Manowar // The Lord of Steel
Rating: 2.5/5.0 — This hammer is too small!
Label: Magic Circle Music
Websites: manowar.com  |  myspace.com
Release Dates: Out now (in digital form)

Manowar! Long have I waited for this new opus! Yes, Steel Druhm loves him some Manowar. I recognize their sword and loincloth schtick is silly and almost as cheesy as Rhapsody of Fire, but I’ve loved them since I was a wee little warrior and they’ll always have a place in metal heart (of steel). After the symphonic, overwrought (even by Mano-standards) disappointment of Gods of War and a ridiculous five-year wait (I’m not counting the 500 live albums), we finally get to see how Joey DeMaio and company decided to followup their prior misstep. Now we get to test the mettle of the metal contained within The Lord of Steel. Does it measure up to the glory of past victories and triumphs? Well, no. After the promisingly ballsy material on the Thunder in the Sky EP, this is another puzzling release by the former lords of all things metal. While many of the typical Manowar lyrical clichés remain in place, the music takes an odd turn toward a generic, mid-tempo, lifeless plod. While a few songs remind of past odes to epic battles, most of this is like tales of office cubicle drones. As I played and replayed this, all I could keep thinking was: this is all they could come up with in FIVE YEARS?? Steel Druhm is not happy.

Lord (of steel) knows things open well enough with the title track. It’s a thundering, massive slice of metal with an oversized new bass sound and the expected amount of alpha male bombast from the oiled ones. It’s fast enough to qualify as quasi-thrash and has a ton of gritty attitude. It’s right in line with the teaser Thunder in the Sky EP and sets expectations rather high. “Manowarriors” is another in the long line of braggadocio songs wherein Manowar regales with tales of how “metal” they are. With lyrics like “we drink a lot of beers and play our metal loud at night,” you know it ain’t deep, but it’s still fun, cheesy, anthemic silliness. There’s the expected emotional power ballad with “Righteous Glory,” and though it isn’t their finest hour, it’s nicely epic and Eric Adams proves there’s still plenty of life in those leather lungs. The standout is the curiously titled “El Gringo,” which recaptures the bigger-than-life macho charm of older material and has a nicely hooky chorus.

Sadly, there’s a lot of sub par, dull and uninspired material cluttering up the battlefield. “Born in a Grave” isn’t bad exactly, but it chugs along without much energy or enthusiasm and is only saved by a slightly memorable chorus. “Touch the Sky” has a generic feel and leaves you waiting for something big to happen as it grinds along spewing self-esteem building lyrics. Worse are filler demons like “Expendable” and “Black List” that sound more like third-rate stoner rock than Manowar. Things end a bit better with “Annihilation” which has a little muscle, and “Hail, Kill and Die” which does the “let’s name all our albums in the lyrics” thing but at least has the feel of their Kings of Metal era material. Still, this is far from a metallic conquest.

To me, the thing that always makes Manowar worthwhile are the vocals of Eric Adams. The man is one of the best vocalists in metal and he’s right there with Halford, Dickinson, Dio and Tate. Though their recent material sees him shout talking more than singing his balls off like the olden (Odin) days, the man can still wail when called for, but that happens far too infrequently here. Still, he shines on songs like “Righteous Glory” and he can still impress a jaded metal fan with his power and range. Evil Bass Lord Joey DeMaio has adopted a new, buzzing, distorted tone, more like what you would hear on a crusty doom or stoner rock album (Kyuss in particular). Its cool and works on some songs but it seems he’s also decided to slow the material down to stoner/doom levels and that doesn’t work so well.

While one must expect a king-size serving of testosterone with extra cheese sauce on any Manowar outing, The Lord of Steel forgets to pack the aggression and energy. With nearly half the album stuck in plod mode and too many of the songs ending up dull or flat, it makes me wonder if the leather lords have finally run out of ideas and inspiration. This is a worse song writing effort than the super symphonic Gods of War and that really hurts my black heart of…steel.

I’ll always love these guys and still go back to their early albums regularly, but I’m starting to feel my youthful hero-worship wearing off after TEN YEARS without a killer record. The Lord of Steel isn’t awful but it sure isn’t what Mano-fans were waiting and hoping for. Maybe it’s time to scrap new material all together and just do “greatest hits” tours where they can live off past laurels of battles won, ales quaffed and wenches ravished. Please prove me wrong Manowar, I’m daring you. I’m double dog daring you.

