If ever a band was beyond parody, it’s Manowar. As self-appointed Kings of Metal, these valiant, muscle-bound, loincloth-wearing warriors have acted as standard bearers for ‘True Metal’ for over 30 years – their missionary zeal impervious to ridicule. “Death to false metal!” is their battle cry – and by Odin they mean it.
Manowar formed in 1980 after a chance meeting of Americans Joey DeMaio and Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman at Newcastle’s City Hall. Aspiring bass player DeMaio was working as a roadie for Black Sabbath and Friedman was the guitarist for Sabbath’s support act, Shakin’ Street.
Vowing to create what DeMaio called “the hottest rock group in the world” the pair reconvened in the US to launch Manowar, with singer Eric Adams and Rods drummer Carl Canedy (who also produced their first demo).
Manowar’s debut album, Battle Hymns (1982) – with full-time drummer Donnie Hamzik – set the tone for their entire career. Pure heavy metal thunder, built to a blockbuster scale, it featured narration from Hollywood legend Orson Welles – the only man with a voice big enough for Manowar – and a keynote message in Metal Daze: “Only one thing really sets me free/Heavy metal, loud as it can be!”.
The commercial failure of their debut led to the band parting company with record label Liberty, manager Bill Aucoin (the man who guided Kiss to megastardom) and drummer Hamzik.
Having replaced the latter with Scott Columbus, Manowar secured a new record deal. The contract was signed in the band members’ blood – a fitting metaphor for the belligerent tone of their second album, Into Glory Ride (1983).
Having parted from two major labels in four years, Manowar bounced back in 1987 by signing to the illustrious Atlantic Records.
Band members came and went (DeMaio and Adams remained the only constants) but DeMaio’s vision always remained acutely focused. No band has written more songs about heavy metal than Manowar, whose titles include Brothers Of Metal, Die For Metal and of course, The Gods Made Heavy Metal.
On their seventh album, The Triumph of Steel (1992), the group created arguably the most monumental heavy metal song of them all – the 28-minute odyssey based on Greek mythology, Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts. For artistic endeavour and sheer endurance, it’s an astonishing feat.
Manowar also entered the Guinness Book of Records on four occasions: three for loudest performance (129.5dB) and once for the longest heavy metal concert, a five-hour marathon played in Bulgaria in 2008.
Ross ‘The Boss’ Friedman
Dave ‘Death Dealer’ Shankle
Rhino (Kenny Earl Edwards)