Friday, March 8, 2019

Breaking The Mold: Orson Welles Collaborates With Manowar Edition!

Growing up, I used to read heavy metal magazines for the same cheesy kicks most other kids got from MAD Magazine or Archie Comix. There was just so much comedy gold to be found within those pages that you just had to wonder if there wasn't some golden-toothed svengali behind-the-scenes creating both the bands and the story lines for maximum absurdity.

Of course, Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer turned that monotony and bombast into one of the most memorable and, yes, painfully accurate movies on rock music ever made.

What the movie captured best wasn't the glamorous stadium lives of the Judas Priests and Def Leppards, but the treacherous dead-end hauls of bands who seemed to always be on the periphery, yet never rose above opening for Priest or Lep.

If you've read even just one issue of Kerrang! from the '80s, you know the bands of which I speak and no other band shines as a brighter example of attempting to build an audience through sheer elimination than Manowar.

Spending most of the '80s in the "M MISC" section of my favorite local record stores hoping for something new from Missing Persons, Ministry or Mi-Sex, I'd naturally wind up being startled by the sight of the latest Manowar album and its fondness for extreme Greco-Roman cosplay.

No band could take themselves that seriously, I thought at the time. Then I remembered that this was the same band that chose to sign their record deal in their own blood.

"We get paid before we dance."
Only years later did I put two and two together and realize that guitarist Ross The Boss was the same maniac who had been in first wave NYC gutter punks the Dictators. His rather surprising reappearance in a band that was as different from his last should win some sort of award, but, at the time, left this writer baffled.

Were they having a larf, a la the Darkness or were they rocking the Greco-Roman Chippendales attire completely sans irony?

Keep in mind that Orson "War of The Worlds" Welles happily provided narration for "Dark Avenger" from band's debut Battle Hymns. Next to Milton Berle making a cameo in a Ratt video, Welles' participation in the recording of a little known metal band's debut album had been a pretty big deal in the metal press at the time.

Welles' involvement with the band went on to include the single "Defender" in 1983, their first release after signing a new UK deal with Music For Nations (and Metal Force Records in the U.S.) ...IN BLOOD!!

By the time the second LP came out, who should greet us but four Thors thumbing a ride to the renaissance faire?

The sound had also gotten decidedly operatic and bombastic, leaving behind the tighter arrangements, punkier production, and faster tempos of Battle Hymns.

Such a shame because, for a time, both they and pre-Bruce Dickinson Iron Maiden brought an exciting punk edge to the now-infamous new wave of metal.

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