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  • thehuntress144

    Spot on as usual. I gave this a listen today and, oh man, so not good.

  • A tad harsh, I’d have given it a 3. It’s a solid slice of Manowar type old school metal but definitely needs a couple more up tempo numbers. The opening song kicks ass, the rest of it is just decent.

  • Kalsten

    I still need to give it more tries, but what disappointed me was that, El Gringo, which I expected to be the worse song of the album, was, in fact, the best (or one of them).

    They have really lost everything I loved from ManOwaR since I started listening to Metal 15 years ago. No ultra-powerful Adam’ screams, no epic songs, no top quality ballads…nothing at all.
    Very disappointing :(

    • Pretty much how I feel 100%.

    • revelationman

      I am finding the more I am listening it to the more I am enjoying kinda reminds of some Maiden records it does not hit you the first few times but after a few spins you start loving it.  I am enjoying the song Expendable right now it’s has this power grove I like, maybe that is what the band wants a record that will last but takes a few good listens

      • Kalsten

        For me is being the opposite. The more I listen to it, the less I like. And for a person which considered ManOwaR his favourite Metal  band from all times, I’m shocked. I even liked most of Gods of War, but this, man…this really sucks.

        There was one song, I don’t recall which one, that starts with an alternate bass-guitar gallop, alternating between your left and right ear, which make me have a headache, and the volumen wasn’t that high. But the buzzzy sound of the bass kills me.

        • revelationman

           It’s a difficult record to grasp, there is some songs that I want to ask Joey did you have a brain cramp and there is some other songs that has potential to be absolute killers.  I think sometimes bands just take for granted their fan support and feel they have the right or can get away with bringing out mediocre product.  The sad thing about Manowar they could be greater not just in Europe they could be Iron Maiden ripping up the world, Joey’s excuse we do it our way  we are the true metal is getting old and stale. Also when you make statements you must back them up, not just on the stage but in the studio as-well

  • nuiski

    While it’s not the greatest album ever made I think it’s really solid and I’d give it a 3.5 .
    The production is great; I really like the buzzing bass-sound and the songs are catchy and heavy. Most importantly it’s the first Manowar album that’s actually fun to listen to since “The Triumph of Steel”.
    Maybe I’m being too positive, but I was expecting this to be abysmally terrible and it’s a nice surprise to find that I like it.

  • No way, they have a new album? Gonna check it out ASAP. Hope I dont think its as bad as you say it is.

  • EntombeD

    The first mention of Rhapsody of Fire reads as “Rhapsody in Fire”

  • steffmetal

    Agree 100%. So disappointed. I really expected more from Manowar over the last ten years. I guess the only thing to do is to not let the last mediocre releases spoil the awesomeness of their earlier albums.

  • I love the album. ElGringo IS the worst song.
    I’m listening over and over again and I feel so tall – I could TOUCH THE SKY!
    Sorry to see disappointed people, but most believe this is their best album in the past 10 years. And sorry, but if you think GoW is bad, and LoS is worse than Thunder in the Sky (TitS, lol) – you’re not really Manowar material.

    • Well, I’ve been a big fan since Into Glory Ride, been listening to Manowar for almost 30 years, seen them multiple times and have my picture taken with the original ine-up, but if loving the past 2 albums is required to be “Manowar material,” I guess you can count me out.

    • nuiski

      As I posted already, I like the new album.
      BUT, how anyone can defend “Warriors of the World” or (even worse) “Gods of War” is beyond my comprehension; I’m a fan and I really tried to give GoW a chance, but I had to give up and admit that there is almost nothing to like on that album.

      • Daniel Jonas

        Wait, are you saying that Warriors of the World was bad? Hell no, that was Manowar’s finest hour, the title song is probably their most popular piece along with Hail and Kill. And yes, those stupid covers may hurt a little, but the real songs of it (Call to Arms, Fight for Freedom, Swords in the Wind, WotW, Hand of Doom, House of Death, Fight Until We Die + The Dawn of Battle, I Believe) felt like a greatest hits collection.

