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Something that always intrigued me about The Deluge was its subject matter. The most obvious story on display is the fall of Atlantis, but given the lyrical ambiguity of “Dementia,” “Friction In Mass,” and the title track itself, I felt there was an underlying story like the character was being deluged by insanity, his mind plagued by specters of ancient gods and sunken cities the way innocent characters were tormented in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, an author from whom Manilla Road have often taken inspiration.
“Shadow In the Black” is my favorite song on The Deluge and contains everything I like about Manilla Road. I don't think it's ever been well-documented just how powerful this song is! From the delicate intro, through the fury of the main body and every unrestrained solo attack, the rising and falling is structured so well that every time Mark Shelton rips into a new lead the song feels like it's revealing further layers of secrets. A wise old man sets the serene opening, holding the final word of the final refrain until his voice folds into itself like a vulture choking on its own spite. Then the heavy riff kicks in like the rotor of a mythical Atlantean aircraft whose pilot is so excited at the new possibility of flight that he's compelled to fly a little too close to the sun like that one kid over in Plato‘s land. It appears this anachronistic contraption even comes equipped with a machine gun that unleashes solos like strafing runs. Don’t get too comfortable because it’ll come back around after the chorus. When the first harsh vocals appear, the wise old man has become a mad sorceror. You can’t help but hang on his every word because not only are the lyrics so engaging, but the very tone of his voice demands that you listen. Several minutes of headbanging and air-guitar bliss follow then the superb ending begins when the rhythm guitar reprises the chorus riff while the lead takes a violent low bend, similar to the effect Shelton uses in the chorus to symbolize the crack of lightning. Once he hits that howling note that starts the final speeding solo, he unleashes the banished shadow in the fawking black and all bets are off, brothers. All bets are off! If you've been sitting down the whole time you’ve been listening to this song then you can't not get up and headbang for this. It practically grabs you by the head and thrashes you to and fro like a long-overdue exorcism. Mark the Shark starts a feeding frenzy by channeling the dirty elements of Uli Jon Roth’s and Ritchie Blackmore‘s styles to just shred them strings like they done him wrong. The fury he throws at every note is more intense than even Yngwie's incendiary ascensions on “Far Beyond the Sun.” Yes, rock really is the strength of the soul and this song is proof. Good for infinite replays.
The bass intro of “Divine Victim” lets you take a breath, just one, before breaking into a fast march. The song is a good example of how Shelton’s voice has grown more confident with each album. From the debut, it was obvious he had a unique voice, but it seemed like he either didn’t know how to make the best use of it or he was too self-conscious about letting it go to the bizarre realms it was destined to go. I think that changed on Open the Gates and it was all uphill from there. I often compare him to Lemmy, but with less gruttle, more melody and flair to spare. Every vocal character he possesses is on display without hesitation including the angry Siamese cat screaming "Burn them all" in "Hammer of the Witches," a simple chorus reflecting the narrow minds of the persecutors in the lyrics. Then there’s the howling hawk in the early part of "Isle of the Dead" while the sparse drumming echoes like thunder off the surrounding cliffs.
You’ll hear similarities in the music throughout the album which I like when it’s part of a larger story as it is on The Deluge and not just the band running out of ideas. The mellow section from the middle of “Dementia” fittingly returns during the spoken-word section of “Friction In Mass,” the title and lyrics of which could refer to the character's impending psychotic break as well as to the impending fall of Atlantis. Being the second-to-last song of the album and the final song with lyrics, it’s like the character’s frantic attempt to hold on to his last bastion of sanity which he fears will lie resting in pieces on the ocean floor. Turns out he's right. Shelton uses every quirk of his voice to dramatize the spoken-word section and follows it up with his high vibrato vocal that seems to imply that the character is now quite mad and proud of it.
If you like Manilla Road’s ‘80s contemporaries like Candlemass and Fates Warning then you need to listen to this album if you haven’t already. It has conceptual lyrics and heavy melodic riffs mixed with moments of both doom and speed, plus astounding cover art that, if turned into a stage set for this tour, could have rivaled Iron Maiden‘s World Slavery stage set as I imagine an animatronic Poseidon razing Atlantis while also knocking over the amplifiers, the drum set and nearly falling on the first few rows of the crowd at some point. The Deluge is an album I recommend to any fan of classic metal, power metal or the esoteric metalheads who'll listen to any genre as long as there's a strong concept. You'll find all that here.
