One of the most furious forces of thunderous heavy metal, existing now perhaps in mostly a limbo-esque state of… existence, Manowar have been saying they’re calling it quits for ages now. The Final Battle I is the first of three EP’s, released coinciding with their The Final Battle tour, and contains four tracks of original metal very much in the style of Manowar. It is however a mess of an EP, and the contents of it show why they probably should have called it quits ages ago; things on here aren’t as interesting as one would hope. The sound is a definite improvement since their last full length, The Lord of Steel (2012), with actual discernable bass this time around, and a decent guitar tone from E.V. Martel.
While there are some elements that remind of the former glory, and reminiscent of the best of times in the Manowar history, the EP is incredibly average as a whole. Opening track March of the Heroes into Valhalla is a two and a half minute symphonic overture, perfectly fitting anywhere on the underrated Gods of War (2007) album. As such, it’s decent, but it’s not very interesting. Blood and Steel is a mid paced heavy metal song reminiscent of their older tunes about bikers and sticking it to the man, but without the gravity surrounding their former works. Some neat keyboard layers add an extra touch, but the song is pretty forgettable.
Eric Adams, being 64 at this point, retains all the power and gravitas of his earlier days, and his vocals are clearly the best thing about this EP. Sure, the cheesy lyrics do him no favors, but his deliverance is both big sounding befitting the Manowar name and his depth shows little signs of age. That’s why the most confounding part is his exclusion in You Shall Die Before I Die. Instead, it’s money man Joey DeMaio that takes center stage, barking in a sort of spoken word style, ruining any worth the song might have had (which is not much, a slow overlong drab, at any rate). No, really the only redeeming song on this EP is the ballad Sword of the Highlands. While the lyrics are cringy as usual, this is still a top tier Manowar ballad in the vein of Swords in the Wind, but with a different touch; bigger, orchestral keyboards and bagpipes to set the stage. If anything, skip the rest of the EP and just jump right to that one song.
Standout tracks: Sword of the Highlands