While working on tour for Black Sabbath in 1980, New Yorker Joey deMaio meets Ross ‘the Boss’ Friedman. Both immediately bond over their love of Heavy Metal and expressed a desire to create their own band to challenge the music scene. Friedman, who had already played in The Dictators, got his friend Eric Adams on board as the lead singer. Adams, whose actual name is Louis Marullo, won them over with his powerful voice and wide vocal range. Together with Carl Canedy on the drums, they birthed a band out of black wind, fire and steel. One that was born to teach them all to heel! Manowar.
Only a year after they made their demo, which scored them a record deal, Manowar released their first album ‘Battle Hymns’ in 1982, now with Donnie Hamzik on drums. The album title was aptly chosen and kick-started a career committed to the quest of playing heavy metal as loud, proud and spectacular as it possibly can be.
With heavy riffs, fast paced drums and an overall theme of aggression and defiance, ‘Battle Hymns’ resulted in the band’s first laurels. Yet compared to their later works, the first Manowar album does lean more towards hard rock with influences of punk. But the attitude was there from the get-go:
Baby I was born to play music
I am a man with a screaming guitar
There’s a light in the middle of the stage
And in a minute I’ll be wearing it all
I don’t know another way of living
Man I couldn’t really care
Give me a pair of jeans and a riff that’s mean
And girls that love to share – Lyrics from Metal Daze by Manowar
The 1983 release ‘Into Glory Ride’ heralded Manowar’s advance into the Heavy Metal scene. It was a true challenge to the music scene. Demonstrating their uber-macho attitude by giving everyone that tried to stop them the finger, Manowar fully embraced the stereotypes. And it worked. Metal fans were drawn towards the four men with muscled arms, hairy chests and the occasional handlebar moustache. At this point, Scott Columbus was on the drums.
When you see me comin’ flying down the road
You know I ain’t afraid to lay it down
Yeah, got me some leather. Leather is my skin
Black and chrome flashing’ through the town.
Some call me the WARLORD ’cause I’m a GOD-DAMN
bad machine, young and hungry, not too proud and mean – Lyrics from Warlord by Manowar
The album also signalled their entry into the world of sword and sorcery, of battle and bloodshed. Lyrics began to focus on the mythological tales of medieval, Norse and even Christian history and themes. Musically, songs like ‘Secret of Steel’ and ‘Gates of Valhalla’ were still on the slower side, with stoner rock influences.
Manowar’s first 1984 release, ‘Hail to England’, would one day be ranked number 4 on Metal Hammer’s best power metal albums of all time. The cover shows the unnamed warrior for the first time, who was buff, armed with a sword, with a hot chick and in the midst of his slain enemies. It really embodied Manowar. The warrior represented the fight for ‘True Metal’, which everyone could join if they followed the values that mattered most in life: loyalty, honour, brotherhood, perseverance, faith and the courage to be true to yourself.
‘Hail to England’ was also dedicated to Manowar’s growing fanbase in Europe – though it actually has the Union Jack on the cover, not the actual English flag. Manowar repeatedly said that the band was for the fans, and the fans were what kept it going. This charismatic, egalitarian attitude attracted them a loyal following of Manowarriors from all corners of the world. Many saw them as the real embodiment of what Heavy Metal is supposed to be. No false image, no band formed by committee, but promoting the feelings of being powerful, dedicated and defiant through their songs of battle and bloodshed. ‘Sign of the Hammer’ was also released in 1984, and as the name suggests, it focuses a bit on Norse mythology.
After releasing two records in quick succession, the next one would not be released until 1987. The title ‘Fighting the World’ also referred to Manowar’s ongoing fight with agents, managers and record companies. In many ways it was an answer to all those who tried to hold them back over the years, and a declaration of war against the trash on TV, boring radio stations and their stupid boycotts.
Now people keep asking if we’re gonna change
I look ’em in the eye tell ‘em… no way
Stripes on a tiger don’t wash away
Manowar’s made of steel not clay – Lyrics from Fighting the World by Manowar
‘Fighting the World’ is a pure heavy metal album, but with a cleaner and more energetic sound than the band’s earlier works, while still having the themes of defiance and perseverance.