There was a clear evolution in Manilla Road's sound that was first evidenced when their masterpiece "Crystal Logic" hit the metal underground, and they would follow it up with an equally amazing record in "Open the Gates," and only a year later they would release their fifth full-length in "The Deluge." Much like the albums that preceded this record, there was still an ongoing evolution to the band's sound and if you recognize the year this record was released then it should come to no surprise that "The Deluge" embraced the rapidly rising aesthetics of the thrash subgenre to essentially deliver an awesome album that carried on the epic style from its predecessors while injecting a sizable dose of thrashy goodness, without forsaking any of the tenets of what made Manilla Road's earlier output so damn good. It would definitely be a stretch to consider this material thrash, but more along the lines of what the early US power metal bands (Omen, Jag Panzer, Attacker, etc) were doing, incorporating fantasy-themed lyrics with faster and heavier riffs than typical heavy metal bands.
Much like "On the Gates," Randy "Thrasher" Foxe lived up to his nickname again on "The Deluge." The opening track "Dementia" immediately showcases the man's intense and sporadic drumming which contributed greatly to Manilla Road's faster and heavier sound. Shelton also took pleasure in kicking the tempo up a notch, delivering thrashy riff after riff. One of the band's most memorable songs "Divine Victim" has upbeat riffs that are incredibly catchy, almost reminiscent of thrash acts like Anthrax or (early) Overkill, not to mention one of Shelton's best solos (and this man has a lot of 'em). "Taken By Storm" doesn't have any complicated structures or span 7-8 minutes, but its the perfect example of what Manilla Road accomplished with this album; it consists of mainly midpaced to fast riffs, yet it still retains the epic vibe that songs like "Witches Brew" or "Crystal Logic" had. "Hammer of the Witches" also proves to be one of Shelton's heaviest tunes yet, featuring crushing riffs and a stellar chorus that shouts "Burn them all!" in his signature voice, which proves to be just as strong as ever, even showing slight improvements from "Open the Gates."
And how could there be a Manilla Road album without a ton of solos and clean interludes? "Shadows in the Black" features Shelton's more soothing vocal stylings over the clean guitar before it eventually turns into another thrashy onslaught, while "Isle of the Dead" uses the clean guitar tone for a more sinister atmosphere that conveys the title of the track tremendously. Then there's the brilliant title track that lives up to the epic songs that came before it, as Shelton conjured up some jaw-dropping solos, magnificent vocals and plenty of memorable riffs that were executed flawlessly. The album closer "Rest in Pieces" is a wicked shredding piece that only furthers Shelton's legacy as a god with the guitar. While "The Deluge" is a notch or two below "Crystal Logic" and "Open the Gates," its still an incredible record worth the time of any Manilla Road fan, and it ranks up there with some of the best metal records released in 1986.
"Hammer of the Witches"
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine.
In 1985, Manilla Road released their fourth album, Open the Gates, which introduced elements of thrash metal into their music for the first time. 1986's The Deluge is crunchier, darker, and heavier than Open the Gates, and the thrash influence is even more prevalent. However, since their debut album, Invasion, Mark Shelton had been taking the band in a more and more aggressive direction with each album; the advent of thrash metal almost could have been a coincidence. Although certainly influenced by thrash, Manilla Road was always going to play their own style of music, regardless of what anyone else was doing, and The Deluge is a fine example of this.
Everything here sounds sharper than it did on the last album; Shelton opts to make liberal use of the raspy screams we've heard only infrequently in the past, and even his clean singing sounds a bit less warm and more sinister than it did on Open the Gates. The guitar tone is a vast improvement over OtG's as well, with the riffs crisp and up front, rather than muffled and murky as they were previously. As for the songwriting, it's significantly more coherent and more concise than we saw on OtG. Most of the songs are only around three minutes long, and, rather than overuse a riff until it becomes dull, they get right to the point, letting the musical ideas continue only as long as necessary before moving on. Additionally, there are very few poor ideas here, and although that could be said of most Manilla Road albums, this is even more consistent than usual.
