Here you have Manowar, one of heavy metal’s last fundamentalist holdouts – extreme, maximalist keepers of tradition – welcoming a shredder officially from Illinois but with electric guitar superpowers that suggest he is really a transplant from Planet Gemini. Aesthetically, would could be a more perfect union?
That itself, however, invites its own pressures. When the tour picks up in Europe in January, kicking off at the Enteria Arena, in Pardubice, Czech Republic, on 24 January, the denim, leather and steel demographic will be expecting fireworks; they’ll be expecting virtuosity on an unprecedented scale, and the sound of a band going over the top.
Putting a show like that together is now easy. It takes a lot of work. And as any shred head worth their salt will tell you – a comprehensive warm-up routine is key. Well, Manowar bassist and metal figurehead Joey DeMaio and MAB have been good enough to take us behind the curtain to demonstrate their pre-show preparations, and it is a routine that parks the SoundBrenner at a cool 175bpm and pumps up the tempo to an eye-watering and knuckle-melting 275bpm. It is, as the video title admits, insane, but it clearly gets results.
Just look at the glee in MAB’s face at the prospect of a modest 175bpm, which to a player who made his bones in LA glam metallers Nitro and often needs two necks to accommodate his appetite for shred, is like an easy Sunday stroll.
MAB and DeMaio press the the G major scale into action for the exercise, starting on the F# to keep the pattern symmetrical, and then start moving the pattern up the neck.
“Some people out there might look at that and say, ‘That’s not shit. Why would you ever do that with the G major scale?” says DeMaio. “But I agree with you. I feel that the G major scale, or any major scale, gives you a chance to cross the fingerboard, and actually use your hands as a warm-up, and it is a very good scale. And, of course, musically you can use it later on. Needless to say, he has the right idea.”
At 175bpm, with DeMaio on a modified four-string bass guitar, MAB on his Sawtooth ST-M24 signature guitar, the sound soon becomes bewildering, hypnotic, dizzying, but once they bump it up, it takes on an quasi-surrealist avant-garde quality – ground control to G Major Tom, take your protein pills and put your helmet on.
“That’s not even in the shred zone yet!” complains MAB, moving the needle to 200bpm.
Finally, we get to 275bpm, a tempo so unforgiving that it has to be sheathed safely in a separate YouTube clip. And, well, check it out. It’s nuts.
For more details on Manowar’s Crushing The Enemies Of Metal Anniversary Tour 2023, in which, to quote DeMaio, you’ll see them playing “all kinds of crazy shit”, head over to Manowar.