Great Metal Albums of 1985: Manowar- Sign of the Hammer


Manowar’s fourth album, “Sign of the Hammer,” escaped my notice for more than thirty years. Back in the mid 1980s, no one I knew spoke about the album. They all said how great Manowar’s first two albums were and how that the third album, “Hail to England” wasn’t as good as its predecessors but no mention of this one. It might have been because “Hail to England” wasn’t as good as the first two but I highly doubt that because while I agree with the earlier synopsis on the third album, in no way did I think it sucked. Even if I did, I would have written off the third album as a bad day and given the fourth album a chance. Still, it baffles me how “Sign of the Hammer” escaped my notice for so long because it’s such a good album.

Maybe Manowar also agreed that the third album wasn’t as good because they return more to their first two albums with the sound here. From the ‘You’re gonna listen to this’ feel of the opening track, “All Men Play on Ten” through the very progressive metal closer, “Guyana (Cult of the Damned), this album is one big metal party. You have the more straight-forward metal sounding “Animal” to the fantasy filled “Thor (the Powerhead), which is the best track on this album by the way. I love Eric Adams’s sometimes over the top vocals and the guitar work of Ross the Boss on the the track.

At the midpoint, we get another proggy metal song with “Mountains.” With the acoustic intro and the ballad sounding vocals, it starts off sounding it’s going to be such. Even if you were expecting a thundering guitar and bass with hammering drums to come into the song at any time, it’s still a bit of a surprise when it does. Once you get your head around that, it goes back to being ballad-like. The constant changes do make you listen to the song that much closer. Although, I’m not sure about the guitar solo.

“Sign of the Hammer” and “The Oath” are great metal tunes done in the Manowar style and they keep things progressing beautifully here. Ross takes total control on the penultimate track, “Thunderpick” with a guitar instrumental. I’ve always considered him a good guitarist and I’m a little bummed that I wasn’t able to go see him at Bloodstock this year but he does shine here. The closing track is about the mass suicide by the Jim Jones cult in Guyana but the progressive metal makes it cool and a great closer for this album.

Having listened to “Sign of the Hammer” several times now, I come to the conclusion that Manowar pulled out all stops to make sure that it was going to be a great album and to me, it is. You get the sometimes over the top vocals of Adams done with pure enthusiasm. The guitar work of Ross is present throughout with some cool intros on many of the songs all backed by a tighter than ever rhythm section of DeMaio and Columbus. All come together to make a great album.

Track Listing:

  1. All Men Play on 10
  2. Animal
  3. Thor (The Powerhead)
  4. Mountains
  5. Sign of the Hammer
  6. The Oath
  7. Thunderpick
  8. Guyana (Cult of the Damned)


Eric Adams- lead vocals

Ross the Boss- guitar, keyboards

Joey DeMaio- bass

Scott Columbus- drums

How come this great album passed me by? Why didn’t anyone tell me about how great “Sign of the Hammer” was? I can’t answer these questions but what I do know is that I’m glad I got to finally listen to it.

Next post: Fastway- Waiting for the Roar

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4 Responses to “Great Metal Albums of 1985: Manowar- Sign of the Hammer”

  1. Could still do with better cover art, more warriors in loincloths I say!

    Liked by 1 person

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