"Dementia" is a dark, turbulent, angry maelstrom of ideas, which, from the great opening riff to the killer solo with some of Mark's best screams, never fails to disappoint; the progression of ideas feels very organic, and all the ideas are excellent. "Shadows in the Black" is a bit of an oddball for the album, clocking in at over five minutes, but that can be explained by the somber, reflective intro, which perfectly captures a feeling of puzzlement and wonder - not for the last time on this album, evoking thoughts of the ocean, fitting with the title The Deluge. It eventually becomes a very thrashy number with particularly good leads, which quickly build tension into the chorus, which again almost evokes a maelstrom. There's not a single bad idea in this song, either.
"Divine Victim" is probably the weakest song here, but it's definitely not bad. It merely isn't as powerful or coherent as the rest of the album, evoking an almost carefree atmosphere that wouldn't be amiss on Crystal Logic. The ideas are good, but unfortunately they tend to feel a bit overused. Still, definitely solid, catchy, and worth listening to. "Hammer of the Witches" is again dark and angry, the fast, punchy riffs of the verses quickly exploding into the enraged, malicious chorus. "BURN THEM ALL!!!!!!" The vocals from Shelton here are fantastic, fitting the song perfectly. Although there aren't many ideas here, the ones here are executed excellently. "Morbid Tabernacle" is a suspenseful, ominous instrumental with layered synths, which is the perfect prelude to "Isle of the Dead", making the listener feel as though he's traveling through forbidden territory to some dark, unspeakable place, which, it turns out, is the "isle of the Dead". This song opens out with a strange, ominous riff that indeed makes one feel as those he's passed into some half-real, murky section of water that's half in the underworld. The rest of the song is great too, maybe the darkest one here, with the huge, evil riffs and Shelton's macabre vocals leaving nothing to be desired. This is one of the catchiest numbers too, and it's often hard not to sing along during the chorus. "The fires buuurn, blood-reeeed, upon the, ISLE OF THE DEEEEAAAAAD!!!!"
"Taken by Storm" starts off with a bang, with some familiarly macabre and aggressive vocal lines from Shelton. Shelton is really the spotlight throughout the song, although the riffs are great as usual. This is fast, catchy, and one of the thrashiest things here - and, as with the rest of the album, is consistently great. The title track is a beast all its own, while still fitting into the style of the rest of the album. The opening riff is ominous, wistful, mystical, and almost mournful at the same time; along with the lyrics evoking thoughts of some ancient, unknown land of a terrible magic long forgotten. We then get more riffs, which are monumental enough to dwarf many of the others we've already heard. They're dark, plodding, and majestic all at the same time. Not to mention the entire song has that aquatic feel I mentioned earlier, accented particularly by Shelton's slightly murky vocals, which evoke the sense that he's singing from Atlantis itself. The entire thing just builds up throughout its duration, like Atlantis's rise to power, finally climaxing and then fading away with a familiarly ominous outro, the sound of waves making the listener feel as though all of Atlantis's majesty is now washed away, although whether or not it's still out there somewhere, hidden to man , is unknown.
"Friction in Mass", although perhaps dwarfed by the title track, is one of the best songs here, and probably the thrashiest, creating a strange, chaotic, arcane atmosphere, as though some great war of magic is currently in progress, or as though Shelton has found some hidden secret which unlocked to him a deadly world better left undiscovered. Particularly of old is the ominous acoustic section where Shelton dramatically speaks the lyrics, as though he's narrating a tale of an ancient conflict of powerful magic. Despite being over six minutes, this is as consistent as the rest of the album. Finally we have the short instrumental "Rest in Pieces", which has speedy, chaotic dual leads that not only demonstrate guitar mastery, but are also tasteful enough that it doesn't feel like pointless showing off, as there's quite a bit going on here despite the brevity. Overall, this is simply an excellent album. Is it the best Manilla Road album? It's hard to say, as others are very consistent and concise as well, but it's certainly one of the best. To any fan of Manilla Road, epic metal, or thrash metal, I'd say give this album a try, you won't be disappointed.
Shadow Kingdom Records has reissued the classic Manilla Road album The Deluge, which was originally released way back in the ancient artifact days of 1986. If you’re not familiar with Kansas’ Manilla Road, allow me to give you all the insight you’ll need to engage the band that has been heavier-than-thou since 1977. In terms of the true definition of power metal these guys are the textbook case, along with early Manowar, Helloween and Stormwitch. Long before it became a keyboard-laden travesty, true epic power metal was just this brand of music, and The Deluge provides a fine blueprint. It’s a lesson in power metal, if you will.
