Iced Earth – Night of the Stormrider


Year released: 1991
Thrash Metal, Speed Metal, Heavy Metal
Reviewed by: hells_unicorn on Encyclopeadia Metallum

Metal and the concept album format have shared a rather interesting history, delving into a wide variety of subjects from the supernatural, the political, and the science fictional. Probably the oldest and most utilized theme in the metal concept arsenal is the darkness versus light, good against evil, God against Satan story. This form of storytelling goes all the way back to the age old battle between Horace and Set (after the latter had been demonized by Lower Egypt into an evil deity due to political turmoil) and further still likely into pre-history as tribal man took note of the seeming conflict between the night and day in the heavens.

Iced Earth’s magnum opus “Night of the Stormrider” brings about such scholarly thought of various historical myths on a lyrical level because it avoids the cliché of merely focusing on Christianity against Paganism and instead provides a general struggle between 2 forces that are both natural and mystical. You could insert a struggle between Zoroastrian polytheists and Muhammad’s armies or an unknown alliance of nomadic Mexican Indian tribes against the Aztec Empire and the lyrics would still fit perfectly. The story’s principle character tells of his encounters with the dark forces through a unique hybrid of a 1st person and omniscient perspective, further perpetuating the mystical side of the tale.

The style of the music that accompanies this epic tale is a very unique blend of riff driven thrash metal, classic Iron Maiden melodies, orchestral textures, and acoustic passages loosely resembling Blind Guardian’s handiwork circa 1986. Jon Schaeffer showcases a barrage of mad-paced gallop riffs that makes Metallica’s “Motorbreath” sound like classic rock and occasionally shows the same ingenuity and intricacy of MegaDeth’s mid-80s material. Randall Shawver is an apt lead player, equally as capable as most thrash soloists, yet knowing the value of playing a melody once in a while rather than shredding up the pentatonic scale for the entire duration like Kirk Hammet often did when he actually played.

The vocal work put forth by John Greely is undeniably 80s power metal in its approach, conjuring up similarities to Rob Halford, James Rivera, and occasionally Eric Adams. His versatility as a singer is notable as most thrash singers are prone to bark a near monotone melody during the verses with the occasional high wail while not being able to really pull off an actual sung melody very well. Notable sections where Greely accomplishes some really catchy melodic hooks include the chorus of “Desert Rain” and at several points in the album’s lengthy closer “Travel to Stygian”.

There really isn’t any way to pick a favorite out of these songs as they all serve the perfect flow of the whole album while shinning in their own unique way. “Angels Holocaust” and “Desert Rain” are probably the easiest to recall after first listen due to heavy emphasis on a chief melodic idea. “Stormrider”, “The Path I Choose” and “Pure Evil” are loaded with rapid fire thrash riffs and aggression, which will sit well with traditional thrash fans that unfortunately had to see their favorite metal genre systematically raped by many of its own champions the same year this came out.

This is a work that genuinely defies conventional labels and successfully walks a line between being stylistically eclectic and musically consistent. Any fan of any sub-genre of metal should be able to appreciate the quality of the music on here. This is a different Iced Earth than the one that most came to know when their star rose in the later 1990s. It carries all the greatness of the old guard in the US power/thrash scene and, unlike what many people say about the band’s material of toady, is an album that makes you think.



Manowar – The Triumph of Steel


Year released: 1992
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Reviewed by: Kingcrimsonprog on MetalMusicArchives

In the same year that Grunge was well and truly selling billions of CDs worldwide, US Heavy Metal legends Manowar released their seventh full-length studio album – 1992’s The Triumph Of Steel.

It must have been no easy task following up their immensely popular and loyally beloved 1988 release Kings Of Metal, nor must it have been easy having to train up a new drummer and guitarist after losing Scott Columbus and Ross “The Boss” Friedman. In fact, nor can it have been fun trying to promote an album of blistering, powerful, OTT Heavy Metal after “Man In The Box” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” changed what must’ve felt like every journalist on earth’s priorities in the pre-internet culture of the day.

Despite all that was going against them, Manowar released what must surely be one of their greatest ever albums (certainly its my personal favourite at any rate). Call it ambition, or call it arrogance, but the band even opened up the record with a twenty-minute long song. A song with a bass solo, a drum solo so indulgent that it has a separate solo for the cymbals and for the drums, two minutes of somber guitar violining… all telling the story of Achillies and Hector from Greek Mythology. The world wanted “Touch Me I’m Sick” …Manowar gave ‘em “Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts.”

