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Review: Manilla Road - Gates of Fire
Manilla Road
Gates of Fire

Label: Battle Cry Records
Year released: 2005
Duration: 72:12
Tracks: 9
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: October 15, 2005
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Gates of Fire

Rated 4.34/5 (86.82%) (44 Votes)

This here is one of the releases I have been anticipating all year long. After "Spiral Castle" MR went into seclusion again, as Mark Shelton became embroiled in a difficult divorce, and there was doubt as to whether the Road would survive. But late last year rumors of this album surfaced, and now, finally, we have the Eleventh (or Twelfth, if you count "Mark Of The Beast") album from one of my very favorite bands. As expected, this is different from "Spiral Castle" - less melodic and odd, but is still definitely in the MR vein.

You want epic? How about 72 freakin' minutes of metal? How about a tripartite concept album with trios of songs that are longer than whole albums produced by other bands? The "Out Of The Ashes" trilogy alone is like 32 minutes long. This thing is so epic it's ridiculous, and as you would expect, does not enthrall through every moment, but it does manage most. Highlights include the beautiful acoustic "Behind The Veil", the thundering riff-monster "The Fall Of Iliam" and the stomping doom-laden "Rome". "Stand Of The Spartans" is one of the shorter songs here, but also one of the strongest, and the power ballad "Epitaph To The King" closes things out grandly, even finishing on a reprise of the main riff from MR classic "The Ninth Wave" as a grace note. There are weaker tracks, like "When Giants Fall" and "Imperious Rise", but even at their weakest the Road still wields untold might. The guitar tone is sharper than ever, and also heavy as Hell. I don't like the drum production as well - it seems too dry, and the high-hat sounds thin. But the acoustic guitar tone is almost exactly like the one used on Fates Warning's "Awaken The Guardian", so that's cool. Mark Shelton's voice doesn't have the power it used to, but frontman "Hellroadie" makes up for that, belting out the roaring vocal lines like a bronze giant. Mark mostly kicks in for the chorus, or the more melodic parts. "Behind The Veil" is a special treat, as it's just him and his guitar, nothing else. And he proves that he's still a master of haunting melodies and poetic lyrics.

Battle Cry records really went all the way for the packaging, and the album looks great. The artwork is a little amateurish, as always, but the design and layout are killer, and all the great lyrics are included.

"Gates Of Fire" is obviously an attempt to bridge the 'old' and 'new' Manilla Road, keeping the idiosyncracies and underground mystery of the old days, while still making use of a more modern production job and keeping a more accessible songwriting approach. The album succeeds winningly at this, and will be a treat for both old and new fans of the band. Both an homage to past glories and a step into a new life, "Gates Of Fire" is a more than worthy addition to the band's body of works.

Track Listing:

    Trilogy 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter

  1. Riddle Of Steel
  2. Behind The Veil
  3. When Giants Fall
  4. Trilogy 2: Out Of The Ashes

  5. The Fall Of Iliam
  6. Imperious Rise
  7. Rome
  8. Trilogy 3: Gates Of Fire

  9. Stand Of The Spartans
  10. Betrayal
  11. Epitaph Of The King
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