Manowar - Kings of Metal MMXIV

Manowar Kings of Metal MMXIV cover
Manowar
Kings of Metal MMXIV
Magic Circle Music
2014
Manowar return to the “scene of the crime”, with another “un-necessary” release and lesser re-release of a classic album from their back catalog that they decided to re-record in its entirety. After “Battle Hymns”, that was pretty mediocre, this time the “victim” is “Kings of Metal”... Still one of the “good” albums, it didn’t even suffer, production wise from having a “cheap” tin-y production, so as to beg an update yet, the bend has gone and done it anyway.
 
Following the rather uneven and lukewarmly received even by some fanatical fans “Lord of Steel” album and the live EP that followed it, this rerecording, is done about an octave lower, than the original to accommodate, Eric Adams’ advancing years. Truth be spoken, the change in tuning is not that much of an issue, as plunged a little lower the album sounds even “darker” and Adams manages to sound quite impressive, singing with conviction and vigor the rather songs and even manages to make the softer passages in the epic songs and the ballads stand out beautifully. What strikes me however as somewhat odd, is the new tracklist order, that seems to change the pacing of the album and – imho, doesn’t work as well as the original.
 
The 2014 “Silver” edition of the album features 2 CDs and CD1 begins with the rerecording of “Hail and Kill (MMXIV)” which is not too bad, and is a bit more rounded and full sounding overall and not as dry, but then again, the drop in tuning, overall might have helped a bit, in all of that… but doesn’t top the original in spirit or allure, as it’s quite evident by the final verses… just comparing the two versions should really be an eye-opener. Not badly done and this 2014 sound, is a sound, the band, could and should do well to adapt, for future recordings… but...
 
“Kings of Metal (MMXIV)” haha, original or not, this rock ‘n roll, tune, done with metal guitars, with its cringe-worthy, chorus… was probably one of the weaker songs on the original and one of those songs where the band unintentionally descended into self-parody... with the drop in tuning, it just sounds, heavier, which makes it sound all the more odd... to be honest.
 
“The Heart of Steel (MMXIV)” (w/ acoustic intro) is an obvious reworking of the classic song, with a daring new orchestration, that lends an acoustic air to the whole composition and this, re-imagining, is worth, the bother. It’s unfortunate, that Adams, is in no better shape, because back in his “glory” days this would have been a “real hymn”. Even this version, is quite spine chilling, and highly sentimental, but it slightly lacks in range... but with his great control and experience Adams manages to really sound pretty convincing, even with all the shortcomings.
 
“The Warrior’s Tale (MMXIV)” features famous English actor Brian Blessed (Blackadder, Henry VIII, Hamlet, Tarzan etc) as the Grandfather and is colorful as ever only serving as an ultra-long intro to the intrinsically linked together with it “Kings of Metal (MMXIV)” which is pretty similar to the original other than it adds a couple of dozen more countries to those mentioned in the “crusades” against “False Metal”… oh joy!
 
“Thy Kingdom Come” (MMXIV)” like (H&K) seems to have been slightly tampered, apart from the slight title alteration, in the vocals, department, with some tuning sounding as pretty obvious... in places. I am not sure, even if it’s done for unattainable notes, it seems to have done for effect, but it just sounds, a little “mechanical” and cold, as if there are some small slides that are not natural.
 
“The Sting of the Bumblebee (MMXIV)”. Oh dear. You always knew these to be JDM’s virtuo-masturbosity marathons and this is no different, set against a metronome, we’re treated to a “cover” of the classical piece “fly of the bumblebee”, by JDM. Heck, his “bass” sounds like a guitar anyway.
 
“Thy Crown and Thy Ring (MMXIV)” (Orchestral Version) is a choir and orchestra arranged of this classic song and likewise, with HOS, Adams’ performance is quite commendable, as a lot of the verses on the song were orchestral anyway, this is an easier task, but on some verses he blends with the choir as well, especially towards the finale. Quite majestic!
 
“Wheels of Fire (MMXIV)”… I suppose is the song that benefits most from the drop in tuning, as it’s pace is frantic and phonetion quite demanding, and still, Adams’ has to mince some falsetto screams into ahhhahaanana mini-screams, for lack of ability to replicate ‘em, exactly as they were originally (@1:40). Still, it’s quite enjoyable, but putting it towards the end, is quite a dumb move, as it’s such an energetic tune and it gets your juices flowing… when in reality it’s the album’s normal closer... with 2 reprises of “slow” songs following it, which in terms of pacing is just plainly odd!
 
