Manowar - Gods of war 3.5/5 (for the full thing, but 4/5 with the fat trimmed)
1. Overture to the hymn of the immortal warriors
2. The ascension
3. King of kings
4. Army of the dead, part l
6. Loki god of fire
7. Blood brothers
8. Overture to Odin
9. The blood of Odin
10. The sons of Odin
11. Glory majesty unity
12. Gods of war
13. Army of the dead, part ll
15. Hymn of the immortal warriors
16. Die for metal (bonus track)
After 5 years Manowar returns with their 10th studio album, 'Gods of war'. This marks the beginning of a "cycle" of concept albums from Manowar. This one is essentially a tribute to Odin influenced by Wagner's "The ring of the nibelung". In many ways this is many Manowar fans' dream come true. So many of this band's testoserone-fueled songs have dealt with Odin, Valhalla, Asgard, war, victory, unity, HAIL! HAIL! HAIL! (Sorry got carried away there.) Manowar's 'Triumph of steel' CD featured a 28-minute epic based on Homer's "The Iliad". While it was padded with worthless drum and bass solos, the song showed that Manowar was capable of a huge sprawling epic, and here it is. Well, we get more than we bargained for. While for the most part, the songs are pretty great, and as epic as you would expect, the CD is bogged down by a ridiculous number of interlude tracks containing keyboards and narration. By the time you've sat through this CD, you'll be so sick of Joey DeMaio (bassist, primary songwriter) narrating the story, you'll be crazy. It's very frustrating when you have to sit through 2 of the interlude tracks to get to one proper song which happens a couple of times on this CD. Honestly, after reviewing the CD here, I plan on paring down this CD considerably so that I can skip the bulk of these pointless interlude tracks.
The CD pompously begins with (and I am not joking) a track called "Overture to the hymn of the immortal warriors". This is a classical, keyboardy intro that frankly goes on for way too long at over 6 minutes. I give credit to the band for knowing what an "overture" is, as it does showcase and preview melodies to be found later on in the CD (on the final proper track). Still, it just drags on for far too long. Now after enduring over 6 minutes of intro, you would think they would immediately begin pummeling you with fist banging metal, right? Wrong. Instead we have another interlude track, "The ascension". This track is mercyfully only 2 and a half minutes, and was found on the 'Sons of Odin' EP in "live" format. This works much better as an intro due to its brevity. Plus, it has some wondeful clean vocals from the superb Eric Adams. This leads directly to the first proper song, "King of kings". I already covered this on my 'Sons of Odin' review, but this is the fastest track on the CD and is a great "opener". Frankly, I would have left the "Overture..." off and simply started the CD with "The ascension".
"King of kings" is followed by... an interlude track. But, the good news is, it's awesome. "Army of the dead, part l" is a mostly harmonized vocal track that showcases Adams' awesomeness and is a great example of what an interlude track should be. The vocal melodies are powerful and beautiful and actually add to the epic nature of the CD rather than bore you to death with prolonged narration. There is an "Army of the dead, part ll" later on that is nearly identical, but just as powerful. These are perfect examples of how interlude tracks can work well with epic concept albums, so kudos to Manowar here.
Thankfully at this point we actually get 3 "proper" songs in a row. "Sleipnir" is notable for an incredibly catchy, melodic chorus and clips along at a quick tempo. "Loki god of fire" starts up immediately following with a blazing fast, awesome opening riff. The song then settles into the midtempo and is pretty solid. "Blood brothers" is a power ballad and is strong. I like Manowar to mix things up from heavy to less heavy since in the lighter songs, Adams' voice is really showcased.
Next, we are once again mired in interlude hell. "Overture to Odin" is another keyboardy classical instrumental. This was also on the 'Sons of Odin' EP. Again it previews melodies for the song "Odin" which actually is nearer the end of the CD. It's ok for what it is and lasts a little under 4 minutes. By this point though, I've about had enough with these pointless interlude tracks. It also amuses me how Manowar used to boldly proclaim in their liner notes, "No synths. No pedals. No wimps." I guess synths are more acceptable now that they don't have Atlantic around to fund choirs, pipe organs, and orchestras! Following this we have - yes - another interlude track, "The blood of Odin". This is 4 minutes of sound effects, moody keyboards, and Joey's narration. It's just way too much at this point, and it would take all the power, strength, and majesty of Odin himself for you to resist hitting the "skip" button. Finally, we get to "Sons of Odin" which is probably the best track on the CD. I covered this in the 'Sons of Odin' EP review, but it's an anthemic monster. "Sons of Odin" is guilty of ending with narration itself, but it actually fits the song's climactic conclusion fine and doesn't last for too long.
We have one more narration track in "Glory majesty unity". This is actually a sequel of sorts to "The warrior's prayer" from 'Kings of metal', complete with the same "grandfather" narrator. It's cool to hear it the first time, but it also lasts too long (almost 5 minutes) and essentially says the same thing that "...prayer" did 9 years ago. It leads into "Gods of war" which is another of the CD's strongest tracks, and was also on the 'Sons of Odin' EP. This version is slightly different as it opens with drums beating a marching cadence and voices singing the chorus. I like this new version a lot.
The CD closes with "Odin" and "Hymn of the immortal warriors". These are both slower songs, almost with a funeral dirge tone to them. I like both songs, but it kinds of ends the CD with a whimper instead of a
bang. You basically don't get much speed on this CD and I'm frankly longing for some by the end. "Hymn..." is still pretty epic with the backing "orchestra" and has a strong, chorus sung by a deep choir. And again, Adams is just teriffic with this slower material. There is also a bonus track "Die for metal". Manowar just can't stand to not give us a metal anthem! This song is fine, but it's also slower paced and is really not one of their strongest of this type. Again, throwing a fast song here would have been great.
So here we have Manowar's first crack at a concept album. Manowar fans should be pleased overall, and the detractors of the band will have plenty of new fuel to fire their criticisms and taunts. I've been pretty harsh in my criticism of this CD's bloat. But, I still think it's excellent, especially if you skip through (or trim out) a lof of the obvious fat. The worst thing about the CD is the pacing, which was many people's gripes with their previous effort, (the excellent) 'Warriors of the world'. Since we're in for more of these concept albums, I hope Joey will show some restraint and focus more on making the actual songs epic, rather than relying on these tiresome interlude tracks. I will say, that if you've already heard the 'Sons of Odin' EP it will impact your first impression of this CD since you've already heard the strongest songs. There are only about 5 more proper songs on the CD, and none of them are quite as good as the ones from the EP. It's still another strong effort by the band and I will be excited to hear the follow-up. (Let's have some more speed next time, please.)
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