Manowar Biography

This traditionalist heavy metal quartet from the USA (whose motto is ‘Death To False Metal’) was formed in 1981 by bass player Joey DeMaio (Auburn, New York, USA, a former Black Sabbath roadie) and ex-Shakin’ Street and Dictators guitarist Ross ‘The Boss’ Funicello (b. Ross Friedman, New York City, New York, USA). Recruiting vocalist Eric Adams and drummer Donnie Hamzik, they decided on an approach that was to be the total antithesis of melodic AOR. Dressed in animal skins, they delivered a brutal series of riffs that were characterized by Adams’ barbaric vocals and the dense bass work of Demaio. They debuted on Capitol Records in 1982 with Battle Hymns, a milestone in the metal genre. With subject material firmly centred on fighting, bloodshed, death and carnage, they came across as a turbo-charged hybrid of Ted Nugent and Black Sabbath. The album was notable for an amazing version of the ‘William Tell Overture’, played as an electric bass solo, while the voice of actor Orson Welles appeared on ‘Dark Avenger’. Battle Hymns failed to sell, however, and with the press treating the band as an absurd joke, they were dropped by their record company in 1982. They subsequently signed to Megaforce (Music For Nations in the UK), using their own blood on the contract, their veins opened via a ceremonial dagger. Scott Columbus took over the drum-stool on Into Glory Ride, another intensely heavy, chest-beating collection of metal epics.

Manowar built up a small yet loyal cult following, but were generally panned by the rock mainstream. Their UK tours in 1983 and 1984 attracted poor audiences, but they had more success in Europe. Sign Of The Hammer, featured some excellent guitar work from Ross The Boss and contained their most accessible compositions to date, including the archetypal metal boast, ‘All Men Play On 10’. Once again it flopped, and after a rethink Manowar returned two years later on Atlantic Record s with Fighting The World (in the meantime, they had entered The Guinness Book Of Records as the world’s loudest band). On this album, they incorporated elements borrowed from Kiss and Judas Priest into their songwriting, but although it was aimed at the rock mainstream, it failed to win many new fans. Kings Of Metal was released in 1988 and met with a similar fate.

Disillusioned, Ross The Boss quit the same year with Scott Columbus following suit in 1990 (Ross was replaced by Death Dealer, aka David Shankle, Columbus by Kenny ‘Rhino’ Earl Edwards). The new-look quartet completed a final album for Atlantic, 1992’s disappointing The Triumph Of Steel. Karl Logan replaced Shankle on 1996’s Geffen Records debut Louder Than Hell, which also featured the returning Columbus. This line-up remained constant into the new millennium.

Now veterans of the metal scene, Manowar remain colourful, flamboyant and rather kitsch but now appear rather outdated.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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