this cheese-laden album. Especially the song Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion), it’s a fantastic track that masterfully tickles me in the Pop parts. And I do love having my Pop parts tickled. It’s a bit like the stirrings but different.
Richard and Linda Thompson – Shoot Out the Lights
I did say last time that there are weekly spins of Richard Thompson music in the HMO compound and I wasn’t lying! And this is one of his (and Linda’s) best. I’m especially enjoying Man In Need these days.
Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
Got to hand it to Paradise Lost. It’s impressive stuff when a band of their vintage is still as creatively switched-on as this. Their latter-day releases have been generally very good (I especially like Faith Divides Us, Death Unites Us and In Requiem) but they’ve not sounded this vital for aeons. A very likely candidate for album of the year. And remind me to show you my sexy box-set of this some time.
Judas Priest – Live at Long Beach Arena
Was starting to feel like Priest were one of those bands that I’ve got fed up with. Like I’ve “solved” them. Well you can’t keep a band like Priest down and this excellent live album (the bonus feature of their recent Defenders of the Faith reissue) totally blew me away. It made me feel like I was hearing tracks like Metal Gods and Sinner for the first time. Sublime.
Cream – Those Were the Days (Disc 2)
The second disc of the Cream box set. I stuck this on mainly to hear Badge, my favourite Cream song (and a bass line I wanted to learn). But I always get a chuckle out of Pressed Rat and Warthog and its atonal apples.
These are the standouts anyway. In addition I listened to the usual Saxon albums that I cover elsewhere. There was some Thrash stuff like Testament’s The Legacy (yawn) and Dark Angel’s Darkness Descends (wooargh!) And I also listened to Opeth’s debut album Orchid for the first time in donkey’s! And rather enjoyed it too.
SONG OF THE WEEK
I was going to go for Def Leppard and Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion) but I wasn’t quite sure if you were all ready to have your Pop parts tickled so… I went for the Metal Gods. A brilliant version of a classic tune.