After what seems like an eternity, Manowar’s new album is upon us. Joey De Maio is typically superlative about the reasons behind the delay: Manowar never release anything unless it’s ready to blow people’s heads/balls/speakers (delete where appropriate). Unfortunately, Lord of Steel does none of this.
The title track starts promisingly. The opening riff is one that, well, Ross the Boss would be proud of, but the joy of anticipating a new lease of life for the legend that is Manowar is brought to an abrupt halt when we are introduced to De Maio’s new bass tone. His trademark valve-driven sound has been replaced by what sounds like a cheap fuzz pedal. Perhaps he has had to sell his Marshall stacks to fund the album, but, for the life of me, how any professional musician could possibly see this tone as a sensible progression to the sound that has served Manowar so well for the last 30 years is anyone’s guess? I can only hope that his hearing has been impaired to such an extent from years of aural abuse that he isn’t actually aware that his bass sounds like a fart from a duck with its arse sewn up. Fortunately, Adams is there to rescue the song, showing that he’s still up there with the rest when it comes to vocal ability.
Manowarriors is there early on to appease the ‘true’ into believing that the album is going to get better, but one can’t help but think it was written for a laugh on the back of a beer coaster after a few pints in the pub. And it’s this theme of regurgitating old lyrics so predominant throughout Lord Of Steel, combined with amateurish song writing that makes it such a gargantuan stretch for anyone to believe that this album is some 7 years in the making. In reality, it sounds as if it was thrown together in someone’s bedroom in a few weeks. Certainly not the fare you’d expect from the self-proclaimed kings of metal.
Things improve somewhat with the riff that begins Born In A Grave. There’s some nice harmonies going on from Karl, but this album only serves to emphasise how weak his guitar sound is compared to Ross – all digitally compressed and processed within an inch of its life, where the rawness of Ross’s sounds could have breathed life into many of the songs. Sure, he’s an accomplished and technical musician, but his guitar is set up for speed and his sound is so digitally manipulated that there is no room for nuance or style.
Righteous Glory is the compulsory ballad and does what it says on the tin. Like Gods Of Metal, there are insinuations in the lyrics that Manowar may be coming to the end of their road and you find yourself contemplating that this might not be such a bad thing. Mind you, it’s a perfectly fine song, albeit without any of the magic found in the likes of Courage or Heart Of Steel.
Touch The Sky sees that dodgy bass sound back to ruin an otherwise good song with an infectious chorus. Black List follows, a throwaway track, which feels like it was tacked on just to make up a nice even 10 tracks. It’s a slow, plodding, pedestrian effort sitting in the middle of the road like a frog waiting to get hit by a truck.
Expendable is Manowar’s first big effort at getting on a soundtrack. Apparently Stallone is a big fan and Joey wanted to see if he could get the track included on the new Expendables movies. However, I don’t think it made the cut (although I could be wrong yet). It’s a fine track, but, made for the screen and not made for Manowar fans.
El Gringo, on the other hand, did make the soundtrack cut for the movie of the same name. And it’s a good track that reeks of Triumph Of Steel era Manowar. It’s cheesy and repetitive but that’s those are the requisites for an action movie soundtrack.
Annihilation is a fine track too. There’s that word again – ‘fine’. And that’s what pretty much sums up the album – fine, okay, nothing special! It sounds like Manowar; it just isn’t exceptional and certainly hasn’t been worth the wait.
Hail, Kill & Die finishes the album off in similarly clichéd Manowar style with lyrics written by the Random Manowar Lyric Generator V 2.0. And I’m left genuinely wondering if the title is a pisstake.
But the biggest question every Manowar fan will be asking is why did we have to wait so long for such mediocrity? What happened the circle of albums and the Asgard Saga that Joey ranted about for all those years? As usual, there is no explanation forthcoming from the Manowar camp. The sad reality is, no matter how much spin De Maio puts on it, no one can seriously believe this album wasn’t written and recorded in a more than a few months.
And what everyone is asking now is: Is that it? What happens next? Do we have to wait another five years for a follow up? If that is the case, I say to Joey, just pack it in now. Leave with some dignity while you still can. Put in a full and I mean ‘full’ world tour with dates in every country (not just Germany) with reasonable ticket prices and leave with your heads held high. You can always come back every few years to wow us with a live festival appearance somewhere. Either do that, or get Ross back in the band and write a classic Manowar album for release next year!
As it stands, Lord Of Steel doesn’t deserve more than a very average 3 out of 5. And even the most die-hard fan knows that in their heart of hearts.