        But then Gods of War sucked badly, only King of Kings worked, which was made in the WotW era. This new stuff is boring, the only song I enjoyed a little was the ballad (like in Louder than Hell, another weak album with one good song on it).

        • nuiski

          “Wait, are you saying that Warriors of the World was bad?”
          Yup, that’s what I’m saying. A few decent tracks and a lot of filler.

        • I like Warriors of the World. It’s not as epic as the old albums but it does have a lot of aggressive, ballsy metal. That’s something Gods of War and The Lord of Steel sadly lack.

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  • I don’t think the songs are badly written, it just doesn’t seem like they don’t have as much energy as before. Do anybody else suspect that it might be age? Like I don’t deny the hair rose when hearing a new manowar song for the first time but you don’t quite get any of those “kill with power” moments where you’re just pulled back at how epicly awesome it is. To the war god odin you will pray, anybody remember that shit? Who cares I still love them even if they make a metal balad album in a old folks home a 20 years from now I’ll still love them. Imagine if it had been a younger manowar playing these songs like ross the boss and the whole gang. =D

  • Martin L

    Good review but… serious question, how can you be disappointed? If you’re a long fan time as you claim to be, you already know the scientifically proven equation: Each album that followed Kings of Metal was inferior to the one that preceded it.

    Manowar were an awesome band when they first started. Their first four albums do contain cheese but are so groundbreaking. The next two after that are less adventurous musically but do explore new soundscapes and production techniques and remain pretty powerful stuff.

    After that, it delves slowly into neutered, highly formulaic power metal. Even when they tried new things after that it was just… too self-aware if that makes sense. It’s sad, because they are still a powerful band live… when they perform old material. It’s not unlike a lot of bands, really. Creatively shut but still able to deliver the old stuff.

    Personally, I think the decline is unavoidable for such bands but it was probably greatly accelerated by the departure of Ross the Boss. His bluesy, punk-ish feel offered a nice counterpoint to DeMaio’s more bombastic inclinations.

    • I agree the earlier albums were far above the later output. However, I don’t think their discography has been in total free fall. Louder than Hell and Warriors of the World were more or less equal and solid, while Gods of War was a drop off. As a fan, I hoped and expected for a better showing here.

      • Martin L

         Well, I was half kidding (especially the scientific part) but my general sentiment is: steady decline for the band and unable to remain relevant.

        The last few albums aren’t even able to keep my interest. As I said, it’s tragic considering the band is still damn good live.

        Plus, who doesn’t like a firmly independent entity? This band is all about DIY, they have a hand in everything related to their name. I find this terribly refreshing in this industry. An example more bands should follow. It’s just a pity that creatively, they’re just not bringing it anymore.

        As far as your dare to the band to prove you wrong: I think it’s never gonna happen but I would expect maybe a slight bolt of energy if they hooked up with Ross the Boss.

        And you know what the funny thing is? The band probably knows it. That’s why they take their time between each record and bombard the fanbase with live material featuring older, stronger songs. Most declining bands do that.

        Take care and keep up the good work!

        • I would love a reunion with Ross the Boss. I just wish they would get back to the epic style of writing they were so good at in the beginning. Songs like Bridge of Death and Gates of Valhalla, for example.

  • revelationman

    The songs which I love is where Eric Adams is allowed to sing, this  guy should be out front more, instead of Joey’s distorted bass notes.  I am on the fence with this CD but I for some strange reason I enjoy listening more, go figure. Is this a classic  record not sure to be honest, but if I was Manowar I would get into the studios by the end of this year start writing and recording but this time allow Eric to sing. I agree with the article Eric is right there or past the top singers in metal today and deserves his voice to be heard.  As I am writing this I am listening  to The Lord of Steel, it is growing me, I believe the problem is there is not much talk of Vikings and Odens as in the past, maybe the band wants to expand their writing topics.

  • Grimthold

    Thank you for you honest review. I read a lot of people comenting this album on the web and like always on one side we have  the “manowar sucks this album is shit as always” who never took the time to listen to it and on the other side we have the fanaticals fans who say “this is true metal, this is the best metal album of all history”.

