The End Of The Road For Manilla Road Brings The Blessed Curse

The End Of The Road For Manilla Road Brings The Blessed CurseManilla Road, Sunday 11/23 circa 10:30pm @ Saint Vitus Bar played the following songs:

1. “Open The Gates”
2. “Masque of the Red Death”
3. “Death by the Hammer”
4. “Hammer of the Witches”
5. “Witches Brew”
6. “Only The Brave”
7. “Stand Your Ground”
8. “Far Side of the Sun”
9. “Road of Kings”
10. “Divine Victim”
11. “Queen of the Black Coast”
12. “The Ram”
13. “The Riddle Master”
14. “Flaming Metal Systems”
15. “Crystal Logic”
16. “Neropolis”
17. “Up From The Crypt”
18. “Street Jammer”

As’s editor I knew the significance of the gig Manilla Road were about to play Sunday night, November 23rd (2014). Arguably their most bountiful year since the glory days of the 1980’s decade, the band couldn’t have worn their smiles more overtly. The stalwart brainchild of the band, Mark Shelton would proceed to tear it up on guitar. His style hearkening back to Hawkwind, Michael Schenker, and even Tony I- ommi. His lead playing refreshingly devoid of the tricks that so-called virtuosos like to employ.

Visually the onstage Shelton brings to mind the one-and-only German lead guitarist, scorching solo artist and once-Scorpions band member Uli Jon Roth. After psyching up pre-show, the grey-pated — once red-haired — Shelton appeared on-stage, bedecked with a spiked headband crowning his head. The spiked and crowned Mark The Shark’s head glowed as blue light from around him served up an otherworldly halo during the Manilla Road concert. A trick of the light, but the meaning wasn’t lost on me that Heavy Metal history was being made.

The night before at the same venue, Saint Vitus Bar in New York City (The Big Apple picked expertly to host the last two gigs of their latest and greatest world tour), Manilla Road played to a packed house. Sunday night would pack ’em in just a wee bit more. Understandably, Saint Vitus Bar was the logical choice. The venue had just played host to the U.K.’s Raven successfully on Halloween in October. Check out my interviews with Raven’s John Gallagher here and Joe Hasselvander here.

Instead of 16 songs, Mark Shelton, who was heard to exclaim that he really wished the tour didn’t have to end — riding so high from playing in all sorts of places in the world — strategically going in essence where the band had not been in some time or at all (Scotland, Cyprus — to name two countries) to throngs numbering in the thousands at every turn; Shelton ultimately lead the band through 18 songs on this magic unforgettable night.

Mark “The Shark” Shelton shared the spotlight in the four piece unit with frontman Bryan Patrick, at one point (Shark) playing guitar behind his back to a sea of raised fists.

The sign of the horns were pumped into the air also, by a crowd so caught up in the molten heavy, loud rumble coming off the stage that they couldn’t help but stare at Bryan Patrick on vocals. Larger than life, transcending his own roughly 6-foot tattooed frame, strikingly invoking the presence of singer Paul Di’Anno in his glory days (with Iron Maiden) and curiously looking oddly a lot like a more youthful Curtis Sliwa of the Guardian Angels — a New York City citizen patrol group; Patrick stood at the lip of the stage, for a great part of the concert, in deep concentration. Other times he would retreat somewhere behind Mark Shelton, rear stage right. His impressive “pipes” oddly echoing the vocals of the leader himself, Mark Shelton on classic tunes from M. R. studio albums like “Crystal Logic”, “Mystification”, “The Deluge”, and “Open The Gates”. The re-released “Invasion” 2014 expanded compilation album also was visited. Patrick’s muscular body jerked in synchronization with the pounding beat. His blue do-rag caught the copious amounts of sweat off his brow.

The songs from the 2013 studio album “Mysterium” were belted out with the conviction of any of the older catalog numbers.

Heavy Metal, Doom Metal, Epic Metal, Fantasy Metal and even Death Metal and Thrash Metal are all contained in the music of Manilla Road, with a career span- ning 16 walloping studio albums so far since 1980. Manilla Road’s long journey began in earnest in 1977.

I sat down with Manilla Road for roughly 60 minutes before the show, yet they only spoke briefly concerning their forthcoming double album. Listen to that interview here. Shelton put an emphasis on the upcoming studio LP being a double album, which I take to means double-length, hopefully! It is called “The Blessed Curse” and fittingly is due out Friday the 13th of February 2015, and certainly promised to be their best yet. Though little was revealed besides a basic description, Mark Shelton did speak of “The Blessed Curse” carrying a double meaning.

I can’t forget also that Shelton will literally be at the helm in his studio in Kansas control- ling the whole project as this American Metal band puts the finishing touches on this blessed event.

As far as I could glean on “…Curse”: One is the “curse” of being a musically-inclined creator and how that urge has to be sated throughout a musician’s life, sort of like the average person’s need to breathe. Recording artists get the itch that spawns a new album creation 1-3 years on average. The other meaning will obviously be the story arc, and all and sundry will just have to wait till the album is unleashed upon the Metal masses to find that out.

Vocalist Patrick joked briefly on stage about the upcoming new one, playfully saying that it would make a great Valentine’s Day present.

And I say, why not? Your denim-and-leather clad partner will no doubt love it.

Bryan “Hellroadie” Patrick’s vocals may have made the band meaner and leaner, yet he defended my joust on this point during the pre-show, hour-long round table discussion with the band — by saying “but I’m a cool motherf*&ker!”

A song as far flung as the first song Mark The Shark ever wrote was foisted upon the reverent crowd that for the most part looked awestruck, for lack of a better word — the whole time Manilla Road were on the stage playing.

Manilla Road have traveled far and wide and are completely deserving of the rapturous reception that New York City gave them. They have persevered to the point where new fans are joining the ranks of the old crowd more and more with every passing day; the tour now, as I write this, in the can being a huge success overall. Teenagers have latched on to the sound of Manilla Road, joing the old vanguard of fans, knowing true heaviness and conviction when they hear it.

Note: One doesn’t simply check out Manilla Road, casually, on YouTube per se. No way. They are a band to be savored with their records playing on the turn- table while one studies the artwork and falls deeply in trance with the epic storytelling adventure of every song.

If I offer a M.R. album you can sink your teeth into, I recommend the concept LP from 2008, “Voyager”. I do wonder why however, being on offer at the merchandise table, why “Voyager has a sticker on the shrink-wrapped cover comparing this grand opus to the likes of Bathory and Candlemass. The comparison is without fair reason as M.R. are far far too original to draw any comparison to any band at all. They are, without exaggeration, one of a kind. Certainly not just on this particular studio platter.

For those who have admired the band for a long time and know their material quite well it was Heavy Metal heaven when Mark The Shark announced the song they were about to play from the “U.S. Metal III” compilation, “Flaming Metal Systems” — though unlike Saturday night, 11/22 — it wasn’t the opening number. Instead it was deep in the set list, just when the band who are HQed in Kansas U.S.A. were pulling out all their stops.

About “Flaming Metal Systems”, (my favorite Manilla Road song ever): It sounded as fresh as it did 30 years ago!

To fill out the rest of the M.R. quartet: Josh Castillo cut a commanding Rudy Sarzo-like presence on the stage. His bass guitar notes pounding like nails boring into a coffin lid. Andreas Neuderth, wearing eyeliner and sporting a copious amount of facial hair played the drums in an unique scissor-cutting manor that really uniquely compliments the originality quotient Manilla Road carry forth triumphantly.

– Rich Castle