If you're new to Manowar, I suggest starting with the excellent "Kings of Metal" as a starting point, as that album is not only a superb sample of everything Manowar embodies, but it is one of their most diverse albums, with a little bit of everything.
If you're a long time Manowar fan, read on, and let me share my thoughts on their latest CD "Gods of War."
Overall, Manowar have not strayed from the musical path they created over 2 decades ago. What makes this album different is that it is far more symphonic than any of their other releases. While Manowar have always embraced classical music, this album is more like Rhapsody of Fire, with its Wagnerian choirs, string arrangements, French horns and church organ interludes. Not only is this evident on intros and instrumentals that adorn this CD, but the classical influence is present even on the `regular' tracks. What bothers me is the amount of narration on the album. Added up it's almost 10 minutes of talking (even if there's cool music and sound effects in the background). As they say on radio: "Less talk, more rock!" Also, Manowar albums have become less and less organic overall. I know the band are perfectionists (4 albums in the last 15 years says it all), but I think a lot of the songs are overproduced. I kind of miss the band's early/mid years, when they were very raw. But I guess some would call this progress and maturing artistically. Lyrically, I've always enjoyed the mythological element of Manowar's music. This is a concept album based on the Norse god of war: Odin.
Overture to the Hymn of the Immortal Warriors - A most excellent orchestral intro. Very much like an epic Hollywood film score, full of choirs, and strings and even an organ section in the middle!
The Ascension - Strangely enough after the lengthy opening track we get yet another orchestral intro. This includes a narration, Eric sings softly towards the end leading into:
King of Kings - This is the first real Metal track on the album. It's a lightning fast power metal/speed metal track in the style of "Black Wind, Fire & Steel," "Ride The Dragon," or "Outlaw."
Army of the Dead, Part I - This is a short acappela song with Eric harmonizing to himself. Nice little piece.
Sleipnir - After a short narration the songs kicks in, which is for me one of the highlights on the album. It's a little different (I imagine due to Karl Logan's input). It's another fast, power/speed metal type song, with a catchy chorus. The guitar solo is phenomenal!
Loki God of Fire - After a fast riff, which is probably the coolest riff on the album, the song kicks in, but surprisingly the song isn't a super-fast song with lots of double-bass as the riff would imply. It's still a cool, more upbeat song, with a great chorus.
Blood Brothers - This is the first ballad on the album, which continues in the fine tradition of Manwar ballads such as "Mountains," "Heart of Steel," & Master Of the Wind." While Blood Brothers doesn't quite achieve the greatness of the aforementioned songs, I like it a lot, because it's a different type of ballad. What I've always liked about Manowar's ballads is the fact that they're all very different from each other (up until "Courage"). Blood Brothers starts off with just strings & Eric's superb voice, then it adds some marching band type snare & guitars. For the chorus the song is almost like a power ballad, but the presence of the keyboards remains & adds an incredible ethereal vibe to the whole song. Nicely done! Lyrically it's also very uplifting.
Overture to Odin - Another orchestral instrumental. Once again it's very much like a Wagner piece mixed with an epic Hollywood filmscore. It's starts off with some haunting strings, and becomes grandiouse as the track progresses.
The Blood of Odin - A spoken narration that serves as an intro to the next track. You'll probably be skipping this after a couple of listens.
Sons of Odin - This is cool, typical mid-tempo Manowar song, with some cool double-bass drums & a bombastic chorus. The song ends with yet some more narration, which features some cool orchestral music in the background.
Glory Majesty Unity - This is a reprise of The Warrior's Prayer, pretty much all narration (but spoken by a different narrator than the rest of the album). Once again, some cool background music, but you'll be bored of this easily.
Gods of War - This is a slow, almost doom metal type song, that we haven't heard the likes of since "Into Glory Ride." It's got some cool classical arrangements over the gloomy, slowly grinding riff.
Army of the Dead, Part II - Repise of part one, but it adds some instruments.
Odin - It starts off with a great riff by Karl, with some cool effects on his axe. This is also a slower, grinding tune. A fitting tribute to the Norse god of war indeed!
Hymn of the Immortal Warriors - This is the other (power) ballad on the album, which is nothing short of phenomenal! The classical instruments add some awesome texture, which allows Eric's voice to soar. A beautiful song, starting out quiet & haunting, then building to a grandiouse finale!
Die for Metal (Bonus Track) - I imagine this only became a "bonus track" because lyrically it doesn't fit in with the rest of the concept album. The lyrics are pretty Spinal Tap-ish, glorifying metal and such. Musically the guitar riff is reminiscent of Zeppelin's Kashmir. The song is a slow(er), pounding track that has a lot of crowd vocals, similar to Kings of Metal.