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Mysterium, Manilla Road's latest output is a mesh of early Manilla Road ala Crystal Logic, The Deluge, Open the Gates and newer Manilla Road ala Playground Of The Damned and The Voyager.
The album structure is similar that that of the band's classic Crystal Logic that thrusted this band into immortality, with all tracks being mid to longish length while the last track being by far the longest of em all. Upon hearing the album one thing is very clear, the band has definitely shrugged off its more melodic approach since they got back together, a sound very prominent on their last few albums and have adopted a rawer sound reminiscent of the legendary MR which released a string of classic albums. Mark Shelton hasn't sounded this good in while and The Shark may have well found the machine to reverse time because he lashes out the signature galloping choppy riffs throughout the album right from the start. The song writing is good and you can feel the band has been greatly insipred by its own thrashy releases like The Deluge and Mystification, and heavy metal releases like Open The Gates. The band has the epic feeling which is more reminiscent of The Voyager than the classic albums and the production is great and suits the band well. It isn't super layered and all like most heavy and power metal bands today which gave them a fake, cheesy, extremely pristine one dimensional sound.
However all is not well. The last quarter of the album isn't as good as the rest which is highly unlike MR as they are one of the most consistent bands in the business. The album has 2 ballads like last album, called 'The Battle Of Bonchester Bridge' and 'the Fountain' and like I felt when I heard their last releases, The Playground Of The Damned and The Voyager, it's just one ballad too many. 'The Calling' is well, nothing to be honest. It is just sound, and comes across as a bad pothole on what has been a rather smooth ride. It could have been used as an intro the final 11 minute title track of the album but the band chose not to. That brings us to the final track, the supposed to be lengthy epic title track. After the previous track the band could have chosen just to jump right to the good art, but they chose to have an intro to this as well. Though it isn't annoying it could have been skipped. Also for the first time in their life the band became a bit predictable here. One would never know what to expect on MR's long epic tracks but you almost know when the tempo change and when the guitar solos are coming. Nonetheless it's a good track, having soaring guitar solos that bring out the epic feeling which is so trademark of Manilla Road.
The band has turned down the epic quotient a bit on this release though I don't know why because it is the band's strongpoint and the band can still do it as they showed on their album , The Voyager released just a few years back. The band has opted for a more straightforwards sound in some parts, but has also showed that early Manilla Road is still alive and kicking. Even after the extra ballad and the title track where 2 minutes could easily have been shaved off from either end this album is a good release which is worth hearing for any fan of the band. It is not album of the decade stuff but still a great release with the first 3 quarters of the album being solid and which many may dub as the band's greatest release since they got back depending on what aspect of the band they like most.
Favorite tracks - The Grey God Passes, Hermitage, Hallowed Be Thy Grave.
[Originally written and posted on RateYourMusic.com]