Manilla Road – “Mystification” RE-ISSUE (Shadow Kingdom Records)
Like Cirith Ungol, Manilla Road were one of the first proto metal bands formed in the late 70s and as such their sound was seen as eclectic at the time, but in many ways they were forerunners of it. Just sampling main man founder Mark ‘the Shark’ Shelton’s riffs and long drawn out solos (still played on his BC Rich Warlock – Ed) sets the tone for many of today’s epic metal bands. If that weren’t enough then his vocals would definitely fit into today’s power, symphonic and even prog bands being almost classical in their style and soulful in quality. In many ways Manilla Road were an exploratory band – befitting the trivia of Shelton being distantly related to the legendary Prussian explorer of Australia Ludwig von Leichhardt – and hence their appeal to many who regard them as a cult band much respected by their fanatical fans. “Mystification” was originally released in 1987 and actually is metal – in fact leaning towards speed metal – given the wild pace of some of the numbers and with its incredibly raw sound on tracks like ‘Masque of The Red Death’, ‘Spirits Of The Dead’ and ‘Death By The Hammer’. Although a re-issue was done in 2000, it was mixed and mastered differently along with the track order being switched around so this ‘corrected’ version restores the original song order along with the original mixing and mastering back to its 80s glory. Despite 20 years and more passing there is still an inherent freshness in the material attesting to its free spirit and unpredictability more than proving the worth of this pioneering US metal outfit – and not in the least Shelton’s perseverance which has resulted in growing live appearances recently. The light certainly hasn’t gone out on Manilla Road!