Allow me to start off by saying that Manowar is one of those bands that you either get or you don’t. If you’ve been into metal for a while, then you’re probably familiar with the tens of thousands of Manowarriors who devote themselves to the band as if they were members of a cult, some having gone to great lengths to travel and see Manowar where they typically played around the many nations of Europe. A Manowar concert is decidedly unlike anything else. One might describe their tradmark loudness as weaponized sound, and the only thing louder than the band would be the cacophony of fans. There is something about the spirit of this group which has endured on a very serious level despite the amount of theatrics associated with the act. Much of the theatrics began here, where the epic sounds of metal’s most outrageously true band evolved into form on the 1983 release.
Into Glory Ride is the second full-length album by Manowar, but its really the first to encapsulate that true epic metal sound and the hyper masculine themes that would come to be Manowar’s norm. The front cover of the album captures it all with one very simple image of the four members gathered together dressed like Hyborian barbarians. At the time, ancient sword & sorcery themes were very popular due to the success of Conan the Barbarian in 1982, so its easy to see why Manowar would want to reveal themselves as more than just your average band. With no pun intended, they struck when the iron was hot. Perhaps people wanted to feel stronger than they really were in the early 80s, which was a time when economic recession had cut a swath of poverty through the working class. Either through happenstance or pure cerebral decision making, Manowar successfully marketed themselves, and love them or hate them they became more than just a joke as their popularity increased.
Into Glory Ride is an important milestone in Manowar’s legacy for many reasons; it is the first album to bring together the classic line up of Eric Adams, Joey DeMaio, Ross the Boss, and drummer Scott Columbus (RIP). The sophomore album hones the strongest parts of Battle Hymns and shapes them into the core of Manowar’s legacy. The military march drumming of Columbus surpassed his predesessor in almost every conceivable way, and topped off the band’s much needed crescendo. Into Glory Ride is stripped of almost all traces of the simple hard rock songs that were more dominant on Battle Hymns, with only one exception in the album’s first track. If Manowar had only depicted themselves as epic warriors on the cover without actually delivering the goods musically, then perhaps they would have flopped terribly, but powered by Ross’s riffs and Eric Adam’s high octave oratory, this band became one of the best fully packaged gimmicks from Valhalla. The story telling on this album is key and it would become a feature on all of their best albums.
Manowar’s second album disposed of politically correct norms from the outset of its first track “Warlord,” which begins with sexual misconduct between a man and an underage woman. Yeah, back in the 80s, heavy metal was allowed to indulge itself on its own degeneracy without being thoroughly scrutinized by their own for sexism. Granted we’ve come a long way as a culture since 1983, but heavy metal at its roots is still associated with that lawless biker mystique, and few bands captured that better than Manowar did.
Toxic masculinity and man against the world characters were a huge part of Manowar’s lyrics, but the band went much deeper than that with honest themes that reflected on discovering personal convictions and pride. “Secret of Steel” isn’t just a song about some bad ass Conan shit (Yep, there’s that Conan influence again), it’s a song about discovering your potential to be your own badass — ‘to know the strength that you feel,’ because ‘you were called by the gods’ to do so.
Beyond the laughably fun chorus of “Gloves of Metal,” it is a song about earnest fellowship and the glory of bonding against all odds — or in this case, against the world. “Gloves of Metal” was the first Manowar song to get a video, and if you haven’t seen it yet and you’re guessing that it’s basically more sword & sorcery worship, well I have news for you, you’re right. The only way they could make it anymore obvious is if they dragged the bones of Robert E. Howard onto the PA stacks.
In closing, one can take Manowar seriously within a certain context. It’s just the sea of pose — I mean, seriously intellectual and maybe even honestly decent people who are trying to stop us from enjoying the band as if it were its own mythology. Scratch that; Manowar is its own mythology, sign of the hammer be my guide!