[1st February 2013]
[Shadow Kingdom Records]
01. The Grey God Passes
02. Stand Your Ground
03. The Battle Of Bonchester Bridge
05. Do What Thou Will
06. Only The Brave
07. Hallowed Be Thy Grave
08. The Fountain
09. The Calling
Manilla Road are legendary, let’s get that out of the way right now. Formed in 1977, they are one of the pioneers of heavy metal, though their influence is (unfortunately) nowhere near as far reaching as some of their peers in Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, probably due to being just a little less radio-friendly. Manilla Road are every bit as good, however, and are still producing quality albums, with this year’s offering, Mysterium, being their sixteenth overall – and after all this time, main man Mark Shelton is still able to write excellent material, the newest offering shows Manilla Road dealing out some seriously good heavy metal.
Mysterium doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to Manilla Road’s arsenal of heavy, but it does show why Manilla Road have had the staying power in the heavy metal underground to be around for more than thirty years. The guitar tone is beefy and full, which gives the retro-sounding metal riffs all the more punch. On the song “The Fountain” which is an acoustic ballad, the clean tones are clear, warm, and comforting. On the whole, this album sounds fantastic. It has excellent modern productions values without losing that old-school heavy metal feel. The bass guitar provides an excellent foundation and allows the impact of the guitar riffs to be increased significantly. Vocally, it’s still the same Manilla Road, provided by Bryan ‘Hellroadie’ Patrick, whose voice is deep and menacing. Main man Mark Shelton provides vocals as well, taking some of the softer, less thrashy moments, such as “The Battle of Bonchester Bridge” and “Hermitage”. Both vocalists have long since proven they compliment each other very well, having similar sounding voices.
Lyrically, the album is quite varied, with some songs dealing with mysteries, such as the Fountain of Youth (“The Fountain”), explorer Ludwig Leichardt – who mysteriously vanished without a trace on one voyage (“Mysterium”) - and others dealing with war and various cultural stories, with Scotland featuring in no less than three songs (“Stand Your Ground”, “Hermitage”, and “Battle For Bonchester Bridge”). All appropriate lyrical subject matters for a band of this calibre, and Mark Shelton is excellent putting words to music at this point in his career.
Manilla Road have strongly established themselves as heavy metal masters by now, and Mysterium sees them continuing that vein. It is a little less progressive and more straightforward heavy metal than their last album, but the guitar riffs are meaty, and are boosted in excellent fashion by the bass guitar. Additionally, they stay in your head for quite some time. Some songs on this album are sure to be true classics, with the title track standing out as one of the best. The slower moments on this album are just as strong as the heavier, faster moments. All in all, this is an excellent place for those new to the band to start, and fans will definitely enjoy this weighty, retro romp as well. It’s nothing especially new, but it is absolutely a pleasure to listen to.