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Manowar

Black Wind, Fire & Steel: Atlantic Albums 1987-1992

Review by Gary Hill

This collection of three albums from Manowar is classy. It includes a poster and a booklet along with all three CDs (in separate cardboard album cover sleeves) in a cardboard clamshell box. Manowar is a band that catches a lot of flack - some of it completely justified - for being pretentious and downright silly. The thing is, these albums also show that they were a talented and potent metal band. It's safe to say that epic metal might not have happened if Manowar didn't exist. At times they feel like a more metal version of Kiss with some anthemic Twisted Sister in the mix. At other times they get a lot more technical and heavy than that. However you see them, though, this is a cool set that gathers some killer music from the band.

You will find bonus video footage of this release is available at the Music Street Journal Youtube channel here: .youtube.com/watch?v=6NVOdK1pZS0

This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2021  Volume 1. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2021.

Track by Track Review
CD 1: Fighting the World
   
Fighting the World

Drums bring this into being. The cut fires out from there with an anthemic, driving sound. It drops to percussion for the first vocals. This carries out with a hook-laden power metal concept that feels like a more metallic Kiss in a lot of ways. The guitar solo section is positively incendiary.

Blow Your Speakers
An anthem for metal heads, this is a screaming hot stomper that's built largely around guitar and drums. The multi-voice vocal arrangement is great. The guitar solo is meaty and tasty.
Carry On
A dramatic and delicate acoustic guitar ballad approach is the concept as this starts and the vocals begin. It becomes another anthemic tune, this time with vocals over the top of drums. After this chorus, they shift out into a powerhouse full band treatment. This is catchy and still quite meaty.
Violence and Bloodshed
While this is still power metal, its rawer and fiercer. This is a real screamer.
Defender

A balladic and dramatic opening movement brings this in with the spoken words of Orson Welles. As the cut drives out into more pure metal Welles' voice continues. The track shifts out from there to a sung movement that is fiery and comes in as an answer to Welles' words. The spoken Welles' part returns as a companion to sung vocals on the later choruses.

Drums of Doom
The sounds of horses and what is probably a war party get this number going. It begins to drive outward from there with a pounding, drumming that seems to herald great things. This is a short introductory piece, though, ending before really going anywhere.
Holy War
Percussion and some strange processed voices bring this in from the previous number. The cut drives out with rock vocals from that point. It works to more pure metal as it carries forward. This is one of the fiercest tunes here, but it doesn't sacrifice the anthemic quality to get there.
Master of Revenge
This seems to come straight out of the previous piece. It's tastefully strange and raw. It is so fierce and unusual. It's also very effective.
Black Wind, Fire and Steel
This a powerhouse that seems to combine the fury of the last couple songs with a real return to the anthemic. It's on fire and so powerful. It really makes for a great closing tune.
CD 2: Kings of Metal
              
Wheels of Fire

The sounds of a motorcycle start this album. After that holds it for a time, this fires out into something that's much fiercer than anything on the previous album. This is powerhouse metal screamer that still manages to some cool hooks and an anthemic chorus. The guitar solo section has an almost technical metal meets thrash sound to it.

Kings of Metal
Hard-edged metal with anthemic chorus hooks, this is another stomper. It's not as ferocious as the opener was, but it's very much a fist-in-the-air, sing-along styled tune. The guitar solo brings some old school rock and roll in for a moment before firing out into technical metal zones.
Heart of Steel
In a big change, this cut is based around piano as it starts. As the vocals come in over the top, it's a balladic piece that has a lot of drama built into it despite the stripped back arrangement. Eventually this works out to more of rocking approach, but the keys with strings (perhaps synthesized) serves as the backdrop for a good amount of this song. This has a real epic metal with symphonic leanings vibe to it.
Sting of the Bumblebee
This song has some of the best bass playing you will hear anywhere. In fact, it's more or less a bass solo of the classical piece "Flight of the Bumblebee." It just happens to be augmented by smoking hot guitar and drums. It's a powerhouse instrumental.
The Crown and the Ring (Lament of the Kings)
Classical keyboard work brings this into being. Other symphonic elements, including chorale vocals join. It drops to a rather ambient symphonic mode for the first real vocals of the song. This is very much the kind of thing that seems to be a big influence on the epic metal that was to come. This is a very symphonic piece.
Kingdom Come
From something that is more symphonic than metal they take into more of a pure, down to basics metal rocker. Of course, it's Manowar, so it's only so basic.
Pleasure Slave
The sounds of females experiencing pleasure bring this into being. Those sounds are heard as the cut stomps forward, but drop away as the lead vocals join. A cut that I hope is about bondage rather than something more depraved. This cut is a powerhouse metal tune, but lyrically it's one of the most cringe-worthy of their catalog. This one is a bit hard to take, really.
Hail and Kill
From the rather embarrassing depths of the previous tune we are taken into something truly sublime. A hard rocking introduction gives way to a picked guitar movement to serve as the ballad-like backdrop for the vocals. The tune works onward from there with a real epic metal feel to it. Then, just before the minute-and-a-half mark this fires out into fierce, driving metal that's creaming hot. That said, this does have a cringe worthy line or two.
The Warrior's Prayer
The opening to this tune is a grandfather telling a story to his grandson. As it continues sound effects serve to act out much of what the grandfather is saying. The whole piece is a theatrical interlude based on that.
Blood of the Kings
This song pounds out from the last track as a fierce and literally screaming metal stomper. There is some more incendiary bass playing at times on this piece. The cut is a real scorcher. This piece is an extended one, and they use that extra space to really create some killer instrumental metal movements that are bombastic and potent.
CD 3: The Triumph of Steel
               
Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts

This is literally a multi-part suite that takes up the first track (a 28:39 minute track) of the album. A powerful metal instrumental movement opens it. After that runs through the cut fires out into more powerhouse anthemic metal for the first song-type cut of the album from there. After that runs through there is an instrumental break, and then it drops to a mellower mode for the next vocals. The cut gets theatrical in its symphonic overlayers. It is almost rock opera based. From there a chiming bell takes over before metal guitar rises up to move things forward. The piece has a real classical structure, but played on metallic guitar. The tune continues to evolve from there with other instruments added to the mix. There is a percussion workout further down the road. It's definitely an extended drum solo. I'm not a big fan of drum solos, so that part of this loses me a bit. Eventually some frantic guitar work is added to the mix as the piece comes back into metal zones. That instrumental movement drops back, and we get some mellower and dramatic sounds that are a bit like soundtrack music. Some vocals come over the top of that, more whispered at first. They grow gradually. Then the music intensifies and sung vocals reach toward the sky in dramatic fashion. After that section works through a number metal movement emerges that at first makes me think of a crunchier version of Rush's Caress of Steel era. The band screams out from there, though with much more intense metal jamming. This more like the frantic sounds heard on the two previous albums. The number works out after that section into a cool neo-classical movement with smoking hot bass playing. Eventually the number makes its way to more screaming metal for the next vocals. Working it to metal instrumental territory, they take it out from there.

Metal Warriors
More of a straightforward metal anthem, this is a solid, but not exceptional, tune. The cut starts with acapella vocals, but quickly drives out into rocking zones from there.
Ride the Dragon
More frantic metal screaming, this is a powerhouse. It's fierce metal. It's sort of trademark Manowar.
Spirit Horse of the Cherokee
Effects and spoken words, like a prayer are heard. After the extended, theatrical and dramatic introduction, the cut works out to more pure metal of the plodding variety. It's still quite dramatic and powerful. This gets into more pacey metal from there. This works through several changes as it continues.
Burning
The guitar riffing the opens this makes me think of Iron Maiden to some degree. The cut powers out from there for a time, but then drops down to almost atmospheric textures for the entrance of the vocals. It rises back upward after the first vocals into a killer grind. It drops back down for the vocals again.
The Power of Thy Sword
Suitably this starts with the sound of swords. The cut drives out into more standard metal zones from there. Around the halfway point this drops to a mellow, keyboard-based reprieve. Vocals come in over the top of that. It hits a crescendo with a symphonic movement. Then the tune powers out into more powerful metal, with the sounds of swords over the top from there. It gets more intense and fierce as it continues.
The Demon's Whip
Weird processed voices and effects bring this piece into being. It continues with demonic growls and other elements in the mix. Those effects type things hold it for about the first minute-and-a-half. It shifts out into a killer metal groove from there. The tune is mean and meaty. This tune really works so well. It gets so fierce before it's done.
Master of the Wind
This begins mellow and balladic, seeming even more mellow after the fury that ended the previous tune. This thing works forward with a more proggy vibe as it builds upward just a bit. Symphonic elements bring a theatrical power to the piece as it continues to evolve. This makes me think a bit of a more symphonic take on some of the early mellow music from the band Rainbow. This never rises to the level of rock music, let alone metal.
Bonus Track
                        

 

Herz Aus Stahl

Powerful piano brings this bonus track into being. The vocals come in over the top of that. This another tune that has a real ballad basis with symphonic textures in the mix. As the title will probably tell you, the lyrics are not in English. After the two minute mark, it powers out into slow moving metal zones. It's basically a power ballad. This really gets intense and soaring.

 

 

 
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