Devastation of Musculation

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Anyone mistaking Devastation of Musculation for a poorly enunciated Norwegian black metal album of some kind will quickly be set straight by the inner-sleeve picture, which depicts four less-than-menacing looking characters, outfitted in period Viking gear, standing at the helm of a longship, while their leader -- the mighty Thor himself -- stares forward into adventure -- wearing sunglasses! Yes, the blissfully unaware, campy Canadian version of the God of Thunder is back, and his B-movie-quality metal anthems remain as flawed, sophomoric, yet amusing in their own way, as ever before. Opener "Lords of Steel" is a perfect example, bearing all of the essential hallmarks of a mid-paced Judas Priest metal anthem, only as rendered with about half the imagination and nowhere near as much power (although, perhaps, equal conviction) so that "Lords of Tin Foil" might have been the more adequate title. In fact, this entire album's overall lack of sonic punch may be its ultimate downfall, that and spotty recording standards, which, in an era when 12-year-old kids can manage professional sounding music on their laptops, to hear grown men walk out of a proper studio with such timid sounding results by early 2000s metal standards is, quite frankly, inexcusable. Indeed, on Devastation of Musculation, guitars cry where they should roar, drums smack instead of thundering, guest vocalist Dawn Hatchard sounds like a strangled chicken on the hilarious "The Return of Odin's Son," and Thor's own non-voice is often barely audible inside the mix, particularly on "Cold White Ghost," which at least offers a memorable solo from guitarist and co-songwriter Mike Kischnick. To be fair, the mildly energetic title track (inspired by a fellow body builder whose arms literally exploded due to steroid abuse) also has its moments, but mostly serves to highlight the weakness of the surrounding material (and suggest that Manowar may "play on ten" because it helps drown out the laughter). And when coupled with the limited songwriting tricks on hand, all this arguably proves that, whereas Thor's career actually started in Las Vegas, landing his cabaret metal act a gig in Branson, MO would probably be too tall an order these days.

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