Cards on the table, this won’t be the most objective review of all time. I fucking love Manowar, I love the Kings of Metal album, and seemingly unlike many people, love re-recordings of classic albums with better gear.
2010s re-recording of Battle Hymns blew me away, there were some rough moments but ultimately it towered over the 1982 original. From Christopher Lee’s guest narration through to a recording of Battle Hymn that can only be described as mighty, it was how Manowar should sound.
With this in mind, I was very excited when the band announced the re-recording of Kings of Metal, especially when word broke that Brian Blessed was playing the Grandfather role in Warriors Prayer (for those unfamiliar with Brian Blessed, imagine the loudest thing you can, then attach a beard to that image).
Unlike Battle Hymns though, Kings of Metal didn’t particularly need a re-recording if we’re honest. The original Battle Hymns was done at a time when equipment and money weren’t as available as could be and as a result, the sound was quite thin compared to the beefy huge sound the band normally portray. Kings of Metal dropped a good six years later, with better finances and better equipment, the sound was much thicker with a decent thump behind the drums. Granted it’s not up to scratch with modern technology, but it was pretty close.
To hell with that though. No re-recording means no tour, and with half of my favourite Manowar songs on the album, I want that tour. With that in mind, on with the actual review (though I think by now we can do away with reviewing the actual songs, it’s been out for over 25 years).
As with Battle Hymns, Kings of Metal has been given a complete overhaul. While before the drums thumped, they now boom. Joey’s bass is probably the most evident in terms of recording differences; he really comes through in the mix with a gloriously deep sound, a vast improvement from the buzz saw sound on The Lord of Steel.
Some songs have seen minor changes; Heart Of Steel for example has an acoustic guitar in the intro that almost makes it feel like a cut from a cowboy movie when placed under the choir.
Blood of the Kings presents the biggest difference, with additional verses inserted to fit the countries they have played since that original recording. Listening to that is a bit of a mindfuck after so many years of hearing the original; no doubt it’ll lead to hilarious mass confusion at the concerts.
A further deviation from the original is the metal version of The Crown and the Ring. However, we’ve already heard that done on 2009s Thunder in the Sky EP so it is essentially that but with a deeper sound.
Brian Blessed’s input was as wonderful as hoped. Instead of a simple retelling, he added his own spin (and I don’t just mean VOLUME) on the tale. Knowing Brian’s history though, you know that volume can’t be far away, especially when he goes quiet. I couldn’t help laugh when picturing a terrified child listening to “grandpas” loud tale of a bloody, gory battle. My only disappointment with this is the end. The change to “They were the Kings of Metal” from “They were the Metal Kings” was a bit of a sad moment, mainly because the main thing I was excited about for this release was Brian Blessed destroying my ear drums with “THEY..WERE THE METAL KINGS.” Alas it wasn’t to be, but the preceding 5 minutes were more than enough.
There isn’t really much to review on this. In the end it’s still the same album with some minor tweaks and a big difference in production. If you loved the original Kings of Metal, you’ll probably love this, if you hated the original Kings of Metal, you’ll probably hate this (and you’re wrong). The pace is slightly slower, whether that’s due to age or a conscious decision to change tempo I don’t know, but really that’s the only issue I can see that’ll cause arguments among fans on Youtube. Overall though, it’s an excellent representation of how Manowar wanted to sound back when they first began.
(Fun Fact: The word “metal” was used only 11 times in this review. A full 89 times less than it should have been in an article involving Manowar).