Today, I say “hail” to an album that blew me away when I heard it for the first time more than 20 years ago – Manowar’s rough 1983 epic, “Into Glory Ride.”
Now wait. Stop rolling your eyes. I know Manowar has done some goofy things before – like posing in loin cloth and leather and getting themselves in the Guinness Book of World Records for “world’s loudest band” and such – but none of that matters. A lot of bands have gimmicks: What’s important is how a band sounds, and whether their music is worth repeat listens.
By those criteria, “Into Glory Ride” is more than worthy. Guitarist Ross “The Boss” Friedman and bassist Joey DeMaio shred until their fingers bleed and vocalist Eric Adams hits glass-shattering notes. Scott Columbus beats thunder out of his drums and the lo-fi production makes the whole album sound rude and savage.
The album opens with a ridiculous intro of a young man and woman having sex. Her parents intrude (“She’s only 16!” “Come here, you!”), the dumb kid is thrown through the window and goes running off into the night, laughing hysterically.
What does that have to do with the rest of the album? Beats me. But I remember my young teenage self blown away by how subversive it was … but then again, I was a teenage doofus for whom sex was a mystery I was sure I was never going to get close enough to a woman to discover. Just the sound of people screwing in that intro knocked me out.
The “intro” immediately leads into “Warlord,” a bike ’til you die song that roars out the gate with a speedy riff and Adams’ operatic screams. The chorus is singalong fun and everything is moving along nicely – and then Ross The Boss really throws the song into overdrive with an off the scales chart solo that obeys none of the established rules of guitar playing. Before forming Manowar, Ross was a member of The Dictators, a NYC punk band, and Ross brought a punk edge to “Warlord” and much of “Into Glory Ride.”
“Secret of Steel” is the first sword and sorcery epic of the disc. While Adams again sings his lungs out, the real standout here is DeMaio, who solos on his bass throughout. DeMaio, who was also the band’s main songwriter, wasn’t content to help shore up the beat with his bass: The man throws out bass lines that are pure shock and awe. The song is slower and more majestic than “Warlord,”with a big Adams chorus and a few high notes that cause dogs to howl. At the solo, Ross plays every single note on his guitar – in a good way.
“Gloves of Metal” was no doubt intended as a concert singalong. A song of praise to all things metal, Adams brings in a chorus of biker dudes for the huge chorus. It’s not the best song on the album – it’s probably the only really disposable song here – but it’s certainly full of fire.
“Gates of Valhalla” starts with a intense 12-string intro and a vocal performance by Adams that sends chills down my spine. A keyboard kicks in, adding a nice layer of solemnity to the song … then, predictably, all hell breaks lose. Adams is really impassioned throughout and Ross The Boss conquers and obliterates all with his guitar solo. At the end, the song flies off the rails with some major guitar hammering by Ross. This song was Epic before the rest of the metal community knew what “epic” meant. Manowar may not have written many classics, but “Gates” was certainly one of those few.
“Hatred,” for lack of a more succinct term, is absolutely frikkin’ weird. The slow tempo is almost doomy (although doom metal hadn’t been invented at that point) and Adams growls through the verses like he’s ready to really cut out an enemy’s heart and eat the thing while gore runs down his chin. The tempo change for the chorus is disconcerting, Adams’ screams are vicious and deadly – and then! Good god! The midsection is just wrong. I can’t describe it, other than to say I’ve never heard “singing” like that on any album, before or since. Ross doesn’t solo as much as torture his guitar and then, holy crap, it’s the midsection again – but this time it sounds like someone lit Adams on fire and recorded him while he bellowed in pain. At the climax, DeMaio surely destroyed his bass with the frenetic hammering. It’s exhausting and when Adams lets out a happy, relieved “whoo!” at the end, you’ll understand how he feels.
“Revelation (Death’s Angel)” is a big Biblical tale of fire and destruction. It’s a good song … but perhaps it’s a bit anticlimactic after the ear-blowing bombast of “Hatred.” Listen to it yourself.
“March For Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death)” ends the album with an eight and an half minute blast of murderous, epic sword play. Ross and DeMaio lay down a heavy riff, Columbus fleshes out the beat with fills and rolls and the choruses are huge and heavy. After the second chorus, the beat stops entirely and the song goes into an acoustic interlude, with Adams singing over a single guitar and a keyboard line. Is it corny to say the interlude is moving? It is? Well, then so be it … and when the drums kick back in and Ross lays down the power chord, the hair on your neck will stand up, buddy.
I know Manowar isn’t hip – I’m sure there’s a hipster out there somewhere walking around in a Manowar T-shirt, thinking he’s being ironic. To that all I can say is: Hipsters are lame, irony is for smirking pencil-necks and anyone who thinks they’re too cool for “Into Glory Ride” can come bite me. I’m not arguing it’s the best album ever – but Manowar obviously set out to make the heaviest album they could. In terms of passion and delivery, they succeeded.