|Review: Manilla Road - Mark Of The Beast|
|Mark Of The Beast|
Label: Monster Records
Year released: 2003
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: February 29, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
for:Mark Of The Beast
Rated 4.26/5 (85.26%) (38 Votes)
This is the 'lost' Manilla Road album, originally entitled "Dreams Of Eschaton". Recorded in 1981 and meant to be the second release after the debut EP "Invasion", the band decided that the recordings (production and performance-wise) were not good enough to release and scrapped them. With the modern resurge of interest in Manilla Road and the re-pressing of all their back catalog, the band finally gave permission for Monster Records to officially release these prehistoric tracks as "Mark Of The Beast".
I have previously said that "Spiral Castle" is the weirdest MR album, but it doesn't hold a candle to this one. "Mark-" sounds like the band that recorded that album got really, really stoned and recorded this one. I can see why the band decided this was not the direction they wanted to go in, as this is a big step away from the straight-up rock/metal of their debut EP. "Mark Of The Beast" is over an hour of wah-fueled 70's art-rock that sounds much more like ooooooold Rush or even Blue Oyster Cult, but even trippier. There are long acoustical passages and the songs in general are slow, mellow, and rather psychedelic. Starting with the epic murmur of the title cut, this album meanders through the entirely acoustic "Court Of Avalon" before we get to the slightly rockier "Avatar". As a whole this album never picks up any kind of speed, all the way through to the Nazareth-styled noodle "Venusian Sea".
Now just because this is weird and retro does not mean it isn't way cool, you just can't come into this CD expecting the kind of stomping, pedal-to-the-metal riff attacks the 'Road showed off on "Crystal Logic" and later albums. This is very 70's and very laid back, but it is still really cool. If you enjoy the band's slower and more inaccessible material, then this will be something you'll like, but it needs time. This album is one of those where you can listen to it ten times the day you get it and nothing will stick, but a month later you'll play it again and know every song as if you've always known them.
Fans of exclusively modern metal will not get this, and even fans of Manilla Road's more aggressive music will probably run screaming. But this is a strange yet spellbinding album, full of long, long songs filled with odd moments of beauty and haunting melody. Of all MR albums I have to say this is the least accessible, and yet, once you tune into it, this is the most affecting and transporting. It may take a long while to get into, but it is the most worth the effort. I cannot recommend this for the casual fan or mainstream metal fans, but if the description of this CD sounds interesting, then you might well give it a chance. It's worth it.
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