Despite how easy it is to skip a twenty-minute album opener with three solos in it, the song isn’t poor. In fact, some sections of it are absolute genius, such as the furious Thrashy “Death Hector’s Reward” part, which feels like the musical equivalent of being battered upside the head.

After that, the first normal-length track comes in. Its my favourite track on the album, or by the band. “Metal Warriors” is the most perfectly-pitched, sing-along tribute to Heavy Metal that’s ever been written. Ludicrous to the point of featuring the lyric “If you’re not into Metal you are not my friend” and yet musically out of this world. Its some kind of supercharged version of Kiss’ “I Love It Loud” filled with Painkiller screams, mountain-top chants and the screech of guitars that feel only-barely in control.

There’s more blistering speed, in the sword-and-scorcery realm of “Ride The Dragon” with its constant double-kicks and incredibly catchy chorus.

The band then take a different tack, choosing to sing about Native Americans in a surprisingly tasteful way, in an interesting mid-paced affair that sonically evokes cowboy movies subtly, but doesn’t loose that Manowar sound. Maybe they were jealous of Anthrax? Who cares why they did it, but it works, really well!

Then they follow it up with another mid-paced track called “Burning” which you’d imagine might be a momentum killer, but is actually one of the more interesting compositions in the band’s catalogue. It’s a bit different than their usual any of their usual directions… epics, ballads, rousing anthems or blistering speed. It’s a nice change of pace. Sort of experimental, with a lot of emphasis on dynamics and Eric Adams trying out as many vocal techniques as he can imagine.

“Power Of Thy Sword” comes next, and its what I would consider the quintessential Manowar song. If you wonder if the band are for you, this is one of the tracks you should use to decide. Its got everything that’s great about the band in spades. Its so powerful, OTT and fun. Its beyond catchy, the solo is awesome, there’s slow bits, fast bits and there’s a touch of the orchestral epic-ness that the band aspire to. With this one song, you get a good musical, technical and lyrical picture of Manowar… oh, and by the way its a great song too!

Even if the last one felt good enough to be an album closer, it doesn’t stop there. There’s more Metal in the form of “The Demon’s Whip.” A robust, interesting track which is half crushing Sabbath-inspired Doom and half double-kick Thrash attack, almost-ending the album with a jarring reverse-whiplash effect as the too-slow doom accelerates out of control to the tune off way-too-loud whip samples.

It all closes with the grand, cinematic, vocally-impressive “Master Of The Wind” which kind of evokes Greg Lake-era King Crimson with its chiming bells, big reverb, dynamic production and haunting singing. Its probably the best ballad/orchestral-track that Manowar ever did. Not something to be skipped, but a genuine album highlight in itself.

Overall; Triumph Of Steel is a really diverse and almost strange album. Despite its seeming lack of focus, it really feels like Manowar just doing everything they could think of to absolute perfection. Anthem – nailed. Ballad – absolutely nailed. Fast bits – nailed. Slow bits – nailed. Exploring new ideas – nailed. Keeping true to what makes Manowar, Manowar – nailed. It might not have gotten the attention it deserved at the time, but for my money this album is a straight up-and-down masterpiece that shows what superb musicians, performers and songwriters Manowar are from every possible angle. Highly Recommended!



W.A.S.P – The Crimson Idol


Year released: 2007
Heavy Metal
Reviewed by: Hermer Arroyo on Metal Crypt

Since their humble beginnings in 1982 on the Sunset Strip, W.A.S.P.’s sole aim was to shock the audience, be it by performing outrageous stage shows, throwing rotten meat at the crowd or singing about getting laid. Ten years later they will shock the world again by releasing this monster of an album. You see, the thing that makes this so surprising is the level of maturity Blackie Lawless displays on this record. Gone are the party vibes that made this band famous, completely evolving into a different band.

Traces of this were beginning to appear on their previous album The Headless Children, but here it is a full on assault. The Crimson Idol is a concept album that many people say resembles the life of Lawless. I wouldn’t go that far, but you can see why people make that comparison. Now making an album of this caliber requires a great storyline and Lawless makes one to remember. Compelling in every way possible, dealing with the subject of fame and the price of it, the lyrics must be read to fully get the effect. The voice acting is very good, giving details in the life of the main character Jonathan.

Every single song is a highlight, advancing the story as much as required and kicking plenty of ass in the process. From the fist note of “The Titanic Overture” to the last note on “The Great Misconception of Me”, Lawless delivers a songwriting clinic that will leave his contemporaries choking in the dust. Another thing that I love about the album are the acoustic passages, which are just beautiful.

