Manowar is an American heavy metal band from Auburn, New York. Formed in 1980 the group is known for its lyrics based on fantasy (particularly sword and sorcery) and mythological topics (particularly Norse mythology) along with their “loud and bombastic” sound. In an interview for MTV in February 2007, bassist Joey DeMaio lamented that “these days, there’s a real lack of big, epic metal that is drenched with crushing guitars and choirs and orchestras… so it’s nice to be one of the few bands that’s actually doing that.” In 1984 the band was included in the Guinness Book of World Records for delivering the loudest performance, a record which they have since broken on 2 occasions. They also hold the world record for the longest heavy metal concert after playing for 5 hours and 1 minute in Bulgaria in 2008.
Although the band has never been a mainstream commercial success in the United States, they maintain a strong cult following there. In contrast, they are extremely popular in the heavy metal scene in Europe, Japan, Australia and South America. Dedicated fans are known and referred to by the band as “Metal Warriors”, “Manowarriors”, “Immortals” or “Brothers of Metal”, and collectively their fans are known as the “Army of Immortals”
Auburn based Manowar’s history began in 1980 when Joey DeMaio, the future bassist of the band met guitarist Ross the Boss while working as a bass tech and fireworks manager for Black Sabbath on the Heaven and Hell tour. Ross the Boss, a former member of the hard rock band The Dictators, was the guitar player in Black Sabbath’s support band, Shakin’ Street. The two bonded over their shared musical interests, became friends and decided to form a band.
At the end of the tour with Black Sabbath, the unemployed duo got together to form Manowar. To complete the roster, they hired singer Eric Adams, a former classmate and friend of DeMaio, while the drums were manned by The Rods‘ drummer, Carl Canedy. Canedy is also known for producing several heavy metal albums, including Overkill‘s 1985 full length debut, Feel The Fire.
The newly founded band began to have some small success playing small gigs and performing cover songs in various clubs. A few months after the band’s foundation, the members began to compose songs and make initial contacts with record companies, resulting in a demo recording known as Demo 1981. Worn out by the stress of continuous performances, Canedy left the band after the demo’s release and was quickly replaced by Donnie Hamzik.
First album (1981–1982)
On the strength of their debut demo, Manowar secured a recording contract with label Liberty Records in 1981. The label pressured the band to produce a good number of songs in a short time towards a debut album. The resultant album, Battle Hymns, was released the following year. The legendary actor and director Orson Welles served in the role of narrator on “Dark Avenger”.
Soon after the album’s release, Manowar engaged in their first tour. The band played support for hard rocker Ted Nugent, but their collaboration lasted only a few months. Manowar then decided to put together a short tour by themselves and all the arrangements were made in a few weeks by their manager. Despite these setbacks, the band gained domestic fame on this short tour and also began to get their first European fans, particularly in the United Kingdom and in Germany. Stressed from the strain of the continuing performances, Hamzik decided to leave the band at the end of this tour and was replaced by the young and upcoming Scott Columbus.
Into Glory Ride (1983–1988)
By 1983, the band left Liberty Records and struck a deal with Megaforce Records in the US and Music for Nations in Europe —signing the contract in their own blood.The signing was a cover story in the 1983 July/ August issue # 47 of Kerrang!
By the time Manowar returned home, they immediately went into a recording studio to produce what, in the intentions of the group, would have been a simple EP, but came out instead, due to the quantity and quality of the tracks made in that period, as the band’s second album, Into Glory Ride. An EP was actually published in 1983 with the title Defender containing, as its main track, the eponymous song, which included more work by Orson Welles. The atmosphere of the album evoked classical heroic fantasy and mythology, and served as a predecessor to viking metal. It contained several innovative features, both in style and sound, and led to a huge increase in the number of fans of the group, particularly in the United Kingdom, where the band planned a long tour that was ultimately canceled. The song “Defender” was later re-recorded and included in the Fighting the World album of 1987.
To apologize for the failure of their UK tour, Manowar decided to dedicate their next album to the United Kingdom. The album, Hail to England, was recorded and mixed in just six days and was released in early 1984. It received great acceptance by public and critics, for its fast and powerful compositions. Its promotional tour, “Spectacle of Might”, had a large number of dates in England. The tour saw Manowar initially as support band for Mercyful Fate, but the enthusiasm shown by audiences for the band along the way, soon put the group led by DeMaio in the headline slot.
Galvanized by the response of their audience, Manowar soon returned to work in the recording studio. After leaving Music for Nations, the quartet signed to Ten Records and released Sign of the Hammer a mere ten months after their previous album. The new record presented stark changes in rhythm, with very technical tracks characterized by a slow pace, like the epic “Mountains”, and quick ones, as the eponymous “Sign of the Hammer”. It was a new sales success that allowed the band to embark on a two-year world tour, which registered a huge number of spectators everywhere. At the end of this long journey, the band took 1986 off.
Following further disagreements with their new label, the group decided to make another contract change to major Atlantic Records in 1987. Via Atlantic, they released Fighting the World, which enjoyed more extensive distribution and increased the band’s prominence in the international heavy metal scene. Album art was designed by Ken Kelly, who had drawn Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and who also worked with acts such as Rainbow and Kiss.
Kings of Metal (1988–1992)
In 1988, Manowar released the album Kings of Metal, which is the band’s best known work. Songs like “Heart of Steel”, “Kings of Metal” and “Hail and Kill” became veritable anthems for fans of the group and are performed regularly in concerts. Kings of Metal is Manowar’s highest-selling album worldwide.
