Manilla Road‘s unreleased “Mark of the Beast” album, recorded between Invasion and Metal, has been pressed to CD and LP by High Roller Records as Dreams of Eschaton. This is the highest fidelity version yet, pressed from a collector’s tape that originated from Mark Shelton himself as detailed on the Nuclear War Now! forum:
Article written by Daniel McCormick
In James Howell’s 1660 Lexicon Tetraglotton one finds the proverb, “When thou hast made a turd leave it.” – advice not heeded by Manilla Road on The Blessed Curse. The biggest issues are twofold: length, and creativity. Yet, had brevity been a predilection, there’s little saving grace, even considering the august bloodline. I must admit that within the first minute thirty I was well prepared to hit stop and attempt to return my album. This is not to say that the music is performed sloppily, or that it’s lacking in merits altogether, but the substance of the music rarely rises above the common or generic, and it comes across more as embryonic than as a well crafted communicative device. It is as if this double album were a construct built from a month of jamming in a rehearsal room.
Therefore, I find this to be the type of album which would have greatly benefited from the group spending another year grinding away, incubating and contriving, and instead of 99 minutes of overextension a consistent 28 minutes could have been wrought. I’ll grant there are well layered harmonies (“Tomes of Clay”), vocally and otherwise, and there is some catchy structuring (“Kings of Invention”), but there is nothing to be found here exceedingly worthy of praise. This sentiment is exemplified by the lyrics, and the odd free form approach taken, because even stanza to stanza there’s a lack of cohesive narrative that leaves the listener lost to define direct intent, outside of cheesy throwaway lines. The vocals present these lyrics with a unique presence, but it is of little benefit when you consider the diminutive range and how the patterns do little to add dynamic qualities. In short, a dearth of vibrance.
This album had great potential to appeal to my tastes, with its folk leanings and rough production, and traditional metal approach, but that was an illusion dissolved like skin drenched in hydrofluoric acid. The folk aspects on this album come across as pop sap (“The Muses Kiss”) in most regards. The production is very well the best quality to my ear, in so much as it presents a purer, retro, feel. The traditional metal approach, though, is very much hit and miss – the verse chorus style grows old quickly when there is too little creativity at base. I suppose I am not so much disappointed as I am confused as to why this was so well received by so many. Perhaps I’ll never understand that. I simply conclude this album was intended for die hard fans who would have been happy with anything, and I do not recommend it.
Shadow Kingdom Records will reissue the seventh album from Wichita, Kansas, band Manilla Road, entitled Out of the Abyss on January 13, 2015. Originally release in 1988, this album shows the band in both fully-developed and archetypal form.
Death metal fans coming late to this album may note how it is a prime example of how to do everything right and end up wrong. Manilla Road write speed metal in the style of Judas Priest crossed with the post-Slayer high-speed riffing of bands like Atrophy. They do so with precision picking, a good knowledge of harmony and rhythm, and yet make completely boring music.
Part of reason for this boredom emerges from the style itself. This type of late speed metal emphasizes breaking songs into discrete modules composed of riffs, following the NWOBHM style, but they break rhythm between those which allows little buildup. Instead, it is a series of right angles. Further, in another NWOBHM influence, these riffs are fundamentally static in that they center around a chord and use fills composed of that chord or a matching scale, but do not develop melodically within the riff; as in rock, that is reserved for the vocals. The result feels a lot like a series of riffs in a verse-chorus pattern with a tangent 2/3 of the way through, guided along by vocals. It does not achieve the structural intensity of death metal.
With that being said, it is clear why many bands hail Manilla Road as an influence. Crisp and exact playing gives these riffs a militant technological sound, and whether from this influence or another bands like Deceased, Voivod, DBC and Obliveon have put this technique to good use. Subtle rhythms abound in addition to the obvious toe-tapping speed metal choruses and lead guitar, while very much entrenched in the domain of rock-style soloing, provides an example of technical excellence within that domain. Vocals sound like a more devious Rob Halford. All of these contribute to the power of this release, but it remains enmired in the binary riffing and somewhat static riffs of the speed metal days which were thankfully left behind during the transition to death metal.
This re-issue will give a new generation of metalheads a chance to appreciate the technical ability of this band and the compositional issues raised by this style. For example, should metal go the rock route of static riffs and build on that in the style of mid-period Judas Priest, or should it follow more of the death metal style of phrasal riffs and flexible song structures? Guitarists will enjoy the challenge of playing these riffs at speed and still making the change, and classic metal fans will delight in the whole package. Out of the Abyss does everything right to hit its target, but for those of us who are post-80s, it may be the wrong target.
- Rites of Blood
- Out of the Abyss
- Return of the Old Ones
- Black Cauldron
- Midnight Meat Train
- War in Heaven
For more information:
Old Disgruntled Bastard, one of the few quality metal blogs around, accused Death Metal Underground of writing clickbait on Facebook for our recent Sadistic Metal Reviews of older albums our staff had noticed to be inferior to the best of the past:
To Death Metal Underground: Certain albums have endured – for musical and extra-musical reasons – across decades and among generations of metalheads of diverse backgrounds, and the least they warrant is treatment with the respect they’ve earned. There is no revelation to be made and there is no current of general perception to be reversed by “raping sacred favorites”. Clickbait is distinctly unelitist and pissing in the wind for the fuck of it isn’t terribly smart either.
George Psalmanazar submitted a few reviews of albums he vehemently despises to Death Metal Underground. Enjoy!
Thanksgiving is a merry time of the year but the bender has to end with more Sadistic Metal Reviews!
Fenriz has been in the mainstream news lately for winning an election to his local town council by circulating a photo of him holding his stray cat Nugatti. He won election for a four year term as the second back up councilor who steps in when the first replacement is unavailable.
A Massacra tribute band is playing the Fall of Summer festival in Torcy, France on September 2nd and 3rd along with Unleashed, Exciter, Samael, Paradise Lost, Manilla Road, Abigail, Dead Congregation, and other bands. From the festival’s website:
The Fall of Summer team is glad to reveal that PARADISE LOST will join us and play an old-school set composed of songs from “Gothic” and their first albums. We are also very proud to announce that we will pay TRIBUTE TO MASSACRA, 30 years after their debut with a very special tribute band formed for this occasion . This will be something very personal and that really matters to us as Massacra is one of the most important and influential band of the French Metal scene and hope you’ll be as thrilled as we are to hear their songs live.
The 30TH ANNIVERSARY MASSACRA TRIBUTE band will be composed of Alex Colin-Tocquaine (AGRESSOR) on guitarsand vocal, Frédéric Leclercq (DRAGONFORCE, SINSAENUM) on guitars and vocals, Stéphane Buriez (LOUDBLAST, SINSAENUM) on bass and vocals, Kevin Paradis (AGRESSOR, MELECHESH) on drums and some very special guests that we will announce soon !
Why write bad reviews at all? Good music is rare, and bad is everywhere, but if you do not explicitly identify the failings of bad, most people will find it appealing because it does not interrupt their steady stream of self-centered thoughts and is easier than seeking good. If you like good music and want more of it, you must bash as well as praise, as Machiavelli would tell you. And with that, the latest installment of the Sadistic Metal Reviews…