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Review: Manilla Road - Playground of the Damned
Manilla Road
www.manillaroad.net
Playground of the Damned

Label: High Roller Records
Year released: 2011
Duration: 46:42
Tracks: 8
Genre: Doom Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: July 9, 2011
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers Rating
for:
Playground of the Damned

Rated 4.09/5 (81.85%) (65 Votes)
Review


I admit to being a new Manilla Road fan, only recently turning on to the band. As long time fans know, "getting" Manilla Road takes time so I was understandably excited to get a copy of the band's new album Playground of the Damned for review.

My first impression, upon hearing the opening track, "Jackhammer," was "this can't possibly be the final mix." The drums sound paper thin and there is relatively little bottom end. Assured by High Roller Records this is, in fact, the final mix, I pressed on. Who am I to question Mark Shelton's idea of what his album should sound like? What cannot be hidden by the, shall we say "eclectic," sound is the quality of the songs on Playground of the Damned. I will freely admit I prefer the unique vocals of Mark Shelton over Bryan Patrick, so tracks like "Fire of Ashurbanipal" and "Art of War," sung mainly by Shelton, jumped to the top of my playlist. Not that there is anything wrong with Patrick's low, slightly gravelly voice. He is a highlight on songs like "Into the Maelstrom" and "Brethren of the Hammer." He just doesn't set the songs apart from everything else the way Shelton does.

Playground of the Damned is full of the Epic/Doom Metal the band is known for and is, as you would expect, dense and thought provoking. The overall tempo is slow and heavy. Shelton does nothing less than 100%, so a dozen or so listens later and I'm still trying to work out some of the more esoteric themes in his lyrics (and I'm no genius when it comes to allegory, so I may be a while...) Even songs that didn't initially click for me, like "Grindhouse," and ode to the gory filmmaking style of the same name, has grown on me. Arching over everything is the guitar work of Shelton. His riffs drive the songs while his acoustic playing conveys the emotions of the softer, soul-searching passages. Finally, the man PLAYS his solos. He is not content to simply throw a bunch of hammer-ons or arpeggios in the middle of each song. Shelton takes the time to work out how each solo will sound as part of the song. They are a joy to hear.

I'm still not completely sold on the sound, but everything else about Playground of the Damned make this a more than worthy entry into the Manilla Road canon.

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