This three-album set covers the mid-period of Manowar’s career, between their indie label beginnings and their later retreat to their own label. A bare-bones reissue, with no extra tracks or sleeve notes, it represents the best of this unique band, even when we take one majorly indulgent misstep into account.
Manowar’s fifth album, 1987’s Fighting The World, is a delightfully vulgar display of power. Notably lean and mean, with a turbo-boosted production compared to previous records, it wallops your chops with such OTT highlights as the typically chest-beating Fighting The World and the blistering Black Wind, Fire And Steel. It also features the panoramic Defender, distinguished by narration from Orson Welles.
The following year’s Kings Of Metal delivers such triumphant collisions between melody and power as Wheels Of Fire, Kingdom Come and Hail And Kill. While the laboured The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings) and the ill-considered Pleasure Slave dent the consistency level this time around, we close with the brilliant Blood Of The Kings. One of Manowar’s all-time finest moments, it would later sound even better when they re-recorded the entire album for 2014’s Kings Of Metal MMXIV.
During the three-year tour in support of Kings Of Metal, guitarist Ross The Boss and powerhouse drummer Scott Columbus left the group. This line-up change, perhaps coupled with the album’s unprecedented success having led bassist Joey DeMaio and frontman Eric Adams to believe they could get away with anything, might explain the horror that greets the listener at the outset of this set’s third album, 1992’s The Triumph Of Steel.
Achilles, Agony And Ecstasy In Eight Parts is a 28-minute conceptual piece. Like so many conceptual pieces, it neglects actual songwriting in favour of the story it wants to tell. The results are a low point in Manowar’s career.
What makes The Triumph Of Steel more difficult to evaluate, however, is the fact that the rest of its tracks amount to an album’s worth of material in themselves. And against all odds, gems like Metal Warriors (which includes the extraordinary line ‘If you’re not into metal, you are not my friend’), Ride The Dragon and The Power Of Thy Sword conspire to make the album more about ecstasy than agony.