Nineteen-Eighty-Six was a stellar year for music as we old farts will attest (most to our dying breath). Reign in Blood, Master of Puppets, Obsessed by Cruelty and Peace Sells…but Who’s Buying? all hit that year as the top metal surprises, while a slew of unknown or lesser-known bands scratched their way along the heap with little or no recognition. Manilla Road is definitely one of the bands that are legendary in their own right even if vast commercial success has largely eluded them. Coming off the absolutely amazing effort in 1985’s Open the Gates, The Deluge is rife with some truly magical metal moments. While honing the power metal skills to a fine point, the album also finds itself wrapped in the comfortable blankets of ‘lite’ thrash, controlled speed and NWOBHM; all of these elements bandied about in one record are sure to cultivate any true metalhead in search of something old to make new again.
Vocalist/guitarist Mark Shelton at times resembles a calmer David Wayne (“Isle of the Dead”) or even John Cyriis (“Friction in Mass”) sans high pitched vocal, all the while ceremoniously entrancing the listener with a singing style that can only be described as late 70’s hypnotic. He achieves this by means of an even, lower register that only lulls momentarily because Shelton can hit some highs when necessary, though he doesn’t need to rely on it. His tone fits the music perfectly and is as comfortable as it is memorable. While each song on this record is of tremendous quality, the end jam is a perfect complement to the strength of the collective. This album has already found its way into my player half a dozen times be it in the car or here in the dungeon. The traditional metal sound is alive and well and found within ten strong tracks on this latest opus in a long line of epic albums. I’ll be honest, I’ve heard most of the band’s discography over the years and I can seriously say there isn’t one clunker in the bunch, and from me that really says something! The Deluge provides a wonderful listening jaunt back to a time when the metal was pure, the limitations are nil and the road was open and for the taking.
The album dates itself only in that when these musical ideas were first implemented the metal spectrum was a much wider entity, but in that regard there is absolutely nothing here that makes this album seem out of sorts by being 25-years old. With the recent foray back into all things traditional these days, Manilla Road might finally capture some of the glory its baser contemporaries are enjoying because, bar none, they were in the sand first and built the bigger castle.
(Originally written for www.MetalPsalter.com)
If you have yet to hear a Manilla Road album, refer to the first paragraph of my review for Open the Gates. Otherwise, read on.
Manilla Road’s long career can be divided up into three more-or-less distinct periods. The first three albums, Invasion through Crystal Logic, constitute the first of these; this period is typified by an NWOBHM and 70s rock sound, and less aggression than would come later. Shelton also harmonized his vocals with multi-tracking occasionally; this would disappear almost entirely after Crystal Logic. The second period begins with Open the Gates and ends with the band’s breakup following The Courts of Chaos, and is defined by thrash influence, which steadily grew just as the older influences dwindled; Manilla Road’s sound grew correspondingly darker. Shelton also started using his harsher vocal style more and more often as the decade wore on. Another defining trait is drummer Randy “Thrasher” Foxe, who pounds his way through the second half of the 80s in his manic, muscular style. Finally we have the third period, which begins with the band’s reformation for Atlantis Rising and continues until the present day. Aside from a generally more modern feel (in the drumming style and production especially), their latest sound strikes me as an amalgamation of the first two periods; the thrash influence, though still noticeable, is far less prevalent than on The Courts of Chaos, and some definitely dated-sounding riffs and melodies (the good kind of dated) crop up now and then. New for the band on these albums are backing vocals, courtesy of Brian “Hellroadie” Patrick; the upcoming Voyager is apparently an exception, as he was out of the band at the time of its recording, but he’s back now. Also, there’s something that can only be described as a slight touch of death metal that occasionally pops up here and there in the vocal and riffing style. Of course Manilla Road’s periods have plenty of other traits that could be pointed out and discussed, but I’ve kept this list to some of the simpler and more obvious ones. When discussing a genre as complex and convoluted as metal, a degree of simplification is often very helpful in understanding it, as long as you’re careful not to go too far. Anyway, as the title of the review states, The Deluge is the pinnacle of Manilla Road’s middle period.