    Well I think this album needs many listenings to reveal itself, at first I was very disapointed by the sound of the bass notably on the opening song (that I still don’t like much) but the more I listen to it the more I find it have some great songs.

    Let speak about “Righteous glory”. By far my favorite song of the album I really fell in love for it. It’s really beautiful, it is for me a pure gem and maybe one of their best song since a long long time. It’s also the first real love song from manowar, all their previous ballads did not speak about love or women.
    Pleasure slave? More of a porn movie sound-track than a love song.
    Heart of steel, master of the wind, swords in the wind?? Great ballads but nothing about love there.

    Another song I really like in this album is “Black list”. This song as something really dark, it’s mean, the intro is outstanding when I first heard it I though it would be an instrumental song. This song in my opinion is really great you cannot say it’s manowar until Eric starts singing. I don’t really know how to describe it but I just really like it.

    Manowarriors?? I guess it will be a killer song live. Sure it’s very simple and no risky at all. You can laught at it you can say it’s childish song, in some way it is. All I can say is that is a new hymn in manowar discography and even thought it’s cheap and “lol even my litlle cousin can do this” you will see a lot of Manowarriors raising their hands and singing to this very catchy and funny song.

    About the other songs I like :
    “Born from a grave” looks like one of the most “acheived” song of the album everything sounds great in it. I should take time to listen to it more but it’s always after the crazy fun of “Manowarriors” and just before my favorite song “Righteous Glory” so I tend to skip it.
    “Expendable” maybe I’m wrong but I guess it’s some kind of hommage to the movie of the same name? That’s how I felt about this song, anyway I like it.
    “Annihilation”, “Touch the sky” are also great songs.

    After being very disapointed with their Battle Hymn 2010 and after listening to “El Gringo” on youtube I was waiting for this album to be a total disaster and I was excepting nothing from it.
    But maybe because I was not excepting anything from them that my surprise was so big when I got my hand and this album(poor quality mp3s to be exact).

    This album reminds me of “Louder than hell” in some way : it’s simple, catchy with no legendary songs in it but with a lot a good songs and one or two that I really find great.

    • nuiski

      “It’s also the first real love song from manowar”

      Dude! Righteous Glory is about dying in battle and being carried by Valkyries to the Hall of The Slain in Valhalla. It’s fucking Manowar; I don’t think you should try and look for any deeper meaning apart from what the actual words say…

      • Grimthold

         The words say exactly :

        She is watching

        From on high

        She knows who lives or dies

        She will take me to the sky

        Should darkness be my fate

        Then let me fall among brave

        In battle i shall die

        In righteous glory i abide

        In righteous glory she’ll come to me tonight

        She will carry me across the other side

        My brothers wait

        Odin knows my name

        In the hall of the slain

        She takes me through the clouds

        To another place and time

        Holds me in her arms

        Immortal and divine

        On hooves of thunder

        Her white horse parts the sky

        Take me to valhalla

        Valkyrie mine

        I love this song and for me the last two words leave no doubt.

        But you’re right bro less thinking more listening !
        Hail and kill !

        • nuiski

          The way I see it what the guy is yearning for is arriving in Valhalla and the Valkyrie is just a vessel for that.
          But hey, don’t let me spoil a perfectly good Manowar song; maybe I just can’t handle the thought of Manowar being able to write about love :-)

  • The more I listen to the album the more I am able to dig in and find the instruments … is like listening to a death metal album where you will not understand the lyrics at first, but the more you listen to it the more you discover. I am going to blame their sound technician. I think that the album would have benefit from an extra 6 months in the studio. I cant hear Joey’s strings like i used to, and that is sad. I agree 100% with you, Eric Adams is the only redeeming factor in this album. Some devilish audio tech, just muffled Joey’s bass lines, and turned Karl Logan and Donnie Hamzik all the way down. 

  • Spartacus111

    Gods of war was one great album, THAT had great lyrics to the concept, this album, however,  is an abomination.

  • Dude, after Gods of War my expectations from this album are so effing low that this album just HAS to blow my brainsteins out. Downloading it from itunes now.

  • is this worth getting? my previous and only experience with manowar is the gods of war live double cd…

  • Die Kruis

    This album gets way too much crap slung its way.

