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With Rhapsody and Holyhell. Thursday, June 2, at the House of Blues.

Manowar is the line in the sand. It's easy to like Black Sabbath. It's easy to like Judas Priest -- even if you think Rob Halford's studded codpiece is a little excessive. But Manowar is the ultimate test of one's metal bona fides. There's just so much to accept -- or ignore -- before ever even hitting "play" on one of the band's discs.

First, there are the band's album covers, which range from the neo-fascistic (Sign of the Hammer) to the cartoony and insane (Hail to England, by a bunch of New Yorkers). Then there are the band members themselves, with their loincloth-wearing, bikers-with-swords image. All this must be embraced -- or overcome -- in order to listen to Manowar.

But that's what makes them great. Because once you do get past all the comic-book barbarism, once you've actually listened, you'll discover a band with a killer catalogue. Every Manowar album has at least three or four heart-punching metal anthems -- that's a track record many bands would envy. And live, they're at their eardrum-bursting best. If you can't pump your fist to at least a few Manowar songs, you don't truly love metal. Besides, if they're not embarrassed by their look, why the hell should their fans be?

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