This album differs from and improves upon the previous album, Open the Gates, in a number of ways. Immediately obvious, even before you hear it, is that for the first time Manilla Road actually managed to get an album cover that is both professional and coherent! A pissed-off Poseidon is rising out of the waves to smash Atlantis, and I can genuinely say I like it for its own sake. Drink it in, folks; this is a rare treat indeed. The next and more significant difference is that there are no weak songs on The Deluge, and there are two main reasons behind that. First, Manilla Road really mastered writing short, catchy numbers in their new thrash-influenced style; while the two short tracks on the previous album were failures, on this one there are more of them and they’re all very good. Second, here again Manilla Road put an “intermission” in the middle of the album, as on the last two; however, instead of the corny-but-fun “Feeling Free Again” or the derivative and boring “Heavy Metal to the World”, they wisely opt for a short keyboard instrumental piece. It manages to be both relaxing and entertaining while it lasts, which isn’t long. A final important difference between this album and the previous is that the thrash influence is better incorporated. What I mean by that is, there are fewer riffs on this album that I can point to as definitely thrash, but there are also fewer that I can point to as definitely not thrash. This serves to make the album much more consistent and coherent than Open the Gates was, and thus more successful when viewed as a whole. In this respect The Deluge is closer to Crystal Logic, where the songs flow into one another wonderfully (with the exception of one awkward transition, which I’ll get to later).
The album kicks off with “Dementia”, which does away with the intros of the previous albums and gets things going right away with a furious riff assault. In my opinion it’s not quite as strong or memorable as the second half of “Metalstorm” from Open the Gates, but it’s certainly not bad by any means. The demented laughing is a very cool touch, I must add. It speaks loads to this album’s quality that a song like this is one of the weaker ones, and its only real failing is not being as fantastic and legendary as the rest. “Shadows in the Black” is one of “the rest”. It starts off with a soft melodic intro, like “Astronomica” did on the last album; this one goes for the same effect, and even manages to achieve comparably excellent results with it (all the more amazing considering how amazing “Astronomica” is). Everything is just exactly where it ought to be, from the atmospheric intro to the fist-pumping, incantation-like chorus.
“Divine Victim” is the first of the album’s short, catchy numbers I mentioned earlier; it’s straight to the point, and has hooks big enough to land a whale. From the perspective of the album’s pacing, it was very smart to put this one after the dense “Shadows in the Black”. Following it is “Hammer of the Witches”, another of these types, and I’d say the best. It’s the shortest and the catchiest, and I dare you not to sing along with the chilling chant of “BURN THEM ALL!” Considering Manilla Road’s penchant for writing long, drawn-out numbers, I was very surprised to find these to be so concise; they say exactly what they need to, repeat their handful of vocal melodies and riffs just enough times to satisfy but not enough to bore, hit you with a guitar solo, and BAM, that’s it. They provide a very welcome counterpoint to the more lengthy pieces, and I’d say even make them more enjoyable by throwing them into relief. While it was this short, catchy type of song that was missing from the previous album, it is ironically the longer, epic type that is missing from the next; both albums suffer as a result, but The Deluge has the best of both worlds.
Now it’s time for the intermission with “Morbid Tabernacle”, a short, evil-sounding keyboard intermission courtesy of Randy “Thrasher” Foxe, which does some generic atmospheric organ things. It reminds me somewhat of a King Diamond intro, minus the narration; it’s not much to speak of by itself, but when viewed in the context of the album it’s a fine break from the fury of ”Hammer of the Witches”, and allows for a bit of a breather in the middle (and trust me, you’ll need it). Next up is the last of the short catchy songs with “Isle of the Dead”, a great ditty about a tropical island with a gate to hell on it, which is populated by undead and apparently where blasphemous sailors go. Only Manilla Road comes up with this stuff and can make it work, folks. In the verses, the alternation between the clean singing and snarling is great, and the short singsong chorus is cool too, but that bridge vocal melody (“Black gate to Niflheim, the bells of Hell still chime!”) is just fantastic and the best part of the song. I’d rank this song a bit above “Divine Victim” but a tad below “Hammer of the Witches” in quality, but all three are excellent. Now, “Taken by Storm” is pretty short too, but unfortunately this one suffers a bit from placement; it’s short like the previous three songs, but rather than catchy it’s dense, even by Manilla Road’s standards. For the longest time my attention just tended to wander during the second half, but now after many subsequent close listens, I can definitely say that this is a damn fine song. Be warned, though, that this song has a tendency to fall through the cracks if you’re not careful (somewhat like “The Ram” from Crystal Logic, though for different reasons). Highlights are the furious riffwork and Shelton’s screeching, which capture the fury of the storm quite well, and serve as a foreshadowing of the title track. As far as I can tell, the lyrics are also a lead-up to what happens in “The Deluge”, but as with most Manilla Road songs, the lyrics are hard to decipher. However, “the Tyrant King opens the Eye” definitely seems to refer to the Eye of the Sea, which when opened brings on Poseidon’s wrath and the destruction of Atlantis in the next song.
