Many smack-talkers have called Manowar cartoonish, silly, pompous and out of touch, but there's a legion of diehards for whom that kind of criticism warrants a sharpened spear to the groin. These are the Manowarriors, the fans that have followed the band through 25 years of music trends, label and lineup shifts and an increasing emphasis on the European music market.
"I have fans in the U.S. come up to me all the time saying, 'OK, next time, I'm flying to wherever it is in Europe that you're playing,' " bassist and band spokesman Joey DeMaio said. " 'And if I can't get the time off, I'll just quit and get another job.' You're talking about some seriously devoted people that are kind of like family to us."
The Manowar elite isn't incredibly huge (if Nickelback had an army, it'd outnumber Manowar's 1,000 to one), but it's unbelievably loyal. So much so that in July 2005, 25,000 fans from across the globe flocked to Geiselwind, Germany, to attend the first Manowar convention, which featured appearances by ex-bandmembers, the crowning of the lovely Miss Manowar and a band concert with full orchestra. So, when Manowar's first album in five years, Gods of War, comes out April 3, you can bet these folks will flock to the stores and celebrate with gallons of mead and mountains of beef cooked rare. Kiss, eat your heart out.
"People are so loyal to us because they listen to our songs and say, 'Yeah, they're talking about me. That's my life. That's the way I feel,' " DeMaio explained.
Manowar fans seem to take pride in what others mock — mainly, that their favorite band constantly strives to top itself, creating the loudest, most intense and most bombastic songs each time it enters the studio. Gods of War is no exception. The disc, which features titles like "Hymn of the Immortal Warriors," "Loki God of Fire" and "Glory Majesty Unity," is filled with crashing power chords, thunderous beats and orchestral arrangements that enhance the might and majesty of the music.
"It will fry the hair on your balls," DeMaio said, without a hint of irony. "These days, there's a real lack of big, epic metal that is drenched with crushing guitars and choirs and orchestras. So it's nice to be one of the few bands that's actually doing that."
There's an inherent problem with metal bands that constantly try to be more extreme. There are ceilings on volume, speed and intensity, and when the barriers are pushed too far, the results tend to be either absurd or unintelligible. But according to DeMaio, the quandary lies in the musicians, not the formula.
"Most people that are out there playing in bands are not musicians, they're just people holding guitars," he said. "They're not playing the instrument, the instrument is playing them. But if you're truly a musician and you're able to look at music as a whole and understand it, you have a lot of doors open to you. There's a lot of different kinds of instrumentation, so you can always challenge yourself and give your audience a fresh taste of what you're doing."
Gods of War will be Manowar's first offering in a series of albums about mythological gods — in this case, Odin. "We've always been interested in Norse mythology and it's been a lifelong passion for our fans as well," DeMaio said. "The idea is that Odin was the god of war, and that lends itself to something big and dramatic."
Manowar worked on Gods of War last year at their studio compound in Valhalla (well, upstate New York, actually) and at the members' individual homes, and the process was fraught with frustration and rigid perfectionism.
"It's not easy for us, ever," DeMaio began. "There's too much [analyzing] of the material and equipment we use. You're talking about people who approach this as scientists, and we push man and machine to its limit. And that requires 100 percent commitment to each and every note played, and the quality of the performance and how it is reproduced and recorded."
It didn't help matters that Manowar's overwhelming volume tends to fry their equipment. "We have a saying that a speaker sounds best before it blows," DeMaio explained. "When you're living on the edge all the time and your whole mission is metal to the max, things get pushed to the limit."
