Manowar formed in 1980, releasing their first album, Battle Hymns. Although hailing from New York, their success in the USA dried up quickly, the band being outspoken in their contempt of “false Metal” and earning enemies in the process. Their singular vision for loud, bombastic music earned them a loyal following overseas, and after naming their third album Hail to England, they drifted more and more to Europe, where they have a strong following. They have mounted their own music festivals and continued to tour in their own way, with high ticket prices being offset by high quality production and an attention to detail that is unsurpassed. Numerous line-up changes have not slowed them down at all, but they have recently announced their next tour will be their last. Almost a year after that announcement, only a handful of German dates have been announced. If they stop touring or not, Manowar’s place in the history of Metal is assured.
Manowar are on record as saying they don’t listen to rock music, being influenced by classical only. This should be taken with a grain of salt. More serious interviews in recent years have seen them name bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and especially Deep Purple. These 70s influences are not surprising for a band formed in 1980. However, while these bands have a wide palette between them, in the hands of Manowar, the main influence appears to be power and volume, Manowar having set the record for loudest concert on three separate occasions.
Classics (the albums even a casual fan owns)
Kings of Metal (1988)
With tracks like ‘Wheels of Fire,’ ‘Bloods of the Kings’ and ‘Kings of Metal,’ this album is the perfect introduction to Manowar. Brian Blessed does the reading of the ‘Warriors Prayer,’ following a trend started by Orson Welles on the very first album. The title track boasts the lyric “Other bands play, Manowar kill.” By this stage, Manowar were in a class of their own, doing their own thing, and aiming everything they did at their already loyal fan base, and not concerned about anything else. ‘Blood of the Kings’ name checks all the countries where their fan base was growing, showing that even in 1988, this was a truly international band,
Battle Hymns (1982)
It all starts here. Famous actor voice over? Check. Self-important lyrics? Check. Classic Heavy Metal? Check. ‘Metal Daze’ was the single, but a long tradition of name checking themselves in their lyrics starts here with the song ‘Manowar.’ “Born to live, forevermore,” indeed.
Fighting the World (1987)
Perhaps the last time Manowar got MTV airplay (with ‘Blow your Speakers’), Fighting the World also contains instant classics like the title track, ‘Carry On,’ ‘Black Wind,’ ‘Fire and Steel’ and the wonderfully named ‘Violence and Bloodshed,’ where Eric Adams assures us he’s, “Putting an ad in the back of Kerrang,” for people to, “Go back to ‘Nam, cos no one else will.” At this stage, anyone not delighting in the over the top nature of the lyrics simply didn’t get it and probably never will.
Fan Favourite (the album that didn’t make it big, but every fan loves)
Warriors of the World (2002)
Featuring a cover of Nessun Dorma, Manowar delivered another classic bunch of songs, only upping the ante on all the things their fans love, not least on the slower, bombastic title track. The six-year wait between albums was a sign of things to come, as the band focused on festivals and tours more than releasing new music.
Next Steps (One step below, but these albums still shine in the catalogue)
Hail to England (1984)
With the crusade against false Metal not being well received in their home country, on their third album Manowar paid tribute to England, a country that had been more receptive to them. Topping the personal list of a lot of Manowar fans, this is a strong album. Although songs from it are not prominent in their setlist nowadays, at the time it was definitely seen as another step up.
The Triumph of Steel (1992)
Manowar responded to grunge by ignoring it, moving away from the more commercial sounds on the Kings of Metal album and doubling down on their core Power Metal sound. It was a wise choice, while the times meant this was not a huge seller, they came through with their integrity intact, unlike other bands that tried to “go grunge.” Although, after all that oil and loincloths, grunge was probably not an option…
Controversial (The one fans disagree on)
The Lord of Steel (2012)
After the hugely disappointing Gods of War, Manowar released this, at this point their last ever studio album. Having failed when trying to be experimental, they returned to a classic sound, producing perhaps their most commercial sounding album since Kings of Metal. Lyrics like, “I trust no one but the lord, and my lord is steel,” were classic Manowar and songs like ‘El Gringo’ and ‘Manowarriors’ seemed to deliver everything that fans would want. But while some lapped it up and quickly bought the following EP of live versions of some of these songs, others complained they didn’t like the recording, and that this album was treading water. A gem for some, a miss for others.
Buy this last (Not all bands have a ‘bad’ album, but this is their least good one)
Gods of War (2007)
To be honest, relistening to this album today, it’s not terrible, but at the time it was pretty much accepted that whatever Manowar were trying to do here, it really wasn’t working, and it was not what fans wanted. Worth getting, but still not up to par with the rest of the catalogue.
Playlist (A killer playlist for your phone)
‘Metal Daze’ (Battle Hymns)
‘Manowar’ (Battle Hymns)
‘All Men Play on 10’ (Sign of the Hammer)
‘Kill with Power’ (Hail to England)
‘Blood of my Enemies’ (Hail to England)
‘Wheels of Fire’ (Kings of Metal)
‘Kings of Metal’ (Kings of Metal)
‘Blood of a King’ (Kings of Metal)
‘Metal Warriors’ (Triumph of Steel)
‘The Gods Made Heavy Metal’ (Louder than Hell)
‘Warriors of the World’ (Warriors of the World)
‘Manowarriors’ (Lord of Steel)
‘Lord of Steel’ (Lord of Steel)