And so finally we come to “The Deluge”, which is both the title track and requisite Manilla Road album epic rolled into one; to say my expectations were a bit high would be like saying Jerry Fogle plays the guitar pretty well. Luckily, all expectations are met and then some; this song is just a behemoth, and the best one on the album. More than that, even; it’s definitely a contender for best Manilla Road song ever. It’s split up into three parts, consisting of an intro, the body of the song, and an outro. The first part, “The Eye of the Sea”, is a great softer bit with clean guitar and gentle vocals, which lasts about a minute until Shelton belts out the title; the aggression of the song is then unleashed, along with one of the best guitar solos to ever spring from his fingers and some particularly inspired drumwork courtesy of Foxe (who is even better than usual throughout the whole song, I might add). After it’s done, “The Drowned Lands” opens with a great pounding riff, which leads into the phenomenal verses that are topped by some of Shelton’s best soaring vocals. The second riff of this section especially is just so sinister and perfect; it’s one of the greatest Manilla Road has ever written. I can’t stress enough how well this song captures the various moods the lyrics convey, from the fury of the sea to the grandeur of Atlantis (“where pyramids first rose and sank to their graves!”). The whole thing, particularly the solos, also has a profoundly sad undertone that mourns the destruction of Atlantis’s beauty. In the second guitar solo that comes after the verses this is most apparent, and you can effortlessly picture the spires and pyramids of Atlantis toppling and being swallowed by the waves. Finally comes the third section, “Engulfed Cathedral”, which is a clean guitar part with understated percussion, accompanied by the relaxing sound of waves. The ocean returns to tranquility, with nothing to suggest Atlantis was ever there. The instruments drop out, and Shelton utters “after me, the deluge”, and all we hear are the waves and the cathedral’s bell tolling down in the depths. The atmosphere is so powerful and complex that every time I listen to “The Deluge” I always have to stop the album for a few minutes after the song is over and just reflect on the sheer greatness of it all.
Last of the actual songs is “Friction in Mass”, which is a pretty aggressive piece, and unfortunately also fairly uneven. It’s definitely not bad, and in certain places here and there I’d even call it great, especially some of the soaring vocal melodies; however, after the previous leviathan of a track, this one comes off a bit anticlimactic with some parts that are markedly less inspired. The spoken-word section stands out as the worst offender; though it gets pretty cool near the end, there’s still a good 30 seconds there where it’s just plain boring and unnecessary. Luckily immediately afterwards there’s a cool duet between the lead guitar and vocal melody, which is one of the best parts of the song, and partially makes up for the previous bit. I can’t help but wonder if another, better song shouldn’t have traded places with this one; it wouldn’t be as much of a letdown if it were in the middle somewhere and not right after the best track of the album. Still, though, it’s not at all a failure, and some parts are quite excellent.
Ending the album is a short instrumental, which basically consists of (at least) three guitars going nuts and soloing simultaneously for almost two minutes; it’s pretty damn awesome. Also, it ends The Deluge the same way the previous two albums ended, with multi-tracked solos fading out. A weird robot voice says a couple words after that, but if you can understand what they are then you’ve got better ears than I do. Anyway, despite the small criticisms I’ve leveled against it so as not to be too one-sided, The Deluge is a very strong album, and even the weakest songs on here (“Dementia” and “Friction in Mass”) are still very good. The short, catchy songs are all excellent, and “Shadows in the Black” is great too, but the one that propels the album above the others is definitely the title track.
