I’ve reached the point where I have absolutely no expectations for Manowar anymore. Everything they do is so completely ridiculous and over the top, that you can’t help but laugh when it fails spectacularly, or bang your head when it works out. And for that reason, I’m really surprised at the critical reception to the band’s newest original full-length “The Lord of Steel”. The Hammer Edition was terrible; I’ll concede that. But the normal full-length has a decent enough sound to it that the album is actually pretty listenable.
Beyond that fact, it’s actually not bad. There are a few great raging, upbeat tunes like the title track, “Manowarriors”, and “El Gringo”. These songs (and really the album as a whole) bring absolutely nothing new to the table for Manowar, but given what the band had done in the previous decade, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. A straight-forward “Louder Than Hell”-worship record is the only thing I really want from the band at this stage in their career. This is why it’s easy to sing along to “stand and fight the lord of steel!” no matter how uninspired the lyrics may be. My only real complaint with this epic track is the lack of crazy screams from Eric Adams, especially when he opens the subsequent song, “Manowarriors”, with these exact screams.
As he has been for the last two decades, Eric Adams really is the driving force of this band. Most Manowar songs in the last couple of decades are largely devoid of riffs, instead focusing on simplistic chugging with Adams carrying great melodies over top. That is largely true on this record as well. Even when there are riffs, they tend not to be too spectacular. In fairness to Karl Logan, he does an incredible job with his guitar solos. Like on most other Manowar records, the drumming tends to be standard rock and roll beats, with the occasional interesting fill. Joey DeMaio’s bass sound is a huge point of contention on this record; it’s definitely a little too fuzzy and distorted on the regular edition of the record, but it’s nice to hear a band be so up front with the bass playing, especially as DeMaio’s performance is pretty stellar here ("Righteous Glory" being one such example).
From a songwriting perspective, nothing on “The Lord of Steel” is outright bad. It does get a little boring at times, particularly in the middle (tracks like “Black List”, “Expendable”, and “Annihilation” are largely forgettable). Other songs do manage to recapture some of Manowar's old brilliance at times, in particular the chorus of "Born in a Grave" and all of "El Gringo" slay everything in their paths. Overall, there is enough solid material here that this album is worth buying if you’re a huge Manowar fan. For me, this album surpassed all of my non-existant expectations. If you’re hoping for another “Battle Hymns” or “Hail to England”, you’re going to be disappointed, but if you know what you’re getting into, “The Lord of Steel” is an enjoyable record.
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"The Lord of Steel"
"Born In A Grave"
4.0/5 or 80%.
Written by Scott