The rest of the week's metal news:
Down will headline a gig March 9 at El Corazón in Seattle, the band has revealed. The Phil Anselmo-fronted sludge rockers will also perform March 30 in Worcester, Massachusetts; March 31 in New York; April 1 in Philadelphia; and April 2 in Washington, D.C. To top it all off, they'll serve as the openers, along with Megadeth, on Heaven and Hell's upcoming Canadian tour. ... Progressive-metallers Dream Theater have signed a deal with Roadrunner and will issue their next LP, Systematic Chaos, in June. ... Michigan metalcore collective Still Remains have begun tracking their next LP, The Serpent, with producer Steve Evetts (Saves the Day, He Is Legend). Expect the album to include 15 tracks, including "Anemia in Your Sheets," "The Wax Walls of an Empty Room" and "An Undesired Reunion." Frontman T.J. Miller said the album is "a lot darker and more honest," adding that the songs are "heavier and more melodic than anything we have ever written as a band." Look for the effort to drop this summer. ...
Floridian death-metallers Malevolent Creation have wrapped the recording of their forthcoming album Doomsday X. The LP is being eyed for an early summer release and will boast 11 songs in all, including "Strength in Numbers," "Buried in a Nameless Grave" and "Deliver My Enemy," which features a solo from Slipknot guitarist Mick Thompson. ... A Life Once Lost, those lovable metalcore hippies from the City of Brotherly Love, began tracking their next album on Thursday with engineer Eric Rachel (Atreyu, Dillinger Escape Plan). Look for the album, titled Iron Gag, to land in stores later this year. ... In related news, Norma Jean, the Chariot and the Handshake Murders will team with A Life Once Lost for a spring tour across the U.S. The trek kicks off March 17 in Homewood, Alabama, and dates run through April 14 in Charleston, South Carolina. ...
Avant-garde rockers Genghis Tron have inked a deal with Relapse. "We're incredibly excited to be joining the Relapse family," the band said in a statement. "The three of us have been huge fans of the label since the dawn of time and we can't wait to work with them on our future releases." The band has begun working on its first outing for the label, which Genghis claim is "sounding insane and awesome and entirely indescribable." ... The latest video from New Jersey metallers God Forbid — who're currently on the road with Goatwhore, Mnemic, Arsis and Byzantine as part of the Chains of Humanity Tour — will debut this weekend on MTV2's "Headbangers Ball." The clip, for the track "Chains of Humanity," focuses on the group's diehard fanbase, according to a press release. In other news, God Forbid will film their February 18 gig at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey. The footage will be incorporated into the band's first DVD release, which has yet to be titled. ...
I Killed the Prom Queen have parted ways with singer Edward Butcher — a member of the fold for just over a year. "As some of you may have already heard, Ed ... has decided to leave the band," reads a statement from the Australian metalcore act. "His decision was entirely of his own accord and came as a bit of a shock to us, however, we must respect his decision to return home to the U.K." The band will announce Butcher's replacement in the coming weeks. ... Extreme-metal quintet Origin plan to begin writing material for their next album as soon as they've returned from their current European tour with Necrophagist and Misery Index. The jaunt wraps March 14 in Karlsruhe, Germany. Origin guitarist Paul Ryan said the band is "stoked about the material that we have now." He added: "As with all our CDs, we are trying to make the approach different than the last. We want to continue writing stuff that we find challenging as musicians as well as over-the-top in its approach." Expect the album to hit stores late this year. ...
More bands have been added to the lineup for the second annual California Metalfest, slated for March 31 and April 1 at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana, California. The bill includes Testament, Necrophagist, Flotsam and Jetsam, Animosity, As Blood Runs Black, Arsis, Decrepit Birth, Ion Dissonance, Light This City, the Funeral Pyre and Ankla, among others. ... Light This City are also joining forces with the Faceless and Antagonist for a tour that launches February 23 in Anaheim, California. The mostly West Coast run ends March 12 in Corpus Christi, Texas. ... Southern California experimental noise-mongers the Locust will hit the road next month with Cattle Decapitation and Daughters in tow. The tour commences March 23 in San Diego and will make stops in Seattle; Denver; Boston; New York; Philadelphia; Atlanta; and West Palm Beach, Florida. It wraps April 28 in Tempe, Arizona. The band's forthcoming album New Erections is set for a March 20 release.