ManOwaR - The Lord Of Steel 
So, I won’t even have to refer to previous ManOwaR albums because every ManOwaR album is unique and different from another in it’s own way. What is about to unfold here is only the last 2 years of the band. Since the controversial rerecording of Battle Hymns and the bands 2 tours for the celebration of the album much has happened. The band had recruited their original drummer Donnie Hamzik once more, a rather strange choice considering that he has only played in their first album and not much is heard of him since he left, except probably his appearance in Earthshaker Fest 2005, during ManOwaR’s appearance. Donnie was officially a member in October 15th, 2010. Less than a month since he rejoined, at November 8th 2010, Joey DeMaio announced that the songs written for the album “Hammer Of The Gods” would be rewritten and everything they’ve written so far was now history. I’ll have to mention at that point that the next year ManOwaR fans suffered the loss of the great Scott Columbus due to an illness.
That brings us to the present. The first “sample” of the new record that was about to be named “The Lord Of Steel” now, was the song “El Gringo”, a rather mid-tempo song, which reminds a lot of the “Louder Than Hell” days of the band. The first thing that one notices about the song is that Donnie Hamzik does not “burn like a mad motherfucking demon on drums” like Joey had stated in his earlier video, but he’s rather playing the same rhythm over and over again. The production of the song is also nothing close to the previous records. Karl Logan is barely present and the bass has a rather, altered sound. If someone sees Joeys record update video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VegPUg78kk, he can clearly sense that the bass sound is nothing close to that. The result is a nice Heavy Metal song, but Eric Adams saves the day again. The next song sample that leaked on YouTube named “Expendable” was even simpler as a composition.
June 16th. Judgment Day. The record is out and all I hear from -almost- everyone is how shitty this album is. I have to be honest here. The first time I heard the album I couldn’t get used to it. It didn’t sound “shitty” but it definitely sounded weird. Then again, when I first heard “Gods Of War” with all it’s intros and keyboards, it sounded weird also. But now I consider songs like “King Of Kings”, “Loki God Of Fire”, “Sleipnir” and “The Sons Of Odin” classics and “Blood Brothers” one of the best ballads that ManOwaR have ever written. The first song of the new record is the title track, “The Lord Of Steel” and the first thing that one can spot is the bass that sounds like some weird synth. Joey had one of the most recognizable bass sounds in all Heavy Metal and I really don’t know why he changed it so much.
The second song “Manowarriors” is a tribute to the fans of the band. ManOwaR always paid homage to their fans and I believe that their greatest homage to their fans so far is the cover of the song “Father” in 16 languages including my native language, Greek. The first two songs feature a rather aggressive Eric Adams than the screaming monster that we’re used to.
The next song on the record is “Born In A Grave” a slow and devastating song with the only minus being probably the bass sound again and the overall mediocre production of the record.
The next song is called “Righteous Glory”, it’s the ballad of the record and I must say this with a heavy heart but it’s probably the weakest ballad that the band has ever written. I won’t go any further into that, I’ll only say that if Eric Adams added a little more color and feel to his voice we’d be talking of a very good song. Just compare it with “Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors” which is full of keyboards, choruses, etc but the feeling of Eric Adams and the solo combined with all that kick ass. Nuff said.
“Touch The Sky” is the song where the weird bass sound is probably more obvious than ever. Despite that, it’s a classic song which reminds a lot of the 90s ManOwaR years, “Metal Warriors”, “Number 1”, etc. It’s also the first song of the record where you can hear a refreshed Eric Adams and a much better work from Karl Logan.
Right after that there is a song called “Black List”, which gets us back to where we started in this record. In this song you can actually see ManOwaR trying hard to play a good song. The result is not even close. It definitely is among the most uninspired compositions of ManOwaR, there are no serious riffs, lyrics, nothing. It’s the first time that I wish that a song of ManOwaR shouldn’t have ever been written.
A weird groovy riff, the most annoying bass sound in the whole record, Eric Adams saving the day again equals… “Expendable”. Did I forget something? Oh yes I did… the worst solo ever from Karl Logan. What the hell happened here???
And we’re finally here. “El Gringo”. I spoke earlier about this song and what I think it sounds like, but compared to the rest of this record, it sounds like a gem. 90s ManOwaR feeling again, party r’n’r mood, a song made to be the records hit single.
“Annihilation” is the only song that also captures the mood of “El Gringo”. Maybe “Touch The Sky” as well. It’s nothing very special, but listening to the record over and over I believe that the whole record should be written in the same mood. Just listen to the drum beat and you’ll get the feel that I’m talking about.
The record ends with “Hail, Kill And Die”. From the beginning of the song you can realize that it’s a tribute to the bands history, much like “Blood Of The Kings”. I really have no problem with that, but it does not represent the band history except for the lyrics. “Blood Of The Kings” had a riff which made you shiver and an Eric Adams that made all other Heavy Metal singers fade away instantly. This song and especially it’s verse, remind more of the “Die For Metal”-era of the band, than the “Kings Of Metal”-era. I really waited for something better as an epilogue.
I’m not a believer of the phrase that “you should give a few more hours to listen to a record that didn’t leave you speechless the first time you heard it”. I remember a friend pushing me to do so with the last Iron Maiden record which I didn’t like. But I have to say at that point, that I expected that in this record. This is a record that came out in a hurry, between tours, and the band was definitely tired from the double tour in 2011. That is more than obvious in the record. My opinion is that the band should take a little more time to work on the songs and production of the record. The overall result isn’t bad, but it’s probably a lot less than ManOwaR can give in a record. A better production and much better bass sound (just listen to the bass on the intro of “All Men Play On 10” dammit) would boost the record to new heights. Eric Adams can’t save the day forever. However, the record does remind me a lot of the “Louder Than Hell” record. So, what happens now?
As a fan and as a person who has connected the bands music with countless stuff and situations in my life, I do not wish to “disconnect” from them. There isn’t a single person who wouldn’t want the old ManOwaR back, the band that could wipe out discographies with one riff and create new planets with another. I won’t even start to mention stuff like “come on they’ve been playing for 30 years” or “they’re pushing 60 years old” etc. The problem is that this record doesn’t grab you by the balls. This is their style now, its how they’ve chosen to play, accept it or forget it, just let it be. After all, we’re talking about the band that has being badly criticized for everything, lyrics, clothing, political views, etc, more than any other. Personally I love their latest stuff and I’ve seen them play live for 2,5 hours non-stop. They’ve heard the fans point of view and stopped some of their on stage stuff like uberposing, topless girls, endless speeches, etc and focused solely on the presentation of their music. ManOwaR don’t have to prove anything to me that they haven’t proven already. As far as I’m concerned they still are the best Heavy Metal band around and that will never change. Heavy Metal wouldn’t be the same without them, I wouldn’t be the same without them and just for that, I’ll keep supporting the band until the very end.Download is a substitute, support real music and buy some records!
2013 Update: The "Hammer Edition" of the album is much more improved than the original version. The vocal lines are better and so are the choruses. Some keyboards have been added, some else have been removed and some (not all) guitar solos have changed for the better. So, I must say that final version of the record is way better than the first one. And last but not least, there is also an epic extra song. ALL HAIL.