The musicianship on this album is at an all-time high. W.A.S.P. never sounded this good and I doubt that they ever will again. Drummers Frankie Banali and Stet Howland, who never sounded this technical and good; I didn’t know they had this type of ability until now. Bob Kulick (brother of longtime KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick) delivers the majority of the guitar leads on the record and they sound extremely good. Never overshadowing the songs, his tasteful leads complement the songs perfectly.

This leads me to the star of the show, Mr. Blackie Lawless. Besides writing the lyrics and composing the album, he plays lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, bass, keyboards and is the lead singer. His performance here leaves me in awe, as I didn’t realize that he was such a good musician and singer. Yes singer!!! he always displayed a raspy tone on his early albums, but here he proves he can actually sing – just listen to “Hold on to my Heart” and “The Idol”.

The Crimson Idol is the best concept album ever, as no other manages to make a better story or keep my attention as this one. It stands head and shoulders above anything W.A.S.P. has ever done until this day. This may be the longest review I’ve ever made, but this album is more than worth it. Essential to every single metal fan, this is a classic for all times.



Manowar – Gods of War


Year released: 2007
Duration: 73:43
Tracks: 16
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Reviewed by: WishmasterTheDark on Encyclopeadia Metallum

If you are objective, open minded, you will know how to appreciate this peace of art. It’s standard Manowar, this time with massive orchestrations. This is totally natural thing since they were the ones who laid foundation for heavy metal’s sub-genre called symphonic metal. It began with The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings), although that song doesn’t have electric guitars. But still, it sounds so heavy, ’cause they are heavy metal enough even without distorted guitars. This release has lots of short introduction songs and some instrumental overtures done in classical music style, because of Richard Wagner’s influence. If you know something about Manowar, then you noticed that these stories in The Blood Of Odin and Glory Majesty Unity are done in the vein of The Warrior’s Prayer from Kings Of Metal album. So, they continued this epic story from 1988, and put it into this concept album, which consists of Norse Mythology, heavy metal, Manowar and their fans. Also, Warriors Of The World had short classical piece Valhalla and longer The March, so symphonic metal tendencies are not strange in Manowar’s music.

Joey DeMaio fully unveiled his artistic nature and showed his ability, creativity and talent to make classical music overtures: Overture To The Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors and Overture To Odin, introduction parts: The Ascension and beginning of Sleipnir as well, and epic stories: The Blood Of Odin and Glory Majesty Unity. These songs are the ones which turned this release into a concept album, since they don’t have electric guitar, bass guitar and drums, but classical instruments and choir. When you remove these introductions, overtures and stories, instead of 16 songs, them 9 are songs where you can expect standard vocals, drums, bass and electric guitars. Parts where band members are notable in these classical songs are The Ascension, which is introduction for King Of Kings where Eric starts to sing, and Joey is narrator of The Blood Of Odin story. Army Of The Dead Part 1 features Eric, along with orchestrations and choir. Army Of The Dead Part 2 has identical lyrics, and the only difference is that Part 2 has keyboards (with organ effect) intro where Joey kicks serious ass. Some can consider these songs as filler, because if you look few years back, since The Triumph Of Steel, it takes them from 4, 5 to 6 years to release new studio albums. They toured a lot few years back, they had line-up changes, so it’s natural that it takes lots of time to make new material, but lack of inspiration can’t be ignored too.

Manowar is a band that needs time to release new studio albums, but once they come out, they can’t disappoint. It’s worth waiting, since they do not release crap garbage every year, but high quality heavy metal material. What really will blow away any serious listener are these killer songs. Eric played really important role here, and did impressive job. After all these years he was still capable to do high-pitched screams in King Of Kings, Loki God Of Fire, Die For Metal, Blood Brothers and in ending of the song Gods Of War. His voice filled these songs with insane amount of power, specially mind-blowing combination with strong chorus in songs Sons Of Odin and Gods Of War, where whole thing is taken to higher level, and with symphonic arrangements these two songs sound massive, epic and orgasmic. Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors received the same blessing, and it has even more epic feel when Joey starts the narration, and when he finishes, Eric starts along with choir which always make me shudder. Eric’s intonation in Sleipnir’s refrains is of key importance, otherwise song wouldn’t sound that great. Karl Logan made excellent guitar solos. Slow, with lots of passion to fit the mood of Blood Brothers power ballad and Hymn Of Immortal Warriors, which sounds like a national anthem. Word “hymn” in the title makes perfect sense.

