Released: 18 November 1988
01. Wheels Of Fire
02. Kings Of Metal
03. Heart Of Steel
04. Sting Of The Bumblebee
05. The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings)
06. Kingdom Come
07. Pleasure Slave [European and American bonus]
08. Hail And Kill
09. The Warrior’s Prayer
10. Blood Of The Kings
Kings Of Metal had the potential to be the high point of Manowar’s career. In several ways, it represents the crystallization of the band’s well-known and oft-parodied style, that strange mixture of bombastic buffoonery and pure, unadulterated heavy metal. Yet, most unfortunately, Manowar seems to have screwed themselves out of pure success, as they tend to do.
Kings Of Metal demonstrates a noticeable evolution in Manowar’s musical style over the first several years of their career. Albums such as Into Glory Ride and Hail To England were certainly more consistent; Sign Of The Hammer might not be a masterpiece, but it is impossible to say that there are any bad songs on it. By the time Kings Of Metal rolled around, Manowar’s great songs had matured into even greater songs, but so had the weaker songs degenerated into utter crap.
“Hail And Kill,” “Heart Of Steel,” “Kingdom Come,” and the title track rank among the very best of Manowar’s catalogue, perfectly embodying the grandeur and theatricality so favored by them whilst being musically outstanding. At the same time, “Sting Of The Bumblebee” exists. It doesn’t even have the decency to exist at the end of the album to be easily avoided; no, it juts into your listening experience right after the third track. Joey DeMaio likes to show off his chops, as people often do, and I can accept this (although, as a friend of mine takes great pleasure in pointing out, Joey plays a piccolo bass with a pick and guitar strings and he plays it as a LEAD instrument, so he is even more of a guitarist than Ross the Boss was). The problem is that it interrupts what is, at this point in the album, an otherwise stellar listening experience for a bit of pointless wankery. Joey could take all of his bass solos, release them as a separate album, and leave Manowar’s albums alone. Problem solved.
Later on, “The Warrior’s Prayer” just ruins the mood again by taking you through a painfully stupid story narrated by someone who hopefully does not speak that way in everyday life. Just give it a minute of your time; descriptions are worthless. The bonus track “Pleasure Slaves” is equally inane. The lyrics are just too hopelessly idiotic to bear (yes, even for Manowar), and there is not enough musical value to compensate for it. These are the things that take Kings Of Metal down from “all-time classic” to “pretty good.” Most of the songs are excellent, but Manowar just goes and pisses all over a potential masterpiece by sticking in these moronic, dull space-fillers. Find me one person, Manowar, who would actually hear “The Warrior’s Prayer” and think, “oh, yeah, you guys should TOTALLY put that right before ‘Blood Of The Kings,’ because people will stick around to hear that kickass song.” Nobody said that, ever.
On a more minor note, Manowar seem to have this thing about production: they never do it right. For the self-proclaimed AND confirmed loudest band in the world, this is a pretty quiet album. It could really use some polishing and professionalizing. Ultimately, Kings Of Metalis a near-perfect album needlessly watered down by extra things that don’t even count as real songs.