Wolf photo by Mark Coatsworth
Text by Cosmo Lee

Traditional metal has long been a staple of my workouts. The beats are simple, the riffs are strong, and the melodies cut through surrounding noise. It's only a matter of time before I do a proper Manowar workout. Here are three of my current workout favorites.

2006's The Black Flame bored me, so I took my eye off Wolf for a while. Earlier this year, however, I stumbled across the video for "Speed On," from Ravenous (Century Media, 2009). The helium-fueled choruses hooked me. As per usual for Wolf, Ravenous is full of Judas Priest. But it's also full of the small details of smart songwriting. Songs subtlely modulate keys; lithe guitar breaks crackle throughout. At the Gates' Slaughter of the Soul works the same way. Its riffs are sturdy, but it's the little things that kill. "Whisky Pyscho Hellions" is ridiculous, from its title to its drunken Chipmunks chorus. But it vaults into the sublime with a bridge in which guitars tangle arms and legs, then join the bass in an ecstatic threesome. From gym to pub to boudoir, this record makes a fine companion.

Adrien Begrand's Hall of Fame feature on Accept's Restless and Wild in Decibel #61 (Baroness cover, order here) was my favorite HoF in a while. Not only did he elicit from the band members the requisite nerd details (obscure anecdotes, recording minutiae), he also brought out their personalities. They turned out to be humble, mischievous, and innocent about their importance. On the other hand, Cannibal Corpse's Alex Webster waxed passionate in a sidebar about the influence of "Demon's Night" on death metal. Death metal is generally thought of as an extension of thrash, but Webster is right; "Demon's Night" has pockets of dissonance and noise that presage darker times. Cannibal Corpse covered it on the Worm Infested EP, and the cover makes surprising sense. Maybe the singing and growling generations of metal aren't so far removed.

"When the Sun Drowns in Dark" is an example of this. Necropolis (Nuclear Blast, 2009) is in most respects just another Vader album. (That's fine with me.) Like most later Vader albums, it has some filler and a few blinders. "When the Sun Drowns in Dark," however, stands out. Instead of the death metal that preceded it, it's a mid-paced chugger, as if Painkiller-era Priest had growled vocals. Its palm-muted engine is similar to that of Mötley Crüe's "Kickstart My Heart" (see 1:29) and, more recently, Megadeth's "Head Crusher" (the midsection, starting at 2:00). But it's not just gears and pistons. Modulations in the bridge take a series of turns that somehow end up back on the main road, as a graceful solo floats above. Evidently Vader and Wolf have been drinking the same unholy water.