Semi-furious, but technical solos are in Gods Of War, Odin and Die For Metal, and insanely furious solos full of arpeggios, sweeps and shredding in King Of Kings, with some slower parts, but with guitar rape in Sleipnir, and with use of tremolo to squeeze those notes. In Loki God Of Fire and Sons Of Odin he continued fast kick-ass playing. Odin has nice lead guitar which causes eargasm, and Loki God Of Fire has insane ending soloing along with Eric’s singing, so you can’t hear well some of his solo parts. It’s refreshing to hear something like that, not just solos in the middle of the song without vocals. Although this release is not full of memorable riffs, Loki God Of Fire and Die For Metal have riffs which slay, and enough to leave great impression for the entire release. He placed power chords well in fast songs King Of Kings, Sleipnir, Loki God Of Fire, in mid tempo songs Sons Of Odin, Gods Of War and in slow songs Die For Metal, Blood Brothers and Hymn Of The Immortal Warriors. Joey’s bass guitar is not dominant on this release, but he was dedicated to keyboards with organ effect and narrations in some parts of the songs. Scott Columbus could have done some different and more creative beats, instead of constant repeating the same pattern during the songs’ durations. Songs still sound excellent, and other members covered this lack.



Manowar – Dawn of Battle


Year released: 2002
Duration: 16:26
Tracks: 3
Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Reviewed by: metalodyssey on MetalOdyssey

MANOWAROver the decades, when it comes to my favorite bands, the collector “bug” will always kick in whenever I come across CD singles, EP’s, picture discs, 7″ vinyl, etc. that have been released with their music. Manowar released The Dawn Of Battle EP or as it is also called, enhanced CD single, back in 2002 on Nuclear Blast. Magic Circle Music, (founded by Manowar’s co-founding member and bass guitarist, Joey DeMaio), is also the co-label.

There are three songs, (The Dawn Of Battle, I Believe and Call To Arms) and CD-ROM bonus material on The Dawn Of Battle. My favorite out of the three songs is Call To Arms, it just thunders along with classic Manowar Heavy Metal power. There is nothing better than a heavy duty, psyche-out, Heavy Metal anthem to invigorate my Metal senses. Call To Arms supplies an ample dose of psyche-out splendor for me, with Eric Adams pronouncing each syllable of this song’s lyrics with a victorious Metal cockiness that he is so damn great at.

I Believe is a song straight from the Manowar text book of personal power, strength and victory. The tempo is dictated by the rhythm section of Joey DeMaio on bass and Scott Columbus on drums. The sheer power that the Heavy Metal stomp of Manowar provides on I Believe, is enough to make my home stereo speakers shudder at their mountings. Hail Manowar Heavy Metal!

The Dawn Of Battle is without a doubt, the fastest and Heaviest of the three songs heard on this EP. Eric Adams comes across with more vindictiveness on this song vocally, than on the other two songs. He does the near-spoken word at the mid-point of The Dawn Of Battle, which is characteristic. Manowar has a fabulous way of making their breakdowns feel awe inspiring. Guitarist Karl Logan is his excellent self on all three songs, providing plenty of melodic leads and ground shifting riffs.

Oh yeah… how about this cover artwork for The Dawn Of Battle… damn, it’s brutally intense stuff! It’s MANOWAR. I make no apologies for digging it myself… Metal be thy name.



W.A.S.P. – The Headless Children


Year released: 1989
Duration: 48:36
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal
Reviewed by: Shadespawn on Encyclopeadia Metallum

In the history of every band, there have always been albums which were somewhat different than the previous, all marking a sudden and drastic change in both the imagery and sound of the respective bands. Mostly (but not necessarily) this is due to the fact that old members leave and/or new are recruited, who bring along their influence upon the band. We have Iron Maiden’s legendary “Number of the Beast” featuring the great Bruce Dickinson, Metallica’s pathetic modern rock attempts (“Load”) or Pantera’s “Cowboys from Hell” where they made a complete change from the glam scene to thrashy groove. another example of this phenomenon is the fourth (not counting the Live…In the Raw album) release from one of the cheekiest and wildest heavy metal groups, being none other than W.A.S.P.

