Review Summary: A classic heavy metal record in every sense of the word, this is an essential record for any metal fan.“Through the jungle by the river Styx/ I’ve journeyed long and far this day/ Lurking shadows in the parapets/ Will never make me turn away.”
Think back to your favorite album of all time. What makes you love it so? Was it the technicality of the instruments? The ability of the singer? Was it thought provoking lyrics? Or was it the lack thereof? Most times it’s a combination of all of that. But there is still something more. An air around the album. It might come from fond memories or even the music itself. Manilla Road manages to capture that air and create an album that feels epic beyond all proportions.
First things first. Mark Shelton probably won’t go down in heavy metal history as one of the better vocalists around. Even at his very best, he’s a bit of an acquired taste, with a nasally high-pitched voice. On Crystal Logic
he gives his best. Even non-fans of Manilla Road will be able to tolerate him, mayhap even enjoy him at times. On Feeling Free Again
his voice, along with every other element of the band, manage to create a song that feels like the classic rock greats, without feeling derivative. It still feels very Manilla Road, but captures that party and energetic atmosphere. That is why Mark Shelton’s voice is so important. The way he sings on each song defines the feel of it. It ranges from the sort of lost, a little mystified voice on Necropolis
, to the aggressive shout on Flaming Metal System
, the doomy voice of The Riddle Master
, and the low growls of Dreams of Eschaton/Epilogue
. This versatility is a great trait, but the whole album remains cohesive.
“Now I know what it’s like to be/ Inside the city of the dead/ All I think of is breaking free.”
Mark Shelton also handles the guitar duties, and he is a master of his instrument. Every riff, every solo, every transition is handled expertly. On the past two albums, Invasion
, that was often the standout, but here it’s just another element of the album. And a great element at that. It no longer completely over shadows the other parts. Listen to The Ram
, which is filled with fast transitions, epic solos, and powerful riffs. But yet the bass, the vocals, and the drumming manage to keep up, making the song a full blown band epic.
“I have seen your cities burning/ I have felt your daughter’s yearning/ For the peace beyond the tides of war/ I have witnessed funeral pyres/ Burning bright beyond the tides of war.”
Scott Park’s bass playing and Rick Fischer’s drumming have improved drastically from Metal
. Instead of simply being adequate, they are now a major driving force of the band. All the songs have great audible bass lines or creative drum fills and rolls. Oftentimes, I have found myself air drumming along with the songs (and trust me, that doesn’t happen very often) due to the overall catchiness and effectiveness of the drumming.
Overall, Manilla Road has finally nailed their formula, creating a metal album of epic proportions. They still retain the epic feel that they started with, but have streamlined it so the songs are no longer blown out of proportions. Mark has nailed how to deliver the vocals without sounding awful, and the guitar playing is on par if not better than most other metal albums. The rhythm section has evolved into a driving force of the band. Anything they can do, Manilla Road has done right. Any self respecting fan should check it out, and be shocked that you haven’t heard this underrated gem.
“It feels like I’m living inside a dream/ But my mind tells me I’m/ Lost in Necropolis, lost in Necropolis!”
-Great Guitar Work
-Strong Rhythm Section
I would just say all of them (Except Prologue), but some highlights are
-Dreams of Eschaton/ Epilogue
-Flaming Metal System