Manilla Road - Metal
Hard Rock
7 songs (35:43)
Release year: 1982
Manilla Road
Reviewed by James
Archive review

After the Rush-like proggy hard rock of Invasion, Manilla Road started work on their follow-up, to be titled Dreams Of Eschaton. For some bizarre reason (The album is actually fantastic) the band deemed the record not up to par, and shelved it for over 20 years, not appearing until 2002 as Mark Of The Beast. Anyway, the band had a major rethink about their direction, and returned in 1982 playing... Metal! Of course, anyone familiar with Manilla Road will know that they are are about as metal as it gets. Though funnily enough, Metal isn't very metal at all. It's essentially a stripped down, infinitely less jammy version of Invasion. Yes, there's a slight step up in heaviness here, but this is still definitely in the realm of hard rock. And only above-average hard rock at that, In fact, I'd go as far to say that this is Manilla Road's weakest (they've never made a “bad” album, mind) until this year's Voyager.

The galloping Enter The Warrior bursts out of the speakers after one of those odd little atmospheric intros the band used to be so fond of, and it's a bit average, really. Average by Manilla Road's standards still means a pretty decent song in its' own right, but compared to Necropolis, Metalstorm or hell, even Whitechapel it's a bit of a dull way to open the album. Defender follows suit, and clocking in at just over two minutes it's a very short, uptempo rocker that feels a bit lightweight and throwaway. So far then, we're looking at a definite sophomore slump for Manilla Road.

But then we stumble across Queen Of The Black Coast, one of two great tracks here that saves the album from total failure (I'll come to the other one later). Based on the short story by Robert E. Howard it's the band's first venture into the 1900s pulp fiction that would serve as grist for Mark Shelton's lyrical mill for years to come. It's well written and dynamic, coming as a breath of fresh air after the oddly underwritten opening double-header. Mark Shelton turns in one of his best vocal performances, combining a storming, fantastically sung chorus with razor-sharp screams in the songs climax.

Then the album loses it's way for a little, with the title track being an oddly sedate ode to everyone's favorite genre, if very interesting lyrically and a cut above Manowar. Out Of Control With Rock And Roll is another lighthearted track, and it sounds worryingly close to Defender for my tastes, though the chorus saves it a little. Then, we hit Cage Of Mirrors.

And Cage Of Mirrors just happens to be one of the best songs the band has written in their 28-year history, and criminally doesn't get the respect it deserves from fans. It's the obligatory epic, as The Empire was on Invasion, and it's interesting structure and progressive edge nods to where the band were going with Crystal Logic. The whole band are on fire throughout, and the stripped-down aesthetic of the rest of the album makes me wonder if they were all saving themselves for this track.

So, fillery and underworked Metal may be, but it's got a couple of bona fide Manilla Road classics that make it worth a listen for a fan. Not a good place to start, but anyone who's read up on the history of the band will know that. If you're going through their discography in chronological fashion and feeling a little discouraged, fear not. It gets so much better from here on out.

Killing Songs :
Queen Of The Black Coast, Cage Of Mirrors
James quoted 68 / 100
Other albums by Manilla Road that we have reviewed:
Manilla Road - The Blessed Curse reviewed by Andy and quoted 83 / 100
Manilla Road - Mysterium reviewed by Andy and quoted 79 / 100
Manilla Road - Playground of the Damned reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Manilla Road - Into The Courts Of Chaos reviewed by James and quoted 84 / 100
Manilla Road - Out Of The Abyss reviewed by James and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
1 readers voted
You did not vote yet.
Vote now

There are 0 replies to this review. Last one on Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:58 pm
View and Post comments