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Review: Manilla Road - The Courts Of Chaos
Manilla Road
The Courts Of Chaos

Label: Iron Glory
Year released: 1990
Duration: 58:13
Tracks: 13
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: December 18, 2003
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
The Courts Of Chaos

Rated 4.39/5 (87.89%) (38 Votes)

Seventh full-length release in the extensive MR back catalog, this one was released right as the metal tide was peaking, and unfortunately said tide went out rather quickly and took the 'Road with it. Now that we have the knowledge of Manilla Road's current renaissance to cheer us up, this can be seen for the excellent album it is.

It's easy to see why these guys got lost in the trend-obsessed metal wave of the early 90s. With death metal big, and grunge just around the corner, Mark Shelton and his boys went on making metal the way they had for over a decade, just as if the world outside Kansas didn't even exist. This is a quintessential Manilla Road album, with all the idiosyncrasies, noodling musicianship, and weird themes you would expect. There are some absolutely classic tracks on this CD. I love the weird intro bit with the moody keys leading into the trademark hammering riffs, then the monster stomp of "Dig Me No Grave" gets things going in fine style. "D.O.A." is the next tune, and I have to say it's one of those Manilla Road songs I just don't like as well. It isn't bad, but it goes on for seven minutes and it really isn't terribly exciting.

Fortunately next up is one of my all-time fave MR songs, the semi-titular "Into The Courts Of Chaos". This is the reason I love this band: the awesome riffing, the weird harmonic chords, the haunting vocal lines that will never get out of your head – this is an essential song for fans of the band. There are a few more good-but-not-great tunes like "From Beyond" and "A Touch Of Madness", then "Vlad The Impaler" gets your fists pumping again. A classic MR straight-up headbanger. "The Prophecy" is another epic, dirgey number of the sort that only this band can do. As is traditional, they close out the CD with a long, epic rumbler "The Books Of Skelos". Complex songwriting, great riffs, beautiful vocal melodies – what more does music need? Iron Glory seems to have a knack for picking lame bonus tracks, as the extra track is a live performance of a song I've never heard as a studio version. It's a good song, but I fucking hate live cuts on studio albums – it's just a cheap shot.

I'm sure progheads would love this band if they had pin-drop production and a castrated singer, but luckily Manilla Road have neither. This is the same sort of down and dirty recording style they have always had – not too clean, not too sharp. Very loose and 'underground' feeling. Mark Shelton's vocals are as always an acquired taste. As he travels between a gruff snarl and a nasal yet soulful wail you either go with him or you don't. I had to get used to his voice, but now I love it in a way I can neither deny nor articulate properly. He is simply the voice of Manilla Road.

For MR fans this is a no-brainer, as there are some stellar moments on here, songs as fine as the band has ever produced. The title track in particular is right up there with "Sea Witch", "Mystification" and "Spiral Castle" among the best songs they have ever done. If you have never heard this band, start with "Atlantis Rising" or "Mystification", as they are more accessible albums. And if you have never liked this band, then stay away, because this more amazing Manilla Road music that you will not get. But for those in the know: get this, it has songs you won't want to miss.

Track Listing:
  1. Road To Chaos
  2. Dig Me No Grave
  3. D.O.A.
  4. Into The Courts Of Chaos
  5. From Beyond
  6. A Touch Of Madness
  7. Vlad The Impaler
  8. The Prophecy
  9. The Books Of Skelos
  10. Far Side Of The Sun (Live Bonus Track)
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