Review Summary: An inauspicious start to one of the most prolific and underrated metal bands of all time.
Manilla Road is a massively underrated band. They have released about as many albums as some of the metal greats, like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath. And about the same percentage of the albums are great or even masterpiece albums. Yet they go relatively unnoticed in the metal community. Going back in time, we look at Manilla Road’s debut album, Invasion
. It is a VERY unpolished album, but you can already find the building blocks of their later greatness. Manilla Road on this album is:
Mark Shelton- Lead Vocals and Guitar
Scott Park- Bass Guitar
Rick Fisher- Drums and Backing Vocals
The album opens up with some weird ambient sounds and a blistering guitar solo. This track, The Dream Goes On
, really gives you an idea of what to expect from the rest of Invasion
. Astounding guitar parts, a cool epic feel, muddied production, and Mark Shelton’s absolutely abysmal vocals.
Now, even at his best, Mark Shelton’s vocal work is something of an acquired taste. Think Dave Mustaine and you’re not far off. Almost all of the songs here are killed by his singing, except for a few. The last two tracks, Centurion War Games
and the REAL epic of the album The Empire
show off actual tolerable vocals, and that instantly makes them two of the best tracks of the album.
However, don’t judge Mark on being a terrible vocalist (at least on this album), but his guitar work is absolutely killer. I can’t think of a single other album from 1980 that completely astounded me so with its guitar work. From the jaw dropping solo at the beginning of The Dream Goes On
to the galloping riffs of Street Jammer
to the final, haunting and melodic solo of The Empire
, there is not a single guitar part that isn’t great.
Unfortunately, you can’t always hear that guitar work so well. The production is so muddied that you’re not entirely sure of what is going on all the time. A lot of bass work and drumming gets covered up in the mix, so it’s hard to hear what they are doing.
Speaking of the drums and bass part, Scott Park and Rick Fisher don’t really do anything spectacular. They offer a solid rhythm and good base for the songs, which is not too bad. However, Rick Fisher does have a couple moments that really peak through the rest of the averageness going on in the rhythm section. He has a couple really good fills and rolls that give you an idea of how could he possibly could be. Pity there aren’t more moments like that through the album.
Now, if you notice, all the songs are fairly long. In fact, all but two of the songs are over 6 minutes. And one of those is 5 minutes. Now, all of these songs have a great epic feel that really helps the album. However, this length that gives off an epic feel also has a downside. At times the songs drag. Particularly the songs Cat and Mouse
and Far Side of the Sun
. Even the grand epic, the 13 and a half minute song, The Empire
drags at times. With all the cool guitar work and some pretty decent vocals, the song still manages to drag and become a wee bit boring. Hell, even one of the shorter songs, Street Jammer
drags a bit. It definitely would have served better as a 3 or 4 minute rocker, not the 5 minute one it is.
Overall, this is a poor album that gives hints of future greatness. The stellar guitar work is definitely worth checking out, but the rest of the elements of the band just don’t add up to give that the boost it needed to become a great or even decent album. Only check this album out if you are a serious Manilla Road fan or just want to see the humble origins of the band.
-Great Guitar Work
-The Dream Goes On