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Review: Manilla Road - Mysterium
Manilla Road
www.manillaroad.net
Mysterium

Label: Shadow Kingdom Records
Year released: 2013
Duration: 49:45
Tracks: 10
Genre: Heavy Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: February 27, 2013
Reviewed by: MetalMike
Readers Rating
for:
Mysterium

Rated 4.14/5 (82.86%) (35 Votes)
Review


I will admit that the score I gave Manilla Road's 2011 album, Playground of the Damned, was probably too high, due to my infatuation with the band after having been recently turned on to them by Sargon. In hindsight, a 3.5/5, instead of 4/5, would have been much more accurate. The production was weak and the songwriting too far from the formula that has served the band well for over 30 years. 2013's Mysterium seeks to put the Manilla Road train back on the rails and, in a lot of ways, does just that. The production is much better than on Playground, though still muddy, a Road hallmark. Thankfully, Mark Shelton and the band have gotten back to the up-tempo pacing that made early albums like Crystal Logic so much fun. "The Grey God Passes" and "Stand Your Ground" feature pounding Shelton guitars and solid rhythm backing from Josh Castillo (bass) and Neudi (drums). Bryan "Hellroadie" Patrick's vocals are OK but I much prefer when Shelton steps up to the mic. His voice has much more character. The first half of Mysterium is weaker than the second and even Shelton's voice can't make plodding tracks like "Hermitage" very interesting. Patience is a virtue, however, and as soon as "Only the Brave's" opening riff blasts out of your speakers you'll be throwing as many fists in the air as you can. "Hallowed Be Thy Grave" continues the guitar assault and has an equally catchy chorus. The songwriting of Mysterium hearkens back to the straightforward Heavy Metal approach of early Manilla Road albums while still exploring new ground. The beautifully simple ballad "The Fountain," just Shelton and his guitar, is followed by the creepy instrumental "The Calling" before the album closes with the epic title track. 11+ minutes of solid Manilla Road goodness.

Mysterium isn't going to replace Crystal Logic or Spiral Castle atop the Manilla Road discography, but it's a significant step up from Playground on the Damned. It serves notice that rumors of the band's demise were greatly exaggerated.

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