MANOWAR – GODS OF WAR (MAGIC CIRCLE 2007)

REVIEW BY KASSU KORTELAINEN / 2007

The new Manowar album has been a long time coming. The band’s been mainly concentrating on releasing DVD’s since their last studio album, 2002’s “Warriors Of The World” so as the new Manowar release Gods Of War finally hit the stores recently, it can be considered as quite a major event in the metal scene.

There are a couple of different versions of Gods Of War to choose from, the ‘normal’ version with usual Manowar artwork displaying a group of big barbarians and a bunch of busty babes, and the special edition with a bonus track and a bonus DVD, wrapped not only in a pretty stylish ‘leather’ -bound booklet but also in a sturdy metal case. The latter, seeming like the obvious choice for any self-respecting metal collector, will also work as the subject of this review.

The nice covers, however hide a pile of nasty surprises. First one jumps straight at your face as soon as you open the booklet to see what it has to offer. Drawings and band photos look just the way they should be. As does the text… but only if you happen to read fluently ancient runic alphabets! Indeed – all the text from song lyrics to album credits is written in (what I can only assume are) old viking runes. An idea that probably has felt pretty cool to whoever came up with it, but in practice renders everything in utter gibberish. There is a translation code attached to the end of the book, so good luck to those who actually bother to go through the book rune by rune. Personally I doubt many listeners will want to go through the trouble. Grantedly, the Manowar camp has added english version of the booklet to be downloaded from their website, but the damage’s already been done. Lousy booklet design, no matter how well it might fit the theme.

As for that bonus DVD, sufficient to say if you’re not dying to know how Manowar t-shirts are made or really want to see Karl Logan advertising the guitar he’s designed, you won’t be too sorry to skip the whole thing. There’s a short interview that is remotely interesting, but overall the DVD becomes very disposable.

Another nasty surprise, sadly, presents itself as you start to listen to the album. The first track, suitably pompously titled “Overture To The Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors” turns out to be a symphonic intro for the album. Some might’ve expected the album to kick off with a little heavier opener, but knowing Manowar’s tendency to throw in some extra drama, the Hymn works just fine. But as the album proceeds to track number two “The Ascension”, alarm bells start go off in the back of the listener’s mind. What we get is basically a second intro, this time with eerie witch drums and a frustratingly boring narration. Finally some nice singing of Eric Adams begins and at last the album switches on to high gear with an instantly recognisable Manowar sound of the song “King of Kings”. The song itself is good quality Manowar, although it too has a part of that same monotonous narration in the middle. As a stand-alone track the spoken part could’ve worked but after already too lengthy opening tracks it takes some fire off the song. And after the song we have… you guessed it, another interlude. Again bringing down the tempo and any excitement “King Of Kings” had stirred up.

The same pattern repeats itself throughout the whole “Gods Of War” album. The flow of the songs is constantly interrupted by the interludes, narrations and sound effects such as galloping horses or cracking thunder. They present themselves either as their own tracks or as parts of the actual songs. The aim must have been to create an epic sounding journey, but the unfortunate fact is that all these breaks between and inside the music turn against the songs themselves. Almost every time when the pace tightens and the listener is left with anticipation for the next song, an interlude or a speech follows and freezes the album down.

Luckily, the songs themselves are pretty much what you would’ve expected. Manowar fails to reach the glory days of their early albums, and though “Gods Of War” doesn’t even reach the overall level of their previous couple of albums “Louder Than Hell” & “Warriors Of The World” it can be described as solid Manowar. The band’s style remains unaltered, and though the band can’t be praised to be very inventive with their music, they remain as a reliable force in what they do.

On “Gods Of War” you’ll get your usual Manowar heavyhitters in “King Of Kings” or “Loki God of Fire” for example, and the epic power ballads in “Blood Brothers” and “Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors”. Lyrically the songs are getting a bit too cliché-ridden even for Manowar; the repetition of phrases from their old songs feels pretty stale and to be frank, the Valhalla theme with it’s sons of Odin and rainbow bridges isn’t the most unique subject in metal music to begin with. Actually, the bonus track ‘Die For Metal’ is the best thing to prove the problems with the theme; regardless of ripping off Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir”, “Die For Metal” offers a refreshing change to all the viking imagery on the rest of the album. Both lyrically and musically.

But like said, in the end Manowar knows exactly how to handle the tools they’ve chosen and that results in trademark Manowar music. The drum and guitar sound feel a little too polished at times but Eric Adams once again proves himself as one of the best metal singers around and makes the songs just that important little bit better than they actually are with his strong delivery.

So, to wrap it up, “Gods Of War” is a set of solid, new, though hardly earthshaking, Manowar songs. Unfortunately it’s all hidden behind a huge layer of overtures, interludes and especially the lengthy narrations that get real irritating real quick. The best chance, I guess, to keep on listening the album over and over again would probably be putting the songs in an mp3 player and leave the excessive parts out.

Still, for any Manowar fan the SONGS here should prove adequate to fill the spot inside that needs a new dose of Manowar music after many years of waiting. Maybe next time we’ll get the big one.

2k

manowar

1. Overture To The Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors
2. The Ascension
3. King Of Kings
4. Army Of The Dead, Part I
5. Sleipnir
6. Loki God Of Fire
7. Blood Brothers
8. Overture To Odin
9. The Blood Of Odin
10. Sons Of Odin
11. Glory Majesty Unity
12. Gods Of War
13. Army Of The Dead, Part II
14. Odin
15. Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors
16. Die For Metal (bonus track)

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About Kassu Kortelainen