Gods of War

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Delivering on a threat that had slowly been rearing its bewigged head in the band's music over recent releases, self-proclaimed metal gods Manowar turn in their first certifiable symphonic metal album in 2007's Gods of War, which also represents the long-slogging quartet's tenth studio effort, incidentally. Hang on, though: the scale of Manowar's latest ambitions didn't end there (errr, does it ever), as they apparently vowed to make Gods of War just the first in a series of concept albums devoted to different war-mongering deities! For this first installment the chosen subject is Odin, the supreme power of Norse mythology (hence the Runic alphabet used throughout the CD booklet), but the musical framework connecting its songs seems to have been partly inspired by Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle -- though, mercifully, not nearly as long! This explains the unconventional nature of the album's opening statement, "Overture to the Hymn of the Immortal Warriors," and several interludes thereafter, which combine choirs, orchestras, synthesizers, and dramatic narrations for the purpose of advancing the mythological story line recounted by the non-symphonic tracks interspersed throughout. Most remarkable of all, though, is the fact that this forces Manowar's true metal fan legions to endure nearly ten minutes of orchestral fluff until enjoying grateful decapitation by the familiar scissoring metallic onslaught of "King of Kings" (and if you think the wait was hard on them, imagine what it was like for megalomaniacal bassist/songwriter/producer/milkman Joey DeMaio!). The fan-approved bloodshed then goes on via optimal headbanging opportunities like "Sleipnir," "Loki God of Fire," and "Sons of Odin," but even these often require listeners to sit out the mosh pit for tiresome spoken intros and outros; plus, there's the customary torment of the obligatory ballad, "Blood Brothers," to be dealt with (one per album, so says the "Stairway to Heaven" rule). So by the time Ragnarök finally turns off the lights on Gods of War, one is astounded to realize that just half of these 12 cuts actually qualify as heavy metal songs -- the remainder being of the orchestrated/spoken/synthetic stripe, for what amounts to over an hour of half-killer, half-filler experience -- wow! Needless to say, this EP-masked-as-LP charade may be too much to stomach even for veteran self-deluding Manowar followers, already accustomed to the group's used-car salesmen behavior over the years, but perhaps the band can salvage the situation with the next chapters in their proposed war god saga. We shall see....

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