Review Summary: After a nine year hiatus, Mark Shelton resurrects Manilla Road with a beastly album celebrating all their past achievements.
After the failure of The Circus Maximus
and angry with how the record label treated him, Mark Shelton called it quits from music. Since he basically was Manilla Road, the band called it quits too. But after almost a decade, Shelton found an urging to take up his axe once again, and reformed Manilla Road with him as the sole original member left. In doing so, he seemed to vow to create one of the best albums of his career, and he nearly succeeds.
What makes Atlantis Rising
so great is that it takes nearly every part of Manilla Road’s impressive discography and incorporate it into this album announcing to a new millennium that the Road is back. The nasally vocals, the powerful riffing, solid and aggressive drumming, rumbling bass, fantastical lyrics, and a good healthy dose of prog, they are all here. The production is a little rough as always (perhaps it is intentional though), but it also adds a little bit of atmosphere. But Mark refuses to simply rest on his past glories (which he could have easily done. Fans would flock to a new Manilla Road album after a decade). Instead, he continues to innovate. For example, he uses A LOT more progressive elements. Listen to Lemuria
and Sea Witch
and you’ll hear a heavy emphasis on atmosphere with some great clean guitars and synth work.
Along with throwing in some new elements, the Road works hard to perfect its tried and true techniques. The riff has always been one of the band’s strongest elements, and here it doesn’t disappoint. Whether the doomy and oppressive riffs of Resurrection
or the fast paced face melters of the closing two tracks, Siege of Atland
and War of the Gods
, the riffs always impress and Mark Shelton continues to prove he is the single most underrated guitarist in all of heavy metal’s storied history. He manages to perfectly combine the doomy guitar tone of legend Tony Iommi with the technicality and melody of another legend, Ritchie Blackmore. His guitar playing alone makes this an album worth checking out.
Along with his guitar playing, Mark continue to use his rather nasally vocals, but at some moments, particularly in the heavier and doom filled middle tracks, he reaches death metal growls. His harsh vocals have always been a bit hit or miss, but here, he manages to out growl most full time death metal vocalists. It’s an impressive weapon that isn’t use frequently, so when it hits, it adds a lot to the overall feel of the song and album.
Overall though, if you weren’t a fan of Shelton and Co. before, this album will not change your mind. However, for fans of their unique brand of heavy metal, this album is a near perfection of their formula. Fast paced solos, doomy riffing, rumbling bass, pounding drums, and some progressive elements for good measure. If any of this sounds interesting and you haven’t checked out Manilla Road before now, here is as good as place as any to start.
I do have to make a special mention to the whole concept of the album. Essentially, Atlantis comes back and Cthulu and his minions get resurrected and take it over. The Norse gods don’t take kindly to this and declare war. Yeah, one strange concept. However, it is arguably the most metal concept album of all time, hitting almost all the standard metal ideas (Cthulu" Check. Norse Gods" Check. War" Check.). It is fairly easy to follow though, with some great lyrics and easy to understand vocals.
- The always phenomenal guitar playing
- Great vocal style
- Amazing Rhythm section
- The most metal concept ever
- Rough production sometimes makes it hard to make out some great riffs
- Some tracks run a tad bit more than they should
Siege of Atland