As I’ve said elsewhere, you can’t really call Manowar a band any more. For the past twenty years they’ve been bassist Joey DeMaio’s Little Alimony Fund That Could, a relentless cash generating machine that probably actually isn’t all that relentless…or cash generating.
Somewhere around 1992, they lost all their work ethic in the studio, and started filling the gaps with compilations, remasters, re-releases, and a neverending deluge of live albums (if you’re a Manowar completist, you’ve probably bought “Battle Hymns” at least a dozen times.) Here’s Joey DeMaio’s latest “gimme your lunch money” – a re-recording of the band’s legendary 1990 album Kings of Metal.
What a terrible idea.
If you ask a group of Manowar fans to pick the band’s greatest album, half will immediately answer Kings of Metal, and the other half will not be able to agree on a challenger to the throne. I’ve always found it inconsistent and half-cocked, but at its best it’s a superb slab of early power metal, and most of its shortcomings are found at the conceptual level – you can’t really “fix” it. So why this re-recording? Because Joey DeMaio likes caviar.
They changed the tracklisting. Now we start with “Hail and Kill” – fantastic on the 1990 version, dull and slowed down here. Eric Adams’ voice is haggard, clearly Frankensteined together from many edits and overdubs. Then we’ve got the title track. “Other bands play, Manowar kill!” Other bands play, Manowar bilk their fans. “Heart of Steel” sounds pretty solid. I’ll say this, they nail ballads much better than they used to.
Raging speed-fest “Wheels of Fire” is featured here as “On Wheels of Fire”, and sounds muddy, downtuned and shit-awful. The drums actually sound weaker than they did in 1990 – the kind of relentless percussive assault you get from tapping a pencil on a school desk. Then there’s “Blood of the Kings”, which Joey makes annoying as hell by adding all sorts of extra shout-outs to fans in various countries “Argentina, Japan, Portugal, Lithuania, Canada, Spain, Israel…” – is this a geography quiz? Kings of Metal‘s lesser tracks like “Kingdom Come” were mediocre then and remain mediocre now. Note that they didn’t even bother re-recording “Pleasure Slave.”
Eric Adams is showing his age. He used to hit all sorts of ungodly notes in E, now he stays far away from them in D. Joey DeMaio’s a bit too prominent in the mix, frequently turning the album into mud. Karl Logan is actually a saving grace. Most Manowar fans are a bit leery of him, but his dry whammy-abusing style works really well for the band. One of Kings of Metal MMXIV‘s rare treats is a guitar instrumental of “Heart of Steel”, which sounds really powerful and emotional.
But ultimately, Kings of Metal MMXIV is underwhelming and unimpressive – and even if it had been executed perfectly it would still have been a lame cash grab. Why am I still a fan of Manowar? Because Joey DeMaio VERY occasionally decides to boost Magic Circle Music’s bottom line by releasing excellent music. This isn’t one of those times.