F U L L . R E V I E W S
Manilla Road has once again forged another classic, epic, traditional sounding record with their latest release, "Voyager". Mega, major kudos has to go Mark "The Shark" Shelton for toiling away at a musical career that hearkens back to the late 70's and never got the exposure it deserved, nor will it with "Voyager", now the band's fourteenth studio effort. And why not? I really can't tell you, as straight up, old school, no-frills heavy metal seems to be a bit in vogue right now, and Manilla Road having always done it that way, being damn good at it to boot. "Voyager" is no exception, and seeing as it's been out approximately six months now, with nary a blip on the metal radar, it seems that once again the guys are doomed to the confines of the underground.
This time out, Mark Shelton has written a concept album revolving around a group a Vikings displaced by their home country due to religious persecution. Frankly, Viking legends, mythology, and history is now so overdone in metal it's really becoming cheesy, this proliferation of Nordic paganism now reaching critical mass, the same way Tolkien and Lord of the Rings themes weighted down the power metal genre at the turn of the millennium. But, the story aside, let's address what counts, the music.
The album opens with a Viking prayer, then sets sail with the glorious, hard-charging "Butchers of the Sea", followed up by "Frost and Fire", which keeps their craft roaring at full-mast, before the respite of "Tree of Life", an eight minute balladic epic with an instantly memorable melody. "Blood Eagle" is up next, and then comes the title track, a majestic saga that really makes you feel like you're traveling the open seas. "Eye of the Storm" is another quiet, acoustic contemplator before a few old school death vocals open up track seven, "Return of the Serpent King", again a grandiose and long track with more of "the shark's" ancient sounding soloing. Huge riffs carry this monster along to the next song, "Conquest", which again, finds Mark singing with deep, guttural contempt, a nice contrast to his strangely ethereal and loveable high-pitched yelp. This is the speediest song on the album and at four and a half minutes, is the shortest as well. In closing, we get "Totentanz (The Dance of Death)", and for the fifth time, this song hits or passes the eight minute mark. Classic riffs abound and bound around port as the "Voyager" throws anchor, satisfied with its successful mission.
Manilla Road have once again given us 80s underground dwellers something to pine for, remembering bands like Omen, Helstar, Heavy Load, or Jag Panzer. If this kind of metal is your (dime)bag, do yourself a favor and pick up "Voyager", or one of any others by these long-running underground stalwarts, you're sure not to be disappointed.
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