Shelton / Chastain – “The Edge Of Sanity – 88 Demo Session”

Shelton / Chastain – “The Edge Of Sanity – 88 Demo Session” (Pure Steel) 

Battle Helm Rating

On July 27, 2018, Manilla Road’s founder guitarist vocalist Mark ‘The Shark’ Shelton died in the hospital after the band played the Headbangers Open Air festival in Germany. Back in the US, while going through Shelton’s stuff, bassist Phil Ross came across some unlabelled tapes, one of which were some demo recordings between Shelton and none other than David T Chastain dating back to 1988! With hindsight, this doesn’t come as a surprise as Chastain had assisted Shelton in the release of Manilla Road’s 7th album “Out Of The Abyss” which coincidentally was also released in the same year. Since then, with a friendship forged, Shelton was involved in the 1999 song ‘The Edge Of Sanity’ (included here) that appeared on the album “Symphonica Millenia” by Chastain’s group Zanister, and more recently penned the title track to Leather Leone’s solo album! Using a drum machine, the 4 songs here including 2 versions of ‘Orpheus Descending’ – one at nearly 12 minutes and the other at a gargantuan 21 minutes (!) – are raw in their sound, capturing Chastain’s spectacular shredding alongside Shelton’s own pure molten metal sound, as well as the latter’s epic vocal style. It’s quite a combination and pity these two legendary figures didn’t collaborate more formally, making this album a true uncovered rarity! Steeped in classic US Metal sound, ‘The Edge Of Sanity’ is a chopping piece with raw crunching riffola and frantic, sliding scale work with Shelton’s voice hauntingly (omni)present that makes for a brutal opening. Contrasting it vividly is the intro to ‘Orpheus Descending’ with Shelton’s genteel tones and acoustic guitar dramatically shattered by the raw power chords of Chastain on this stunning epic metal song, building through differing tempos without losing momentum and ending in spell bounding melody. The extended version is a heavier re-arranged piece with additional guitar passages throughout, making this unmissable given how the song draws you in and then totally immerses you through the amazing guitar work that creates a powerful surrounding atmosphere. ‘Fields Of Sorrow’ is similar to ‘Edge…’ being a shorter piece, but with heavier chugging riffs alongside Shelton’s gruffer vocals roaring ‘…death and pain!..’ made even more menacing by the whip thwacking snare and some incredibly shredding solos that scream unto the end – wow!! Despite being demos, the sound quality here is excellent throughout as acknowledged recently by Chastain himself, thus making this rare find an absolute must have for anyone appreciative of the ground breaking work of these two gentlemen.

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