Review Summary: A marriage of Manilla Road's traditional metal sound with heavy doses of proggressive rock.
Manilla Road tried to simplify their formula for metal success with their last two outings, Mystification
and Out of the Abyss
, streamlining everything into a thrash metal sound. While well done, it wasn't really Manilla Road. People yearned for the days of epic heavy metal, especially after the debacle that was Out of the Abyss
. And so Mark Shelton complied. But, as we all know, Mark refuses to just rehash old ideas. He insists on being new and different every album. So here, he takes a look at Manilla Road's fairly impressive discography and takes one element that was always fairly present on their albums and amplifies it to a new extreme. That element is progressive rock.
Atmospheric synths abound on this album, something never done before on a Manilla Road album. While I have never been a particular fan of synths (I was adamant that before I heard this album that the only non-progressive bands to pull off synths were Blue Ӧyster Cult and Iron Maiden), it was extremely well done here, used to create an effective spooky and bizarre atmosphere, something Manilla Road always had, but never in quite this way. Look no further than the instrumental opener The Road to Chaos
for evidence of this. Also, there are some fairly complex song structures here, at least for a Manilla Road album.
But instead of completely forgetting the traditional heavy metal in favor of a more progressive sound, they manage to balance the two successfully. There is a good mix of both types of songs. While the prog songs are clearly the best tracks on the album, the more traditional bits are fun little bouts of headbanging. (Vlad) The Impaler
is a very strong fast paced song that wouldn’t seem out of place on their previous classics Crystal Logic
and The Deluge
Instrumentally, Manilla Road is as strong as ever. Mark Shelton recovered from his previous lethargy, creating a large amount of great and memorable riffs, Scott Park’s bass rumbles along, adding a powerful undertone, and Randy Foxe’s drumming has slowed a bit, but it as technical as ever.
This is a strong showing of Manilla Road’s talent for change and ability to interchange a variety of influences while keeping their core identity intact. An excellent entry in their discography and a great pick up for either traditional metal or prog metal fans.
-Strong instrument talent
-Cool song structures
Books of Skelos
A Touch of Madness
Into the Courts of Chaos