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"Death to False Metal!" is the slogan of New York-born power metal outfit Manowar, one of the most internationally successful bands in all of metaldom. Emerging in 1980, the group's approach was designed to be the raw, Viking antithesis of classic rock, and their music followed suit, based on urgent melodic riffs and fantastical lyrics that focused on themes of war, honor, death, and the primal power of rock & roll -- Manowar is in the Guinness Book of World Records for delivering the loudest performance ever. Early efforts like Battle Hymns and Into Glory Ride helped set the stage for the opulence of albums like Fighting the World (1987), Kings of Metal (1988), Warriors of the World (2002), and The Lord of Steel (2012), which added choirs and orchestras to the band's sonic arsenal. The seeds for Manowar were sewn in 1980 when bassist Joey DeMaio met ex-Dictators guitarist Ross Friedman (aka Ross the Boss) while working tech on Black Sabbath's Heaven & Hell tour. The pair enlisted vocalist Eric Adams and drummer Donnie Hamzik to complete the lineup, and the newly minted Manowar (coined by instrument designer John "Dawk" Stillwell) headed into the studio. The group's demo caught the attention of Liberty Records, which added the band to its roster in 1981. The hastily assembled Battle Hymns appeared the following year and featured a guest spot from actor/director Orson Welles, who lent his distinctive cadence to the track "Dark Avenger." Touring in support of the album proved arduous, resulting in the departure of Hamzik, who Scott Columbus replaced. Manowar moved from Liberty to Megaforce (they signed the contract with their blood) ahead of their sophomore release, the more refined Into Glory Ride. Released in 1983, the LP helped to establish Manowar in Europe, which more widely received their epic metal sound. The Viking metal-forward Hail to England and Sign of the Hammer arrived in 1984 and helped further solidify the band's reputation in the U.K. and Europe. Manowar leaped sword-first into the mainstream in 1987 with the release of their Atlantic Records debut, Fighting the World, which again featured guest narration from Orson Welles, who had died two years prior, but recorded his part on a 1982 demo of the song "Defender." 1988's Kings of Metal was even bigger and bolder, weaving in choral and orchestral elements while maintaining the no-holds-barred biker/power metal affectations of past outings. It also marked the departure of founding member and guitarist Ross the Boss. 1992's ambitious Triumph of Steel continued in this fashion, pairing epic orchestral metal (the 28-minute "Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts") with driving NWOBHM-style bangers ("Metal Warriors"). While the onset of grunge and alternative rock put a damper on the band's success at home, Manowar maintained a strong core fan base throughout Europe with constant touring and reliably potent efforts like Louder Than Hell (1996), Warriors of the World (2002), and Gods of War (2007). 2010 saw the release of Battle Hymns MMXI, a re-recording of the group's 1982 debut that brought back original drummer Donnie Hamzik and featured Sir Christopher Lee taking on the Orson Welles narration on "Dark Avenger." 2012's The Lord of Steel leaned hard into the muscular, no-frills arrangements of the group's early efforts, while 2014's Kings of Metal MMXIV saw Manowar revisit their most successful album with another re-recording. Despite the absence of a new album -- an EP, The Final Battle, appeared in 2019 -- the band spent the remainder of the decade touring with great frequency and celebrated their fourth decade by embarking on a massive international tour in 2023 called Crushing the Enemies of Metal.
© James Christopher Monger /TiVo


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