So...I'd been meaning to continue my journey through the collected works of Manowar with a post covering albums three through six - Hail To England, Sign Of The Hammer, Fighting The World and Kings Of Metal. But for a variety of reasons, I haven't made it to the finish line yet. Reason #1 is that I'm a busy guy and a lot of other music has landed on my desk in the last week or so. Reason #2, though, is that listening to Fighting The World was so demoralizing an experience that I'm kinda dreading subjecting myself to Kings Of Metal.
So let's talk about Hail To England. It's a heavy, thrashy album, short (less than 40 minutes) and to the point. Songs give away the game with their titles - "Blood Of My Enemies," "Kill With Power," "Each Dawn I Die" (probably my favorite song on the album), "Bridge Of Death." There's not all that much to say about it - Manowar skips the metal lifestyle anthems and goes right for the gory reading-way-too-many-Conan-comics stuff, lyrically speaking, which is fine with me, and the playing is stellar as always. I could grumble a little about the bass, which is occaionally too prominent in the mix, but fuck it. Overall, H2E is a damn fine metal album, continuing Manowar's out-of-the-gate hot streak.
The collapse begins with Sign Of The Hammer. A lot of people laugh at album opener "All Men Play On 10," but I'm not one of them. A few bad lines aside, it's probably Manowar's best "we are Manowar, we are metal, period" song, the guitar soloing kicks ass, and the chorus is genuinely fist-pumping. "Thor (The Powerhead)" is a good song, too, and "Mountains" is probably my favorite Manowar epic; it's a little hard to figure out - at first I thought it was about being a mountain, or something - but ultimately awesome. The trouble sets in with songs like "Animals" and the goofy "Guyana (Cult Of The Damned)," which tries to be a serious horrors-of-modern-life track about Jonestown, but frankly, these guys aren't up to the job. This is the first Manowar album where the stupid songs start to outnumber the stupid-but-enjoyable ones.
So...Fighting The World. Here's the thing: I like "Fighting The World" and "Carry On." They're good songs. In fact, they're pretty much the only decent songs on the album. The lyrics are stooooopid, but at least they've got memorable hooks. The problem is, they're produced like tracks from mid-'80s Kiss albums. And I don't even like '70s Kiss very much, let alone Lick It Up-era Kiss. When Manowar gets back to doing their usual "war is awesome" thing, they're half-assing it, it seems to me. They bust out some leftover tape of Orson Welles (who'd died two years earlier) on "Defender," but other than that, there's absolutely nothing special about these songs - they're just more of the same old Manowar stuff, with faux-radio-friendly production. This is the beginning of the decline into jokehood.