Review Summary: A continuation of their more streamlined sound, Manilla Road releases another excellent metal album.
Manilla Road continues on their path of metal domination, further reducing their previous space rock and progressive influences, and adding some distinct thrash metal to the mix. This produces their fastest album yet. Just listen to the opening track, the appropriately titled Metalstorm
. Fast paced guitar riffs and drumming drive the album at a breakneck pace, and all the songs, including the 9+ minute epic of the album, The Ninth Wave
While I did say that the progressive element is reduced, Mark Shelton and Co. haven’t gotten rid of it entirely. The aforementioned The Ninth Wave
and the two 6 minute tracks, The Fires of Mars
and Witches Brew
, show how that Manilla Road is still going to put forth some truly epic tracks. And these three are some of the best tracks of the album. However, I find myself missing the 13 minute epics like Dreams of Eschaton
from Crystal Logic
and The Empire
from the debut album, Invasion
. While the longer songs are great, I really wish that Manilla Road continued putting out the truly epic songs.
For this album, Manilla Road got a new drummer, Randy Foxe. He’s replacing Rick Fisher right when I though Rick was starting to come into his own. However, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a vast improvement in the drumming, it is far faster paced and technical, giving Manilla Road an element that they didn’t have before, and giving it the aggressive thrash metal feel.
While Shelton’s amazing riffing and Foxe’s take center stage, Scott Park’s bass is surprisingly robust, always keeping up with the lead two. The bass is very deep and thick, giving the album a great feel.
Unfortunately, Shelton’s vocals are a bit of a letdown. After the astounding showing he gave on Crystal Logic
, here he’s a bit lacking. While not as bad as he has been previously, here he tries to be a thrash metal vocalist, something he was not meant to do. He is still his best at the higher, more nasally sound, instead of the gruff barks that he attempts here.
Another aspect that continuously annoys me is the production. As opposed to the crystal clear production on Crystal Logic
, we get a more muddied one here. I feel like they were going for a raw feel that falls through. Instead of enhancing the aggressive feel, it is distracting.
In fact, I believe that is the major flaw of the album. In an attempt to get a thrashier feel, they get a mixed bag. The good is the fantastic guitars and drumming, but the downside is some weaker vocals and production. However, these flaws are relatively minor. There are some poor vocal spots, but for each one of those there is at least one good moment. And the production isn’t entirely awful, it’s a little distracting. Overall, though, it is a solid metal album worth any fan’s time.
-Great guitar work
-Solid bass playing
-Some hit and miss vocal moments
-No true epics
-Some distracting production
The Ninth Wave
Heavy Metal to the World