Manowar embarked on a world tour, for a period of approximately three years, with stops in almost all European nations. During that tour, Joey DeMaio “fired” Ross the Boss. According to a 2008 interview with the guitarist, “…Joey felt that Manowar would be better without me.”  He was replaced by David Shankle, who was chosen by members of the band after a search among about 150 candidates. Scott Columbus later also decided to leave the band. Columbus himself picked his replacement Kenny Earl Edwards (soon nicknamed Rhino).
New albums, first video and live publications (1992–2002)
A new musical unit after the recent changes, Manowar released The Triumph of Steel in 1992. It gained some success and was particularly famous for the presence of a suite lasting no less than 28 minutes entitled “Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts”, inspired by the events of the Iliad and the hero Achilles. After this release, the band went on a world tour for two years. After the expiration of their contract with Atlantic, the band signed with Geffen Records. In 1993, Shankle unexpectedly left the band to form his own group. He was replaced by Karl Logan, a musician met by DeMaio during a motor meeting. The same year saw the unexpected return of Scott Columbus, who replaced Edwards.
In 1994 Manowar released their first collection, The Hell of Steel, which contained the major successes of the group. In 1996, they released Louder Than Hell, their first new studio album in four years. Despite good sales the album was criticized for its simple style.
Despite such criticisms, Manowar released a new collection, called Anthology, and their first live album, Hell on Wheels, released by BMG International in the guise of a double CD containing all the most popular songs of the group. Not having the time to record a new studio album because of the ongoing promotional tour, Manowar released a second live album, Hell on Stage.
Warriors of the World, Hell On Earth and Magic Circle Music (2002–2005)
In 2002, six years after the last studio album, Manowar released the Warriors of the World album. Warriors of the World presented a sound somewhat renewed in style, but maintained the usual energy and power. The most famous tracks from the album became “Warriors of the World United”, “House of Death” and “Call to Arms”, in addition to Puccini‘s aria “Nessun Dorma“, covered in honor of the Italian fans and sung live for the first time in a concert in Milan.
Manowar then began a long world tour, called “Warriors of the World United Tour” that kept them busy and away from a recording studio for a long time. To compensate for the lack of studio albums, the band released several DVDs: in 2002 the video Fire and Blood, in 2003 Hell on Earth Part III and in 2005 Hell on Earth Part IV. These (and all DVDs since the year 2000) were directed by Neil Johnson, and have all been certified Gold in Germany.
In 2003, DeMaio founded his own record label, Magic Circle Music, which became the official home of the band, having been created to fit the needs of Manowar, and other bands of similar genre. Under the label Magic Circle were also released the EP The Sons of Odin with footage taken during the Earthshaker Fest 2005.
Gods of War (2006–2009)
Manowar released Gods of War through Magic Circle Music in 2007. After playing numerous shows in Europe, including a concert that spanned the course of two nights, they worked on a new EP, entitled Thunder in the Sky, which was released in 2009. The EP consisted of two discs: the first playing the regular track list; the second playing the song “Father” in fifteen different languages.
On June 1, 2010, Classic Rock magazine published an interview with drummer Scott Columbus who said he has not worked with the band since April 2008 and has in fact left the band. No official statement from Manowar has been made as yet and their website still includes Columbus on the promotional pictures and current lineup. He also said that statements made in the past, regarding his break in 1990 and 2008 because of an illness and a personal tragedy, were largely untrue and were made without his agreement. He died less than a year later on April 4th, 2011 aged 54. His cause of death is still uncertain.
Manowar’s subsequent release was a re-recording of their 1982 debut album, Battle Hymns. This album was released on 26 November 2010, with the narration of Sir Christopher Lee and formally entitled Battle Hymns MMXI. A special edition of the album featuring 4 live tracks from the first leg of the Battle Hymns Tour was released on July 26th, 2011.
Manowar’s new studio album, The Lord of Steel, was released worldwide on June 16, 2012 exclusively on iTunes and on the band’s own online store.  The album sees a reversion from the symphonic elements present on the Gods of War album back to a more straightforward, heavy metal sound. The song ‘El Gringo’ from the album has also been featured as a part of the soundtrack to the film ‘El Gringo’, starring action film staple Scott Adkins.
- Current members
- Joey DeMaio – principal songwriter, bass guitars, guitars, keyboards, classical guitar (1980–present)
- Eric Adams – vocals (1980–present), guitar (1980, for a short while)
- Donnie Hamzik – drums (1981–1982, 2009 (sessional), 2010–present)
- Karl Logan – guitars, keyboards, classical guitar (1994–present)
- Former members
- Ross “The Boss” Friedman – guitar (1980–1988)
- Carl Canedy – drums (1980)
- Scott Columbus – drums, percussion (1983–1991, 1995–2008; died 2011)
- David Shankle – guitar (1989–1993)
- Kenny Earl “Rhino” Edwards – drums (1992–1995, 2008 sessional)
• 1982 – Battle Hymns
• 1983 – Into Glory Ride
• 1984 – Hail to England
• 1984 – Sign of the Hammer
• 1987 – Fighting the World
• 1988 – Kings of Metal
• 1992 – The Triumph of Steel
• 1996 – Louder Than Hell
• 2002 – Warriors of the World
• 2007 – Gods of War
• 2009 – Thunder in the Sky
• 2010 – Battle Hymns MMXI
• 2012 – The Lord of Steel