Not as well known or regarded as their later material such as Kings of Metal or Triumph of Steel, but Sign of the Hammer certainly is the record that set the tone for the future Manowar template.
After an interesting debut with Battle Hymns and a poor follow up with the intentionally more commercial/radio friendly Into Glory Ride, Sign of the Hammer was that difficult third album in which Manowar had to decide which way to go. Back to Battle Hymns or follow Into Glory Ride.
Well, album opener All Men Play On Ten says it all. A true statement of intentions.
Animals is dirty, sleazy, raunchy and ballsy.
Thor is just an ok album track that works better live with the sing a long chorus.
Mountains is much more introspective with a truly delighful instrumental middle section and effective wind sounds.
Then the tempo picks up again with the mighty Sign of The Hammer. Fast, galloping, thundering a band classic.
The rest of the album has a feeling of space filling with The Oath as another repertoire fast song and Thunderpick an extended instrumental intro to Guyana, a hard to classify mid tempo song that attempts to close the album on an epic tone.
The album is good, but perhaps suffers from poor production. Personally, if I was to think of an album not only for remastering, but re-recording, this would be my first candidate. Thor and Mountains could sound edgier and more epic and Guyana a lot more doom laden that it does.
But then, one can only wish.