One interesting thing I’ve noticed after years of listening to Manilla Road is that there seems to be some coherent, private mythology they’re referring to in the lyrics. Beyond the obvious liberal mixing of all sorts of myth and legend, there are some repeated references to certain things which seem like they ought to be understood without necessitating explanation, as if it were Avalon or Mjolnir or something every respectable heavy metal fan ought to know about. The one in particular that’s been bugging me is “The Well” they’re always referring to. It would seem to be either Mimir’s Well of Knowledge or the Well of Wyrd, both from Norse mythology, but where one makes sense the other doesn’t, and vice versa. It would seem to be the former that is mentioned in the title track from Crystal Logic, as the ignorant persecutors will “never drink from The Well.” In “The Fires of Mars” on Open the Gates, however, it seems to be the Well of Wyrd; this Well is the one that waters Yggdrasil’s roots, and demons poisoning it would seem to be in line with the forces of evil that try to kill the tree in Norse mythology. On “Friction in Mass” from this album, we seem to be back to the Well of Knowledge, as drinking from it brings knowledge of ancient things; but the “Knights of The Well” referred to in “Taken by Storm” are anybody’s guess. Of course all that is assuming I’m actually right about what wells the songs are referring to; they’re never actually mentioned by name, though the traits described seem to indicate I’m right. There are many more mentions of “The Well” and other such ambiguous things across Manilla Road’s albums, and I could go on for pages about the quirks of the band’s lyrics, but by the time I finished no one would be reading (except for perhaps mythology geeks like me). Another neat thing about the lyrics is they often make references to other Manilla Road songs; for example, “Friction in Mass” mentions “The Fires of Mars”, which is of course a song on Open the Gates, and other such references abound. Check “Children of the Night” from their next album for a song that references both The Well and “The Ninth Wave”.
Manilla Road’s religious inclinations have always been murky, as well. On Crystal Logic, for example, they’re clearly anti-Satan and pro-god, but is it the Christian god they refer to? On the same album they definitely portray Odin in a positive light, and last I checked, Odin and Jesus don’t get along too well. Then we come to The Deluge, where we have some definite anti-Christian sentiments. “Divine Victim” seems to be about Joan of Arc, but the song mentions she is “another victim of Christianity”, which certainly seems to point towards a negative view of the religion (or what Christians have done with it, anyway). Direct references aside, Manilla Road definitely do not seem to espouse Christian ideals; though their message is definitely a positive one (on the earlier albums more obviously than on later ones), it revolves around a return to traditional pagan ways rather than anything biblical. Not to say that Mark Shelton actually worships Odin or anything; I’m certain it’s a metaphor, rather than meant to be taken literally. Just as Satan is often used by black metal as a symbol of free thought and rebellion against authority, Odin and mythology in general are metaphors for a return to non-Christian ideals of strength, honor, and independence, rather than the meekness of Christian sheep or modern materialism and avarice. The fall of Atlantis’s glory is brought on by man’s short-sighted greed, and its majestic beauty sinks beneath the waves, never to rise again…well, at least until 2001’s Atlantis Rising.
Manilla Road – “The Deluge”
I was always appalled by the fact that there were no reviews for this album. So here I go…
After releasing the incredible Crystal Logic in 1983 and the excellent follow-up Open the Gates two years later, Mark Shelton and the gang present us with this album. In a sense, The Deluge can be viewed as an amalgam of the booming thrash scene of the 80s combined with the classic power metal sound found on Crystal Logic. Manilla Road had flirted with thrash on OtG, but they unleash it in full force here.
The band kicks off with the competent but otherwise unspectacular “Dementia.” It’s not bad, but it just doesn’t grab you by the balls like an album opener should. We are then lead into the nice clean intro of “Shadows in the Black,” which just so happens to be the best song on the album. Just when you think its going to be a ballad, it suddenly rips into all-out headbanging mania, complete with some intense riffage and mind-blowing solos. The leads on this entire album are fantastic. We then have a string of four thrashers, broken up by a weird little interlude. All come complete with some nice riffing (the end of “Hammer of the Witches”) and some great leads (“Divine Victim”). There’s really no filler to be found here, except maybe the interlude, which like most interludes, doesn’t really go anywhere.
Just when you think it couldn’t get any better, here come the second-best track on the album, “The Deluge.” This eight minute epic is divided into three parts, with a slow buildup, a riff-tastic middle part with some catchy vocal lines, and a gentle acoustic outro accompanied by the sound of crashing waves. Oh yeah, and some great solos too, but you knew that already. The follow-up, “Friction in Mass,” is good, but it seems a little dragged out. Finally, “Rest in Pieces” is an outro piece, which sounds like the solo section from “Divine Victim,” except on crack.
This album is pretty much a no-brainer. If you’re a Manilla Road fan, or a power-thrash fan, then you need this album. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly hard to find. If you can get a copy, then by all means do so. If not, then at least do yourself a favor and find the mp3s.