Hell On Stage Live


Metal Blade Records, 1999


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If there was ever a metal band that had a cult-like following, it would be Manowar. Those who are in the know worship this band, singing along with every single song at the top of their lungs. They look upon those not in the know with a mixture of disdain, mistrust and pity; these are outsiders who just need a serious dose of heavy metal.

When I was in high school, it was almost a foregone conclusion that you had a copy of Fighting The World in your record collection; you weren't a man unless you owned it. It might not have gotten you girls, but it won you the respect of the other guys. For my case, I might have owned it, but I never got into the whole warrior ethic of Manowar, and didn't pursue the band.

Now, it's 1999, and metal has been enjoying an underground renaissance that's just about to bubble up. Through it all, Joey DeMaio and crew have been slugging it out, giving their legion of fans what they want. Recently, what they've wanted was their heroes recorded live, which Manowar has provided with two live albums released back-to-back. The first album, Hell On Wheels Live (which I don't own yet), is a collection of the more recogniaable songs that even the casual fan could get a buzz off of.

The second live album (and most recent release), Hell On Stage Live, is a reward for the diehard fans, collecting 16 tracks (including some fan favorites) and delivering them no holds barred. If you're a newcomer to the ranks of Manowar, this disc might be a little bit too much for you - blasphemy, I'm sure, to the diehard Manowar fans, who will think that too much is never enough. (Chances are I'm gonna piss off some of those people; even the mildest criticism is a call to arms for serious flame mail.) If you're a little more schooled in the band, this will be a welcome addition to your collection.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The band - bassist DeMaio, singer Eric Adams, guitarist Karl Logan and drummer Scott Columbus - pull no punches as they storm through these tracks recorded during their European tour in 1998. If you don't like your metal with a bit of blood and sweat, then don't bother with this album.

Musically, Manowar is still a solid unit, with tracks like "Guyana (Cult Of The Damned)", "Blood Of The Kings," "Master Of The Wind" and "Bridge Of Death" all up there with some of the best metal out there. What is an eye-opener on this disc is DeMaio's bass solo, "Sting Of The Bumblebee". Not since the playing of the late Cliff Burton have I heard things done to a bass guitar that I didn't think were possible. DeMaio could well be the Eddie Van Halen of the four-string, and he has won my utmost respect for his skills.

All that said, the warrior stance does seem to be a bit comical, though to Manowar's credit, they don't go overboard with it on Hell On Stage Live. (The most indulgent they get is during the spoken word piece "The Warrior's Prayer," which is admittedly a very enjoyable track.)

The only thing holding Hell On Stage Live back from being a superb album is that it isn't the most approachable album for someone who knows little about the group. I went into this album with only the knowledge of Fighting The World (and I haven't listened to that album in over 10 years), so I was a bit intimidated by an album full of songs that I wasn't familiar with. Newcomers might want to stick to Hell On Wheels Live as their first choice, then pick up this disc when they're more comfortable with the musical routine. This disc is definitely one "for the fans" - in this case, meaning the true fans will find the most appreciation in it.

One other minor criticism is that, while a good album, Hell On Stage Live doesn't feel like the kind of album that I could leave in the CD player for constant listening. Instead, it's more like an album I'd listen to in order to clear out the pipes. (The diehard fans might also wonder why some of the "bonus" tracks included on import versions of this album - which are three-disc sets, mind you - weren't tacked on to the end of the second disc. After all, they had 30 minutes to play with.

Hell On Stage Live is an album that you'll enjoy more if you're familiar with Manowar's history, but you can still gain some pleasure out of it, even with little knowledge of their back catalog. If you can take the macho metal warrior ethic with a grain of salt, chances are you'll love this album.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 1999 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Metal Blade Records, and is used for informational purposes only.