    Yes, the bass sound is distracting. Yes, Eric’s getting on in years. Yes, the title and entire premise of ‘Hail, Kill and Die’ is self-plagiarizing sacrilege.

    Yes, sonically its a 180 degree departure from Gods of War and the signature choir fuelled metal bombast of their previous albums. I suspect this was a conscious effort on their part, much in the same vein as Kiss’ sonic about-turn (in the 70s, kids) with “Rock and Roll Over” after the big, Bob Ezrin production on “Destroyer”. It’s a different sound for Manowar, yet unmistakably Manowar. I for one applaud their efforts at creating a clear difference between Lord of Steel and the big, ambitious production of the previous release. Incidentally, Gods of War is an absolutely typical and original Manowar album in my opinion and I like it very much. It was the release wished for by those who always gravitated more toward their ‘big’ songs. And wether dissapointing to some and satisfying to others, Gods of War was how they chose forge that ‘big’ Manowar atmosphere onto one album as the dominant factor. Its was the inevitable product of a culmination of every sound effect and melodrama that came before, shaping the landscape of their ‘Kingdom of Steel’.

    Lord of Steel is a very different story. But its certainly not “the worst record ever” as described by a surprising number of reviewers. You could do a lot worse if you were looking to find an album deserving the above description. Try Celtic Frost’s “A Cold Lake” or anything by Limp Bizkit just for starters…

    So, Gods of War was too contrived and symphonic for many. Now Lord of Steel is too bland for them. It seems that, in their reality, Manowar exists to release material as dictated to them by fans yearning for a certain sound. And this comes down to the simple, blinkered opinion that every album must be ‘Into Glory Ride’. Or ‘Sign of the Hammer’ for that matter. It’s the “good-old-days” mindset, where the past was always a better, happier and in this case, a ‘metal-er’ world.

    The band is not allowed to stray from the formula, yet they’re chastised when they repeat the formula. These armchair opiners publish 4500-word reviews about their shock, disgust and resentment of Manowar with track by track descriptions of each ‘unlistenable’ song, all the while seemingly oblivious to the fact that the band managed to draw a reaction so irresistably strong as to drive them to write a 14 page short story about it. Instead of ignoring what they dislike, they put in a whole lot of time and effort to explain to the world in minute detail just why they find Lord of Steel so offensive. Instead of turning away in disgust from the element which is the apparent cause of their me(n)tal anguish and ignoring it.
    Why wallow in shit if you don’t like the smell?

    Manowar is often described as being repetitive and uninspired. This is true considering what’s been passed off as guitar riffs since Logan joined. But on this album he’s actually a bit more versatile.The only repetition I find Lord of Steel guilty of is in the lyrical content. But that’s Manowar! Is’nt it? That’s ALWAYS been Manowar. Why the sudden bile being spewed about the steel, the valkyries and the glory of death? The cheese is an integral part of this band’s history. Yes, from day one, when Battle Hymns was still a mere twinkle in Joey’s eye, the cheese was already stockpiled firmly along the walls of Odin’s pantry.

    Lord of Steel is by no measure a memorable album and way below par compared to Manowar’s classic earlier work but its certainly not the terrible insult to Metal that its made out to be. It’s a band being a band. How many groups can you name who’s best work was created at the tail-end of a career spanning 30+ years?

    Finally, if I really had to add my own drop of poison-puke to the communal vomitorium of reviews for this album, I would have to say that we really, really could have been spared the cringe inducing lyrics and chants of ‘Manowarriors’. Good cheese is good cheese. Bad cheese is not.

    Nevertheless, in its entirety, Lord of Steel is OK cheese.

    • I said it was disappointing, which it is.

      • Die Kruis

        And there I must agree with you. I’m sorry if it seemed like I directed my comments at you. I was talking in the broader sense re the online reviews. Your review is in fact a very fair critique, devoid of the ranting and shouting so prevalent these days.
        Metaal!!!

    • When you say “signature choir fuelled [sic] metal bombast of their previous albums” you mean “RHAPSODY’s signature choir fueled metal bombast,” right? ‘Cause that’s what it is.

  • Brett

    This is how an album sounds when you Produce your own material. There’s no one there to say “This is not worthy of Manowar”.