And in 1988, they returned once more with the album ‘Kings of Metal’, which is often described by fans as Manowar in its purest form. But at this point, the band had begun to incorporate more symphony and orchestra into their songs, especially to slower ones like ‘Heart of Steel’.
But while the band was flying high musically, internally Manowar was facing some turmoil. Growing tensions between deMaio and Friedman ended with ‘the Boss’ leaving the band just a couple days before ‘Kings of Metal’ was released. For many old school fans, this sudden change left a bitter aftertaste, and some felt that Manowar was growing an ego.
Four years later, the band released their 7th album, ‘The Triumph of Steel’. A return to form, sure, but also one of their more experimental albums. Opening up with the 28 minute and 37 seconds ‘Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts’ left a bunch of fans scratching their heads. While some viewed it as innovative and ambitious, others felt it a bit too pretentious and unnecessary. But true to typical Manowar fashion: if people liked it, cool, but if not, then whatever. This was also the only album with David Shankle on guitar and Rhino – Kenny Earl Edwards – on the drums.
Now the world must listen to our decree
We don’t turn down for anyone we do just what we please
Got to make it louder, all men play on ten
If you’re not into metal, you are not my friend,
heavy metal! Or no metal at all
Wimps and posers, leave the hall! – Lyrics from Metal Warriors by Manowar
‘Louder than hell’ was released in 1996, just in time for the band to break the Guinness World Record for being the loudest live band, just a few decibels below the pain threshold. On this album there was no long opening – only warlords returning to deliver songs that are best heard while rocking out on the road, with Scott Columbus back on drums and Karl Logan on guitar. It was pure, unapologetic Heavy Metal with uplifting, bombastic songs.
The Gods Made Heavy Metal And They Saw That It Was Good
They Said To Play It Louder Than Hell
We Promised That We Would
When Losers Say It’s Over With, You Know That It’s A Lie
The Gods Made Heavy Metal And It’s Never Gonna Die – Lyrics from The Gods made Heavy Metal by Manowar
Manowar started strong in the new millennium, releasing ‘Warriors of the World’ in 2002. This is probably the one Manowar album even non-Metal fans have heard about at some point. The songs ‘Call to Arms’ and ‘Warriors of the World United’ are modern Manowar classics and a tribute to the many Manowarriors across the world, but Eric Adam’s performance of the Italian opera aria ‘Nessun Dorma’ and the cover version of Elvis Presley’s ‘American Trilogy’ also show the wide range the band is capable of.
Yet the 2000s were also the time when many listeners felt that the band was running out of steam. After a series of live albums, EPs and re-recordings, fans were asking themselves what Manowar still had to offer. The answer was ‘Gods of War’ in 2007. This was the time of Metal concept albums and ‘Gods of War’ was no exception. Diving deep into Norse mythology, with songs dedicated to Odin and Loki, was nothing new for Manowar. Yet many fans were put off by the long stretches of narration and dialogue that were inserted in between the songs.
‘Gods of War’ was supposed to be the first of a series of albums about different pantheon gods, but the others never came out. ‘The Lord of Steel’ from 2012 is the most recent album by the band. If you knew Manowar, you knew what to expect. Hard riffs and Eric Adam’s iconic voice, still going strong after all those years.
Heavy Metal icons
For over 40 years, Manowar has celebrated the essence of True Heavy Metal. Joey deMaio and Eric Adams still remain as the original members of the band.
Manowar have remained loyal to both themselves and their fanbase. Their records are supposed to be seen as a celebration of Heavy Metal in its purest form, with the musician as a warrior bound to fight his battles. And looking back at a long career and over 35 tours, the band themselves cite a series of accomplishments:
1. They were the only rock band to have ever recorded with Orson Welles.
2. They were the first metal band to record a song in over 18 different languages and counting.
3. And the most metal feat of them all, holding on to the record of being the loudest band in history.
Check out the lyrics to our cover of Manowar’s ‘Kingdom Come‘, which is featured on our EP of the same name. Read the lyrics here.
If you’re interested in a more visual interpretation of the above story, watch our Sabaton History episode, Kingdom Come – Manowar: