Manowarrior For Life: Ryan Nichols (Norway)

My name is Ryan Cameron Nichols. I am 47. I am from Norway. Born in America.

Being a Manowarrior for decades, the stories are numerous. Here are a few pivotal ones. I have tried to keep the nutshell as small as possible.

It was the summer of 1987 and I was at a friend´s house listening to Iron Maiden in his typical teenage room. Just as «The Trooper» was blazing away its opening riff, my friend turned off the song and placed another album on the turntable. He said he wanted me to listen to something. Annoyed, I said «Ok, what?!» in a sort of dismissive tone. He fumbled a little because he wanted to place the needle on a particular song on this unknown album. He dropped the needle straight onto Joey Demaio´s fast opening of «Black, Wind Fire and Steel». My jaw dropped as this was nothing I ever heard before. Aggressive and fast, but also melodic and with unmatched and perfect vocals.

Soon after, Manowar took the center stage amid all the metal bands I loved. I searched every magazine and read every article and interview with the band. And it soon became apparent that it was not just their music that set them apart. It was their attitude and unapologetic fierceness that made them churn out such uncompromising and pure metal.

In 2019, I was able to repay my friend by treating him to the awesome Ultimate Fan Experience in Berlin.

Over the years that followed, it also became apparent that when meeting other Manowar fans from around the world, it was something very different and special than other fanbases.

In 1988, I proudly bought my first Manowar concert ticket to see them in Oslo on The Kings of Metal tour. But then we soon found out that due to specific alcohol laws, the venue had an 18-year-old minimum age limit. My friend and I had to sell our tickets. Not exactly the night we had envisioned. In Norway in the 80s, only stadium shows had a free age limit. But most bands that could fill a stadium in Norway in the 80s generated as much excitement as going to the dentist and getting a root canal.

I finally got to see them for the first time in 1994 during the Triumph of steel tour. And many shows followed after that.

As I for countless others, Manowar´s unique sound and overall concept inspired me in many ways other bands could not. They became the main soundtrack to my life.

I was born in America to an American father and Norwegian mother. My father was in the army and we moved around a lot. He served two tours in Vietnam and was wounded several times. When I was 5, my father suddenly died of a pneumonia brought on by an old war wound. We were stationed in Panama at the time. We lived for a time in Texas with my grandparents. Soon after we moved to Norway. Luckily, I visited my grandparents frequently so my long line of Texan heritage was instrumental in my upbringing. But I was always restless, and as early as I can remember there was always a whole in my heart after my father died. My earliest memories consist mostly of him and I playing together. It wasn’t until Manowar came along that this hole was kind of replaced with the perfect kind of poetry and newfound strength.

My mom is a great, strong and determined Scandinavian woman. So, Viking sagas were an important part of my upbringing. And they became even more so when I became a Manowar fan.

In the military, I served in Lebanon and then in Bosnia during the civil war in the 1990s. There were a few times where it seemed that the last few seconds of my existence had come. The epic, uncompromising and lamenting sounds of Manowar were there every step of the way. And in a way, helped to mold even the harshest experiences into an important part of who I am today.

My first son was born in 2007. From day one he was exposed to metal. And it was to my heart´s content that he picked Manowar as his favorite band later on.

In 2017, I took my son to Kiel in Germany to see them. The day after the awesome show, we were sitting in the lobby waiting to take the boat back to Norway, when suddenly Eric walked out of the elevator. A few moments later Joey also came out of the elevator. We did not realize we were staying at the same hotel as the band. Living up to the hype about putting the fans first, both Eric and Joey were gracious and awesome. It was like talking to family members. In a moment of hilarious irony, my friend and I realized that my son’s first Manowar concert was the exact opposite of ours so many years ago. Not only did he get to see the show, he also met his heroes.

One time, when I was in the 8th grade, I was so bored in class I decided to write down one of my favorite Norse poems. I knew it by heart. It was the famous Skaldic poem of King Hakon the Good earning his place in Valhalla. But with a twist, I modeled the poem as a hymn to Manowar. It took almost the entire hour to do it. When I was finished, the teacher suddenly stood over my desk shaking his head. Annoyed at me for not having listened to a word he said, he tore the page out from my notebook and threw it in the garbage can. The bell rang and I quickly retrieved the crumbled page on my way out the door. I was very pleased with this version of the poem. I told some friends that I would try to mail the poem to Joey DeMaio. One of the other kids in class sarcastically replied: «Yeah, good luck with that!»

A few months before we were set to go to the Ultimate Fan Experience in Berlin in April 2019, I had an idea of a perfect way to present the Norse poem to the band. I had the poem engraved on a 1 kilo heavy medal of pure silver.

Together with my son and my friend, we handed it to Joey as I remembered what the kid in class said sarcastically three decades earlier at school. Well, what could one expect, he was a Poison-fan. We, are Manowarriors…

The Poem:

In Odin´s hall stands an empty place

For the metal Kings of Yngve´s race

“Go forth my Valkyries” Odin said

“Go forth my angels of the dead,

Gondul and Skogul to the plain,

Drenched with the battle´s bloody rain,

Go forth to Manowar and tell,

That here in Valhalla, they shall dwell