Manowar @ Palladium, Riga

by Emīls Vilcāns


With glory and might, with fists and swords in the air there came Manowar to unite the metal brothers of Riga on that fateful 9th of February evening. Filling the hall with battle-cry’s and stories, the legendary power-metal band from Auburn, New York visited Latvia as part of their “Gods and Kings World Tour 2016” with a  slogan: “DEATH TO FALSE METAL!”

More than 30 years have passed since the four piece power-metal band from Auburn released their first album “Battle Hymns“. Since then their discography has grown up to 11 albums and with the 12th being on its way the band still actively jumps into a major world tour as well as records new material. Nevertheless, the “Gods and Kings World Tour 2016” is an annual celebration of Manowar’s most successful release – “Kings of Metal” with the tour set-list containing legendary songs from 8 albums. However, the path these men have chosen has not been an easy one. Both the changing line-up, deceased heroes and 3 decades of experiencing the face of the music industry, the band has kept their sound rock solid and made it into the loudest in the world.

From the moment you get a glimpse of the stage set-up for Manowar you get this immediate throwback to a metal gig in the 80s/90s as well as the feeling that this is going to be massive. Walls of amplifiers, drums on a risen platform in the middle and, to what appears later in the gig – pyrotechnics, and, of course, 3 guys in leather costumes moving from one end of the stage to the other. Accompanied with Manowar album artwork related visuals by no other than Ken Kelly, as well as a special video for “Sons of Odin“, the songs gain a deeper story-telling effect and the show – a grander look all by itself.  With 13 songs and 4 more in the encore the show had the best fitting set-list to experience the band, the heaviness and the glory without getting tired of the repetitiveness.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, from the United States of America…all hail – Manowar!”, and with the first notes of “Manowar” the 4 warriors appear on stage. All looking from 50-62 years old. Leather. Long hair. Battle axes’. Back and forth movements. The heaviest damn looking band in metal. Fronted by no other than Eric Adams on vocals you can’t not be amazed of the man’s vocal output, power and large diapason. Holding the long shouts, hitting those high notes and simply putting opera vocalists to shame he is truly one of the metal kings! And if you do get to hear his low devilish laugh, be ready for a chill running down your spine. More than 30 years of metal and being 62, Eric doesn’t show any sign of slowing down and more importantly, any weakness points in his vocals.

Then comes Karl Logan, the man, the shredding-machine. Despite being the youngest (50) in the band, his stage charisma and the rocking looks mash well in with the other bandmates. And once he starts shredding, and you know when he’s about to, he simply becomes a show on his own. The movement of his fingers and the various techniques he uses to escalate that clean and fast playing is pure eye-candy, especially for the guitarists in the room. With a smirk and an ease in his face he is both the leading and rhythm guitar, handling both of the roles professionally and definitely setting up his own level.

If I would have to guess then I would say that Joey DeMaio has played the lead role for getting Manowar up to the title of “The Loudest Band in The World”. Being in the building when he unleashes his lowest bass note and shakes it to the ground is an uncomfortable yet pleasing feeling. Just like Karl Logan, Joey takes his time to turn the show into his own as well…starting with the “Sting of the Bumblebee” solo, his speech before the encore and ending with string ripping –  Joey DeMaio is a beast, a true metalhead for whom unity, solidarity and honor between people alike is the greatest treasure. “If you meet a person on the street and he can’t read what it says on your Manowar t-shirt, you say: FUCK YOU!”

Hands down, Manowar really does put on the heaviest metal gig you could ever attend, but, despite their goals of uniting the metalheads in each country they visit, the thing that turns down most of these folk is the ticket price. 60 EUR is quite a lot, and that instantly turns down a lot of students and people who really would love to be there but just can’t. Die hard fans, yes, they will always be there. But you could really feel the empty space in the public for a show that should have been sold-out.

The one thing that personally bugged me the most was the visual absence of Donnie Hamzik himself. Most likely the height of Palladium’s stage is to blame.  Despite the feeling that this amazingly skilled drummer was sitting in back-stage, he did his part exceptionally well and did an epic and unforgettable drum-solo . Closing up the current line-up for the band and creating a very dynamic and complete performance.

It’s hard to describe the feeling you get during a Manowar show. Yes, it is heavy, but, in a way, it impacts your character. You feel the unity, you feel solidarity, the taste of glory and mutual respect. Which you sense the most during the very last sounding piece – “The Crown and The Ring [Lament of The Kings]“, and, although the band had already disappeared from the stage, it was sung louder than the national anthem on some occasions. Being my first Manowar experience and going to the show without the knowledge of the lyrics to the songs and not being a die-hard fan I feel that I gained from this concert more than I have from most.  This band is something you have to definitely experience at least once in your lifetime! Hail! (And Kill!)