The Headless Children is a very successful album. And by successful I mean really breathtaking for any heavy metal fan. As W.A.S.P. started out, the immediately managed to impress the 80s metal scene with their first two long players. Playing in a way remarkable for that respective time, they quickly attracted a lot of attention to what they do. The even had censorship problems due to their explicit sexual related themes and use of profanity. But that’s exactly what heavy metal is about, so the plus factors definitely land there. Unlike their other releases, however, with “The Headless Children”, W.A.S.P. have moved on to more serious themes in their music such as social decadence. They have even outed themselves as “The Who” fans here, covering their own version of “The Real Me”. But this songs seems a little bit lost on this album, as it seems to be pushed in between two of the more mature songs. Nevertheless it’s fun to listen at.

The production we have here is crystal clear, but still manages to capture the feeling of serious heavy metal. The first track, The heretic, hauls a steady mid tempo drum beat immediately after a short let’s say in mezzo-piano played intro. After listening to a few seconds of this, one instantly remarks the change of sound into the melodramatic side of Blackie Lawless. The emotion that is built in this track is impressive. Like always we have a very catchy chorus, amazing tapping parts, both short and long and a smooth flowing song structure accompanied by Blackie Lawless’ amazing one-of-a-kind trademark singing. No one can really sound like this man does. The way he gets that vibrato in his raspy and hoarse voice and sound very melodic at the same time is awe-inspiring. He also gets extraordinary high, which is really envious. We even get a sort of duet between short guitar solo parts and the chorus at the end of the track along with a very chaotic, fast and crazy solo. And that’s how all the soli on this album are: crazy and energetic. Next aspect on this album are the gloomy choirs used on “The headless children”, which is my favorite track here. Again, W.A.S.P. experiments with different guitar effects, sounding a little bit industrial at times, but not as much as their later work, such as “Kill, Fuck, Die”. Once again, the verse on this track contains a groovy drum beat that is slower than on the first track and slowly sung vocals, followed by a majestic chorus that just animates you to sing along. At the end the tempo changes to a faster pace with an excellent riff at 4:30. Simply by listening to this together with the solo that follows generates goose bumps. The next tracks feature some really great piano and hammond melodies and even some police car sounds on “The neuron bomber”! Now if that’s not an awesome thing to do, then I give up. By the time the acoustic track “Mephisto Waltz” kicks in, one is completely amazed in how much W.A.S.P. have managed to built into this album. And to finish it off, they even made the last track dedicated to their old material which really sends you back, gets you to put on your sunglasses, make grimaces and nod your head.



Manowar – Battle Hymns


Year released: 1982
Duration: 35:48
Tracks: 8
Genre: Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Reviewed by: lostforwords on SputnikMusic

Manowar’s debut is considered a classic for the epic metal genre, along with their next three albums, although it isn’t absolutelely dedicated to that sound, as their next three albums were. In fact, “Battle Hymns” in its first side is an album of very well played, yet generic heavy metal, influenced by bands like Black Sabbath, Rainbow and the N.W.O.B.H.M. All four tracks are above average of course, and tracks like “Metal Daze” are up to this day fan favourites and constant parts of Manowar’s setlists.

It’s in the second side of the record however that Manowar trully shine; in “Manowar” the band continues to play the same generic heavy metal they did in the first four tracks,only now the chorus is very memorable, the rhythm is much more intense and the band sounds really tight. And when “Dark Avenger” comes to play, epic metal is actually born. A very heavy creepy riff introduces the story of a man that was unjustly killed, right before he returned from Hades to have his revenge. The naration in the middle, performed by Orson Welles is enchanting, and the furious third part rounds off an impressive song.

“William’s Tale” is a somewhat narcissistic track by mr Joey de Maio, who by the way is one of the best bass players around. The song is delivered perfectly, and De Maio is very convincing of his potential as a player. In the title track, he is equally convincing as a songwriter.This isn’t only the best song in the album, it is an epic metal (and probably more than just that) classic. From the galloping majestic riff, to Eric Adam’s incredible vocal lines, to the acoustic middle part, this song has influenced every single epic metal band, or every metal band that has ever tried to tell a tale of ancient battles and glory(check Bathory or Amon Amarth for example).

Overall, “Battle Hymns” might not be the band’s best work, because a lack of focus is observed; the band is double faced in this record, but everything they try is at least well done, and Manowar’s weaponry is well demonstrated; the presence of Joey de Maio and Eric Adams, the first one as a songwriter (although not alone in this record), the second one with his powerful voice, dominates the album. Their next album took them to a whole new level, but Manowar’s potential as shown in their debut together with a few classics that it included, made “Battle Hymns” one of the most important metal albums of the 80’s.