“Thy Crown and Thy Ring (MMXIV)” (Metal Version) ” is hardly different apart from the “levels” in the mix, with everything being pretty louder, Adams sounding “rougher” and some metal orchestration towards the conclusion, ie guitars and bass and drums – along the orchestra, whereas the orchestral has only the former... this is a “fuller” sounding version.
 
Finally on CD1 we find “The “Heart of Steel (MMXIV)” (Guitar Instrumental) which is the standard version of the song, but with all vocals replaced by rhythm and soloing guitars. It’s an interesting experiment, that seems a little un-necessary, but in the world of Manowar, where you could get 18 translations of the same song, this is “nothing” ! You should be thankful it’s the only track getting this treatment! Hahaha!
 
CD2 seems to be more geared towards the mega fans or Karaokistas of Manowariors that would like to sing-along to their favorite songs, as it offers, 7 songs from the album in instrumental versions. “Hail and Kill MMXIV” (Instrumental), “Kings of Metal MMXIV” (Instrumental), “The Heart of Steel MMXIV” (Orchestral Intro Version – Instrumental), “The Blood of the Kings MMXIV” (Instrumental), “Thy Kingdom Come MMXIV” (Instrumental), “Thy Crown and Thy Ring MMXIV” (Orchestral Version – Instrumental), “On Wheels of Fire MMXIV” (Instrumental), pretty much the entire “non-instrumental” album that would make sense, ie – no inclusion of the “Warrior’s Tale MMXIV” here, is offered in instrumental form as a “bonus”.
 
The cover artwork has been also slightly altered, with the flags, of the “nations” now representing the flags of the nations the band will tour at least on the first round of touring that is planned, so far. Again the cover was done by famous fantasy artist Ken Kelly.
 
Overall, the words that come to mind are un-necessary and overkill (and I don’t mean the band). You don’t have to re-record albums to tour and the only reason to do it, is to try and reclaim more money from your back catalogue, through mainly digital sales and by strong arming your very loyal fans into re-buying music that they already own. The re-recordings are usually inferior to the originals, for many reasons, be it the toll that the time has taken on a singer’s voice, shrinking recording budgets etc... and could only be considered as a good idea, in the case of some really poorly recorded album, but one could always remix them, instead of re-recording them. At any rate, with the fans of the band, being some of the most loyal and stubborn in the world, it is rather immaterial what I might think, as a fellow fan. I do like the band in general and I can’t say I hated this, but I just can’t say that it’s on the top of my buy now list. I’ll get it at a second hand shop, I’m sure, sooner or later for a fair price.
 
The album itself is a masterpiece of metal, but this re-recording does nothing to really underline that point, it only just seems as another product so that’s why this low grade. The classic is always a CLASSIC. A well done remixed-remastered version, definitive/expanded edition, I would have welcomed with open arms... this thing, just makes me iffy and suspicious about the motivation behind its release…
 
Admin: I never thought I would be able to review one of my all-time favorite epic metal albums. In any case, “Kings of Metal” is a classic! No second thoughts about it! It marked a whole metal era of the late 80s and gave the chance to the newest fans to get to know what epic metal is. It will be placed in the Epic Metal Hall of Fame eternally! Apart from that, this re-recorded album does not offer anything at all. The re-recordings are OK but inferior to the originals. Eric is still an amazing singer but time is no man’s friend and that’s obvious when listening to the re-recorded tracks. Moreover, it does miss that sweet & warm 80s metal sound. Yeap, the production is better now but too digital & “coldblooded”.
 
I’m a Manowar fan and that will never change. Manowar fans must be the most loyal fans of the world… but I do not see a good reason why they decided to re-record this legendary album. Nothing can beat the original. Now that I’m thinking of it… who will ever play any of the re-recorded tracks instead of the original ones? Com’ on, don’t fool yourselves… these are beyond compare! Another major drawback is that they didn’t include the Greek flag on the cover artwork. We were there for them at a weird era for the band and they effortlessly forgot all the praise words they used to say! Anyhow, Hail from Hellas!