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Manowar/Rhapsody/Holy Hell show review
6/09/05 Baltimore, MD
Sonar (www.sonar.com)
By pandemonium_55

Manowar is easily one of those groups you either love or hate: either you think they are the stupidest thing that's ever graced your ears or you are entirely in allegiance with their holy crusade against false metal. There is nothing I like more than getting completely ripped with my friends and pulling out the "Hell on Earth" DVD series for a good time. There is nothing like some kick ass metal (along with a few groans from the haters) and good hearty laughs. How can you not crack a smile when hearing the lyrics from "Hail And Kill" with lines like "May your sword stay wet, like a young girl in her prime". Being a Manowar fan is much like being a wrestling fan, it's a loud, sweaty, cheesy, and sometimes people take them a little TOO seriously! Luckily, I have a solid dose of reality within my brain and a good sense of humor being a Manowar fan in the new millennium. So, tonight was going to be the perfect night for me!

With a packed car of equally minded friends, we trudged up the three hour drive from Richmond, Virginia to Baltimore in pouring rain listening to nothing but Manowar and Crotch Duster albums the entire way up; making us prone to ripping out Dungeons and Dragons cracks and "you're gay for liking Manowar" comments any time we had the right opportunity. The highlight of the drive when we all starting laughing hysterically when we were turning onto "Gay St." right before getting to the club. Regardless of what you think of them, how ironic is that?!

After paying the outrageous cover charge of $35 to get into the club, two things immediately shocked me; first, there wasn't many people there (approx. 200 people in a place that holds over 1000) and secondly it was staggeringly hot in the place: no air conditioning, no vents, no nothing. Ok, I expected the low-ish turn out containing jean jackets, fading hairlines (better known as the "Skullet"), and growing waistbands; but for 35 bucks a person, you think they could turn on the damn AC!? Luckily it was cooler in the lounge/bar area where my friends and I started getting some liquid alcoholic refreshment and a few rousing games of pool. What made this time enjoyable (other than our pathetic pool skills), was the DJ spinning nothing but cool underground metal vinyl playing old Megadeth, the Obsessed (no shock, we are in Maryland), and Spiral Architect. How many DJs do you know that play Spiral Architect!?

Finally, female fronted band Holy Hell starting playing and they weren't too horrible to listen to. They play a slow-ish progressive power metal, with former Manowar drummer Rhino on the drum kit. The singer Maria Breon, has a decent voice, though her stage presence is a bit lacking, actually it almost comes across as a bit fake. Now, I'm only speculating here, but it comes across as if she was just hired because of the voice and good looks, and not because of her musical preferences. The absolute cheese highlight had to be when there was a duet with Eric Adams (vocalist of Manowar for the neophytes) with a song from the musical "Phantom Of The Opera" and he handed a rose to her whilst crooning his heart out. Freaking hilarious!

What I noticed soon thereafter is that the lead guitarist is none other than the Malmsteen worshipping shredder Joe Stump. So it wasn't really a huge shock to me when they closed the set with a cover of Malmsteen's "Rising Force". They weren't a bad band, especially considering how much flack Stump gets for all his musical endeavors (though I do admit, I liked Reign of Terror); it's definitely the best group Stump has been involved with. I wouldn't mind hearing the album one day if I get the given opportunity.

Ok, I've always heard Rhapsody sucked live in the past, which is no shock when you hear how overdubbed their albums sound. This band seems to seriously revel in the safe and cushy confines of Pro-Tools with no remorse whatsoever. So, I was really curious to see if they could actually pull it off live. Amazingly enough, they put on a really good performance! Granted it seems they had to use a whole lot of guide and backing tapes to pull everything off. Not they were trying to pull an Ashlee Simpson here, but honestly is there any other way to have an orchestra on tour with you? (Cool rock history note: Emerson, Lake, and Palmer tried touring with an orchestra in the 1970s. It bankrupted the band after seven concerts!)

The crowd absolutely loved them and the best reactions were to the songs from "Symphony of Enchanted Lands Part I" and "Dawn of Victory". The highlight for me was the massive five minute Billy Sheenan-esque bass solo in the middle of "Dawn of Victory". Normally, I find big solo sections like that to be boring as hell show-off sessions (see my comments later on about that), but this guy really pulled it off with real class. Nothing but melodic tapping the way through. I mean really, who ever thought the bassist in Rhapsody could pull off something like that? Overall, I gained a lot of respect for Rhapsody due to this performance; it's nice to know they can pull their overblown "Hollywood Metal" off live and not only in the studio.

Finally, after the obligatory Orson Welles intro track, Manowar hits the stage the same way they always have, with their epic (and self-indulgently catchy) opening song "Manowar". Being a fan of their "Hell on Earth" DVD series, the set-list wasn't too exiting for me, but it was still entertaining as Hell. I mean, they have EVERYTHING choreographed to perfection -all the way down to the synchronized headbanging parts between Karl Logan and Joey DeMaio, to the Eric Adams exact same ad-libbing in "Kings of Metal" as he does on the DVD. All of this was astoundingly absolutely hilarious to me! They mainly focused on their hit songs like "Hail & Kill", "Heart of Steel", "Kings of Metal", "Brothers of Metal Part 1", and "Black Wind, Fire & Steel", which to no surprise whatsoever these songs got the best reactions from the crowd that night. Luckily they played some more recent material like "Call to Arms", "Warriors of the World", and "House of Death", which was refreshing for me, but these tunes were given a less than enthusiastic response from the rest of the pit.

While it was great seeing Manowar play onstage again, there was one thing that got on my nerves very quickly. I can honestly say, I freaking HATE their solo sessions, while Karl Logan's solo was entertaining for the first thirty seconds, it was severely irritating after five minutes. Same goes Joey's bass solo, except it got on my nerves immediately! I mean, really... he's been milking the same shtick of him playing "Flight of the Bumblebee" (with a lot of shitty noise in-between) since 1988; time to find a new classical song man! Not to mention when he's wanking off, it's just random, obnoxious noise. No, not in the cool Merzbow trance sort of way, or even doing something profound and different, it?s a god-awful mess with no planning whatsoever. Wow, he has REAL talent, he makes a lot of random noise, and it's REALLY FAST! Big self indulgent solos - I hated it when bands did this in the 1988, and it still annoys the hell out of me now. Being in the crowd, all you do is stand there, cross your arms, and wait for the nightmare to be over. Bands, if you are going to do this, try to do something new and interesting, instead of jerking-off your instrument for ten minutes!

Overall, Manowar was absolutely astounding, though I wish they could have played more obscure classic numbers like they do in Europe (like "Blood Of My Enemies", "Gloves of Metal", "Kill with Power", "Fighting the World", or "Defender"), instead of just focusing on the hits. But regardless, I had a fantastic time at this show; it was absolutely a crazy night of metal. My ears were ringing like hell, voice was raw from singing along to Manowar tunes, and I lost five pounds due to all the sweating from horrid heat in the club. You can't get much more of a metal night than that!




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