Hell on Earth III [DVD]

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To Manowar adversaries, the prospect of a double-DVD set entitled Hell on Earth III will undoubtedly be viewed as a delicious piece of irony, but then, this lavish set is obviously aimed at only the true disciples of the self-appointed "kings of metal." Captured in 4:3 Widescreen format and 5.1 Surround Sound, these two discs encompass virtually all aspects of the enduring quartet's long-running career and pack in over five hours of goodies, including subtitles in some ten different languages -- wow! DVD one offers a two-hour collage of interviews and live footage chronicling Manowar's world-conquering tour of 2002 (including engaging interview segments with a typically verbose Ronnie James Dio and a nonplussed Lemmy), as well as a wealth of bonus clips and outtakes. Countries as distant as Brazil, Sweden, Greece (where Manowar is as big as the Beatles!), and Estonia are seen curving themselves before the might -- and sheer decibel wattage -- unleashed by the leather-clad warriors of metal. With plenty of good humor balancing out their excessive tough-guy posturing, Manowar successfully make their case for true metal -- and true opera, lest we overlook singer Eric Adams' brave though not entirely successful rendition of "Nessun Dorma."

Those looking for a proper start-to-finish live show will find it on DVD two, in the shape of the group's 12-song performance at the Ringfest in Cologne, Germany. With the multi-caricature that is fleet-fingered bassist Joey Demaio leading the charge as usual, Manowar proceed to slay their willing victims with guilty pleasures like "House of Death," "Blackwind, Fire and Steel," and the monumentally stoopid but still irresistible "Kill With Power." Never one to play second fiddle (unless, perhaps, said fiddle were plugged into a massive wall of Marshall stacks), Demaio thrills the partisan crowd with his Nigel Tufnel-inspired piccolo bass solo "Evil Eclipse" (like the Spinal Tap legend, his solos truly are his trademark), before inciting them to riot Fred Durst style, should he get arrested for playing too loud. The band's promo videos are up next, and despite memorable outings like "Return of the Warlord" and the MTV-bashing (or pandering, it's really hard to tell) "Blow Your Speakers," nothing can touch the mini-epic concocted for early favorite "Gloves of Metal." Possibly the campiest heavy metal video ever filmed, it finds the band hamming it up in full Conan the Barbarian fantasy mode, while rescuing a bunch of scantily clad wenches from their stone-age captors -- absolutely brilliant! Even better, the band employs a "professor" to discuss the video's historical merits in very tongue-in-cheek manner, once again saving themselves from utter dismissal as humorless buffoons by the skin of their loincloths. Finally, a slew of extra "making of" docs rounds out this massive DVD enterprise, driving the fact home that, for all of their questionable antics, Manowar will do anything to give their fans full bang for their buck.