Manowar – Battle Hymns Review

It’s been quite a while that I’ve been itching to write about their fantastic and espetacular album that us mere mortals call “Battle Hymns” the debut album of the great and seminal Manowar a band that deserved much better, but unfortunately has lost to themselves only. There comes a time in a band’s career that controversy instead of being a positive placing into the scene is the other way around and begins to take a band to a drag. Of course, when we talk about Metal music controversy is an important, and I’d dare to say, crucial component of all bands. The problem is when controversy begins to get bigger than the music. That’s what happened to Manowar, an extremely talented band that let controversy be more important than their wondrous music. Make no mistake, I say that as a fan of the band. Not a detractor. In Manowar’s case it’s hard to tell when controversy took the most important role in the band’s career as it’s been there since day one when they signed their first recording contract with their own blood. Ok, Kiss did something similar some time before, however at least Manowar pushed the boundaries. To explain to my newcomer fan, in the pages of 1977’s Marvel Comics Super Special #1, Kiss’s band members had their actual blood drawn to be mixed with the ink used to print the original run, so all of their fans could have a sample of their blood in their hands. It’s almost the chicken-or-the-egg scenario with Manowar. A little later when the band was established they came up with the ‘Death to false Metal’ thing that backfired when they released 1987’s Fighting the World,” an album that to say the least rose lots of mixed feelings. I won’t say a word about the band’s macho/barbarian outfits. I promise. Then a few years later of the release of Fighting the World” – try to keep track because I don’t know if my memory serves me right – guitarist Ross ‘The Boss” was ‘fired’ by Joey DeMaio. Even if it was The Boss that stated that in an interview, it’s his side of history and I can’t really say if it is accurate, however I know that it was the greatest loss to Manowar’s music. The band wouldn’t be the same with the replacements David Shankle and Karl Logan. Finally, there come the problems with guitarist Karl Logan to whom I don’t have or want to have any words as a musician and as a person. In a nutshell, the band is in a hard place at this moment and no one can tell if it will survive.

Now back to the album that is the subject of this review. I have few words to describe “Battle Hymns” and they go from perfect to flawless. There is no song here that one can say that is weak or less effective. If the fan dare to have another opinion less than that it’s pure jealousy – hahahahahahahaha. I’ll begin with the last, but the best and milestone song of the band which is “Battle Hymn” a song that should be taught to any metaller that wishes to start up a career into Metal music. I can’t even track how many times I have listened to it because when I listen to the album I listen to it more than twice. Today mere four times. There’s no way of denying that Manowar musicians are very talented and they are not references in their instruments due to the huge amount of controversies they created under their names. To me “Battle Hymn” is one of the all-time perfect songs of Metal music. Analysing the cadence of “Battle Hymn” it’s not difficult to notice that it follows an alleged ancient battle that could have taken place in many places of this sad and lonely and pathetic little planet. Eric Adams’ voice is simply soberb and when he yells ‘Sound of charge into glory ride’ or ‘kill, kill, oh, oh’ I doubt the fan to stand still. ‘By moonlight we ride, ten thousand side by side.’ Fantastic. The final enjoyment – well, not final because it’s not at the end – is the guitar solo led by Ross ‘The Boss’ a guitarist that many say that have no talent, but instead, I say that he’s responsable for the band’s signature. The solo is thrilling, fast, technical, and why not, soberb. Opening track “Death Tone” is the perfect invitation card ever as it is strong and might. The greatest tip on what is to come. And it’s the best. What to say about “Metal Daze” when it’s the first band’s declaration of love to Metal music and, maybe, one of the first in the Metal music world? ‘I hear the sound, in a Metal way’ tells much. ‘Heavy Metal louder as it can be’ tells more. We’re talking about a 1982 gem. I am not sure if any band wrote anything similar before. Maybe not. Besides all that, the song is also the band’s declaration of how they would liev from then on with all the excesses and all. Pay attention to the sound of Joey DeMaio bass. See how he plays pretty differently from any other bassist. The sound is metallic, prominent, powerfull, and precise. It’s interesting how in “Battle Hymns” Manowar vary the thematic of their songs. “Fast Taker” and  “Shell Shock” tell a lot about the band’s philosophy of life than other things. Note that the word loser is used in “Fast Taker.” Was it a presage? “Manowar” follows the Metal tradition of the band writing a song with its name and it’s a pretty heavy tune here with great bass lines and drums fillings.

I got to take a special paragraph only for “Dark Avenger” and “William’s Tale.” As many fans may know legendary actor and director Orson Welles does the iconic speech in the middle of the song. History goes that he was in the studio and somehow sympathized with the band and its music that much to have other special appearances in the band’s following albums. “Dark Avenger” is thick and dense and its cadence is captivating and mesmerizing. Orson Welles’s speech is really something out of this world. Out of the fact that no one had done that before. Notice how Ross ‘The Boss’ varies his technique in the guitar solo. Many say that the man wasn’t creative and used to repeat solos, but pay close attention and see that he doesn’t repeat any here. He’s fast when the song needs, he’s slow when necessary. “William’s Tale” is really something else. For starters by the sound of the bass which is really something. Other by the accurate technique the man shows not only playing the chords one by one as it is the tradition in the bass, but also playing full chords which is a very different thing. Very few bassists in that time could do that. Jazz bass players were familiar with the technique, but I guess at that time no Metal bassist even knew it was possible. And then the grand finale with “Battle Hymn.” ‘By moonlight we ride, Ten thousand side by side, With swords drawn, held high, Our whips and armor shine.’

Manowar “Battle Hymns” was released in August, 1982 via Liberty Records.

Track Listing:

Side one
  1. “Death Tone” – 4:48
  2. “Metal Daze” (DeMaio) – 4:18
  3. “Fast Taker” – 3:56
  4. “Shell Shock” – 4:04
Side two
  1. “Manowar” – 3:35
  2. “Dark Avenger” – 6:20
  3. William’s Tale” (DeMaio, Gioachino Rossini) – 1:52
  4. “Battle Hymn” – 6:55

Watch “Battle Hymns” full album here: