Monday, May 1, 2017

Manowar is Pulp


Okay, so if you follow me on twitter, then you know that occasionally I get drunk and go on a tear posting music. Sometimes I'll nominate songs as the unofficial theme songs of the Pulp Revolution, and pretty much 100% of these songs have been from the band Manowar, and I figured I would take a bit to tell you why. I also haven't posted much PulpRev stuff lately, and it's about time, I reckon.

I think it's safe to say that Manowar is pretty much the most Pulp band in existence. There are other contenders for that title, but in my opinion they all pale in comparison to the kings of metal. You could nominate Black Sabbath, but they don't go hard or fast enough. You could nominate Rainbow, but I don't think they capture the essence of pulp in their songs quite as frequently as Manowar. You could nominate Dio, and then I'd say that you have a serious contender, but even the Godfather of Heavy Metal himself can't keep up with the brazen, unabashed, prideful power of Manowar.

If you can't tell, I really, really like this band.

But how does Manowar so thoroughly embody pulp, as I claim they do? Well, if we take a look at Misha Burnett's Five Pillars of Pulp Revival (not quite the same thing as the Pulp Revolution, but close enough for our purposes), we see that the pulps of yesteryear have as primary focuses Action, Impact, Moral Peril, Romance, and Mystery. I am of the opinion that, in one song or another, Manowar brings these qualities to the fore and runs with them like a viking at his enemies, swinging a sword or warhammer above his head, screaming to Thor to give him strength with which to slay.

Now that might sound a bit hyperbolic, but I'm in fact deadly serious.

Manowar is the physical embodiment of power metal. For those who are unaware, because I realize that this isn't exactly everyone's bag, power metal usually features actual singing (combined with high-pitched operatic shrieks), properly tuned guitars that play actual harmonies (sometimes dual-guitar harmonics, which is always nice), powerful drum lines, talented bassists who are doing so much more than keeping time, and the lyrics are usually focused on fantasy scenarios, but not always. A good few examples of fantasy-based power metal are Dio's albums Killing The Dragon, Master of the Moon, and Sacred Heart. He actually went out on stage in the 80's with a giant green dragon prop that breathed fire, and he had a light sword that he would fight it with over the course of the live shows! Manowar tackles non-fantasy based power metal with their first album. The first song is about motorcycles & motorcycle gangs, and the song "Shell Shock" is about a Vietnam veteran re-adjusting to life in peacetime. So power metal doesn't have to be based in fantasy type storytelling, but most of it is. Even lots of Manowar's songs are.

So I was talking about those five pillars of pulp earlier before I got sidetracked, and before I get sidetracked again I should probably elucidate about how Manowar fills them out in their music.

First we have Action. Well, I think it's safe to say that the boys in Manowar have this covered. Many of their songs are action oriented, and involve depictions of bloody battles and brothers in arms coming together to defeat cowering foes that knew not what they were dealing with. I'll post a song with each pillar to demonstrate what I'm talking about, and so you guys know I'm not just funnin' ya. Here's a good one to demonstrate Action, "Black Wind, Fire, and Steel" from their album Fighting The World. It's also one of my personal favorites.

Apparently Blogger wants to be a lil shit, and won't let me embed the video, so here's a link to the song. 

Next we have Impact. Misha defines this as the characters being fallible, and their actions having consequences. Well say no more, I have the perfect song! Now this song does start after he did his fallible thing, but the character in this song is very much fallible, and does pay for it, then returns to wreak havoc on those who did him wrong. The song is "Dark Avenger" from the album Battle Hymns, and actually features narration by Orson Welles! Funny story about that, apparently Welles was so impressed by the copy they gave him to read, he thought that it was written by one of the classic authors that people used to read in school, like it was something out of The Odyssey or one of those old tales. Turns out it was written by the bassist, far right in the picture above, and he was pretty embarrassed about being compared to the classical masters by Orson Welles. Can't say I blame him, that's some heavy praise. But yeah, the song is very good, and I believe it adequately represents characters being fallible, especially because the guy does some extremely not so savory things after he returns to seek vengeance.

And once again Blogger doesn't seem to want to give me the proper YouTube results, so I'll just continue linking the songs because I think I see a trend developing.

Next we have Moral Peril. Misha characterizes this as the character seeing the easier path morally, and avoiding taking it. In effect, taking great pains to not become the thing they're fighting. Maybe I'm being a bit too liberal with my interpretation of this (which I'll probably do again, fair warning), but I think this can also be interpreted to succumbing to madness after something like being in a war zone. This I think is adequately embodied in the song "Shell Shock" from Battle Hymns. I'm not gonna lie, I've listened to all their albums, and this was a tough number to fill. Most of their songs about warriors and whatnot usually involve them killing without mercy, raping women, and generally slaughtering and pillaging at whim. But this song shows another side to the conflict, that of the warrior come home from the battlefield and not knowing what to do with himself, as so many Vietnam veterans did. You can decide for yourself if I'm fudging a bit too much here, but I think I'm within the spirit of the rules if not their strict boundaries. Here's the link to the song.

Next we have Romance. This is another one I'm probably going to be fudging a bit. It could be argued that the protagonist of "Dark Avenger" is motivated in part by Romance, due to what happened to his wife and children, but there's not exactly a satisfying denouement to that story. He doesn't really reunite with them, just kills the people that inflicted pain on them. But thankfully, our boys in Manowar do not disappoint. The bassist and principle song writer, Joey DeMaio, actually wrote a song based on The Iliad, which while a war story is also a love story about a man going to war to rescue the woman he loves. Now the song is damn near a half hour long, and it has been a while since I listened to it, but I'll include the link anyway so you can hear for yourself. The song is "Achilles: Agony & Ecstasy In 8 Parts" from their album The Triumph of Steel.

But if that's not good enough, they also did a version of "Nessun Dorma" on their album Warriors of the World. From Wikipedia (Infogalactic just would not load for some reason),
"Nessun dorma" (Italian: [nesˈsun ˈdɔrma]; English: "None shall sleep")[1] is an aria from the final act of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot and one of the best-known tenor arias in all opera. It is sung by Calaf, il principe ignoto (the unknown prince), who falls in love at first sight with the beautiful but cold Princess Turandot. However, any man who wishes to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles; if he fails, he will be beheaded. In the aria, Calaf expresses his triumphant assurance that he will win the princess." 
Now if THAT doesn't scream "ROMANCE" at the top of its lungs, I don't know what does. This song also shows off how supremely talented Manowar are, especially the singer Eric Adams. He does an amazing job with this song, and it is very soaring and inspiring to listen to, even if you don't know what he's saying because you don't speak Italian. Here's the link.

Finally we have Mystery. Misha defines this as a sense of the unknown, and Manowar certainly brings this to the table in their music. The song "Master of the Wind" from The Triumph of Steel is a good example among many, bringing together elements of folklore and legend to paint a picture of a mystical world where all is not what it seems. The song implies that there is something out there that we just can't explain, but even if we don't take understand it, we can still take advantage of it and change our destiny, because fortune favors the bold, after all. Here's the link to the song.

Moreover than all of this, even though I went through all that trouble hunting down various songs that align with Misha's pillars, Manowar embodies the Pulp Ethos in a way few other bands do. By "Pulp Ethos", I mean the general attitude of pulp authors of yesteryear, who did literally whatever the hell they wanted, got paid for it, and many of whom became massively popular in their day because of it. Burroughs, Howard, Merritt, Leiber, all of these people wrote precisely what they wanted to, and people ate it up because it was so original and breathtaking that the quality was undeniable.

In much the same fashion, Manowar came out with a specific mission. They were going to play HEAVY METAL, they were going to sing about whatever the fuck they wanted, they were going to play fast and loud, and anyone who had shit to say about it could get fucked. That picture up there isn't a publicity shot. Them boys went out on stage like that, dressed like Conan characters, straight not giving a single fuck. In taking this attitude they not only pay tribute to the great metal bands that came before them and laid the groundwork for their music, they also perhaps unknowingly paid tribute to the great pulp writers that got America reading. Not just their choice of song topics, but their entire attitude is 100% Pulp down to its very core, and if I may be so bold I would say that there is no greater band the Pulp Revolution could look to for inspiration as to what attitude we should take going forward, as well as inspiration when the going gets rough as it inevitably will.

In my experience, writers are at their best when they're not playing to anybody but their own muse. Sky Hernstrom is an ample example of this, and I wouldn't wish to see his writing constrained by having to please a particular audience, or publisher, or anybody but precisely what motivates him to write the weird and wonderful stories he does. The essence of pulp, in my opinion, is free form. It encourages writers to write whatever the hell they want, because that is most certainly going to be more interesting than the crap put out by the big 5 publishers nowadays.

And I believe Manowar embodies this ethos to a T. What other band do you know that would not only feel totally comfortable, but absolutely justified in writing a song that includes the lines, "Burning! Death! Destruction! Raping their daughters and wives! In blood I take my payment! In full with their lives!"? I can't think of a single band that would be so bold. Not even rap musicians go that far, and rap lyrics are notoriously violent and sexual. Even Body Count, who put out a song on their first album called "Cop Killer", wouldn't do something like that. Besides that, what other band do you know whose bassist can play "Flight of the Bumblebee" on a fucking FOUR-STRING?! Yes, I am in fact deadly fucking serious.

Now I'm not suggesting that we in the Pulp Revolution take up Manowar as our band of choice, or that we adopt one of their songs as the official/unofficial theme song. Those posts are made partially in jest. Partially. While I think they do have several songs that absolutely embody the ethos of the Pulp Revolution, "Brothers of Metal" being a strong contender for that, I know that not everyone shares my taste in music. It's eclectic, and I'm frequently listening to just plain weird shit. So I understand if not everybody is digging what I'm laying down with regard to music choice. But if you're looking for some damn good music that is essentially the sonic embodiment of Pulp, you could do far worse than Manowar.

I'll put a link below to my personal favorite album of theirs on Amazon (I do have an affiliate account, after all, might as well shill), but honestly you could probably get it cheaper from your local CD shop. But looking them up on YouTube would be well worth your while, in my opinion. If you are interested in buying from Amazon, just click the image below and it'll take you right to the album. It's damn good, and it'll be money well spent if you're into that kind of music. I'd advise looking up a track listing first and giving the album a go via YouTube before you buy it, but if you do decide to buy it I'd be grateful if you used the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00CJCQ26I/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=jimfear138-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B00CJCQ26I&linkId=8e9296e9ca2b1df5bc78d50083b642b3

And always remember!

Carry On 
My sons forever
Carry On 

When I am gone
Carry On 

For when the day is long
Forever Carry On
For as long as we together
Then forever Carry On

1 comment :

  1. I heard that you will be doing an audio of one of Cirsova's issues. That's great, and just the beginning!

    ReplyDelete