Review by Tymell for Manowar - Hail to England (1984)
I've never been a huge fan of Manowar: I appreciate the epic approach, especially in the early days of metal, but you really have to be in the right mood for the cheese factor, and I often find their sound lacking in real punch and meatiness. On this one however, I can't deny how effective it is.
Right from the first track, Manowar establish exactly what they're all about with "Blood of My Enemy" - vocals full of epic wails and cries, lyrics to ride down your foes to, and steady, pounding rhythms acting as a march into those battles. The riffing is simple but effective, and this whole style feels like it's laying the groundwork for the epic Viking metal Bathory would do so well with in their later career, as well as many other more modern bands that owe their origins to this.
That sort of steady, striding beat forms the backbone of music tracks on Hail to England, always accented with wild, manic vocals, galloping percussion and perfect pacing. "Each Dawn I Die" and "Army of the Immortals" make good use of delicious, rumbling bass behind it all, all just demanding you join in, while "Kill With Power" is indeed full of power as well as thrashy riffing.
The only real misstep of the album is in "Black Arrows", an interlude of sorts that begins as a spoken word declaration against false metal, then follows with the eruption of a bizarre, frantic solo. The solo itself just sort of wanks around for a few minutes, and it ends up sounding like a parody of metal more than anything, something I'd expect to hear on Metalocalypse or Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Granted, this is long before those shows existed, but This Is Spinal Tap was right around the corner when this album came out, so the notion of poking fun at this sort of thing was certainly around.
Some these days might expect something with a fuller sound from "epic metal", fleshed out with all sorts of symphonics and extra parts. But there's something refreshing in how this whole style got started, still full of pomp and glory, but utilising just the core of heavy metal music to do it. Yes, you need to be in the right mood for this kind of true metal glory, but when you are, there's really nothing quite like it.
Choice cuts: Blood of My Enemy, Each Dawn I Die, Army of the Immortals, Kill With Power