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Another trip down memory lane (wonder if there is actually such a place?), and another look at my dusting old metal albums in search of something obscure for you all to find out about! Now, I am absolutely sure a lot of you will never have heard of this album, nor this band, so let's have a brief history...
They are an American metal band, formed in 1980. If you read a previous review by me, you may recall that they are well renowned for writing their songs about metal, fantasy and Vikings... etc. They were formed chiefly by Joey DeMaio, the bassist and they hold several records for being the loudest band ever and also playing the longest ever concert (5 hours and 1 minute, Bulgaria).
I went through a stage of liking their music and had several of their albums, but these days I feel they are too pretentious... I used to think they were doing it all as a joke, but then had the feeling that they were actually taking themselves seriously! They have become a parody of themselves, a Spinal Tap with heavier guitars...
But what of the 1992 release The Triumph of Steel?
Eric Adams - vocals
David Shankle - guitars*
Joey DeMaio - bass
Rhino (aka Kenny Earl Edwards) - drums*
*These two had just replaced long-standing Ross "The Boss" Friedman - guitar
Scott Columbus - drums, who had left the band, but this was the only album to feature both these new musicians. Columbus returned for the next few albums, however.
"Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts" - 28:38
I. Hector Storms the Wall
II. The Death of Patroclus
III. Funeral March
IV. Armor of the Gods
V. Hector's Final Hour
VI. Death Hector's Reward
VII. The Desecration of Hector's Body
VIII. The Glory of Achilles
This is the epitome of all that is Manowar. Crunching guitar, varied changes in melody, then quieter moments; He-Man vocals, grit and heroism. It is a classically long tune and one that has (almost) stood the test of time. The Death of Patroclus and Funeral March are the main highlights of this epic journey into Manowar Metal.
'I will not rest until Hector's blood is spilled...
His bones will all be broken, dragged across the field...
This dear friend is how we'll say goodbye,
Until we meet again in the sky...'
That is just a sample of the lyrics to the song, and on the whole they are pretty good, some of the best lyrics to come from the pen of Joey DeMaio, in my view.
The rest of 'Triumph' is a bit hit and miss on the whole...
"Metal Warriors" - 3:54
This is an example of a 'miss.' A pretty pretentious and dire little song. A typical heavy metal chorus. A disappointment after the classic predecessor - cheap riff, crap lyrics. The solo is not too bad, but that is all... Even Adam's screaming voice towards the end can't save this song...
"Ride the Dragon" - 4:33
A tortured voice-box brings on this next song, followed by another lame riff. The sort of riff the Judas Priest might come up with on a bad day... It is fast paced, but tinny and dated...
"Spirit Horse of the Cherokee" - 6:02
This one is an okay little number. Atmospheric, sucks the listener into the scene. A native American Indian narrates the intro... It takes a while to get going, but doesn't seem to get going to the full, if that makes sense. It's about the strife of the Indians of old, but I guess Iron Maiden did this much better in Run to the Hills...
"Burning" - 5:10
The riff at the start of this tune is not unlike the sort of riff one might play at home, or whilst jamming with a few buddies in the garage, but you would not take it further. Shame Manowar did! Then things slow up and the listener feels his eye lids growing heavy as he or she tries to fight the onset of sleep.
"The Power of Thy Sword" - 7:51
The sounds of swords... A stabbing guitar... operatic vocals... A much better song ensues. More like the epic Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy...
'The clash of honour calls,
I will stand when others fall,
Open magic doors,
They will know the power of my sword...'
Then everything goes quiet and we have a heroic build up to round it all off.
"The Demon's Whip" - 7:50
A slow, grinding song that doesn't seem to go anywhere at all. Don't waste 7 mins and 50 seconds of your life on this one...
"Master of the Wind" - 5:26
Every Manowar album it would seem has the ballad, and Master of the Wind is 'Triumph's.' I has got nothing to do with Beans. Seriously, I do quite like such ballads, where Adams shows the world how much of a great voice he has. A good song the end a very hit and miss album...
Like I said earlier, these days I feel Manowar are too pretentious, but having listened to the album again for this review, I do feel that they are not too bad. If you are a person who likes Metal, I would suggest you have a listen. This album is a good place to start. Perhaps even if you are not a Metal fan... maybe you are just a bit curious... but don't blame me... However, dear readers, there are a lot of styles of music out there...
Manowar has always strived for an epic sound in its music, and frequently succeeded, despite the band's silliness and ego problems occasionally getting in the way. 1983's 'Into Glory Ride' provided an excellent balance, and is genuinely one of my favourite albums of all time, but by the nineties the band's natural talents became buried under over-ambition, and perhaps laziness.
It also can't have helped that the disappointing 'The Triumph of Steel' suffered the first major line-up change since the band's second album, with the departure of guitarist Ross "The Boss" and his replacement in the far less creative and often quite annoying David Shankle. New drummer Rhino fares better, but left me with an instant dislike thanks to his irritating drum solo in the already far-too-long opening non-epic 'Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts.'
This opening song takes up half of the album, and isn't worth sitting through. It's also not an epic song, lacking coherence between its eight parts that all sound radically different, and are connected only by theme. It has its high moments, but also its significant lows (foremost among them the afore-mentioned drum solo 'Armor of the Gods'), making it a failed experiment that it seems the band quickly forgot.
The rest of the album is similarly disappointing, with only the fun anthem 'Metal Warriors' and the catchy 'Power of Thy Sword' standing out amidst a number of dull rock riffs, culminating in the unwise ballad 'Master of the Wind.'
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Achilles Agony And Ecstacy In Eight Parts
2 Metal Warriors
3 Ride The Dragon
4 Spirit Of The Cherokee
6 Power Of Sword
7 Demon's Whip
8 Master Of The Wind