|Review: Manilla Road - The Blessed Curse|
|The Blessed Curse|
Label: Golden Core Records
Year released: 2015
Genre: Heavy Metal
Review online: November 6, 2015
Reviewed by: MetalMike
for:The Blessed Curse
For a band that's been around since the late 70s, Wichita, KS legends Manilla Road have been nothing if not active in recent years and 2015 brings us more quality Heavy Metal from the heartland of the United States in the form of The Blessed Curse. Like Iron Maiden's most recent release, The Book of Souls, The Blessed Curse is a double album featuring an album's worth of new material (The Blessed Curse) and a second full disc of songs from earlier in the band's career that never made it to prior albums (After the Muse). That's a lot of music and when you consider this is easily the band's best album in several years the reasons to get excited are plentiful.
The Blessed Curse disc by itself easily justifies the purchase price. Mark "The Shark" Shelton songwriting skills are like fine wine in that they get better with age. No one does "epic" quite like he does. "The Blessed Curse," the magnificent "Tomes of Clay" and the closer, "The Muses Kiss" showcase his ability to combine slower, moodier acoustic parts with faster, heavier sections to create songs that capture your attention. There's no shortage of anthemic tracks with "Kings of Invention" and "Reign of Dreams" standing tall. I prefer Shelton's voice over Bryan "Hellroadie" Patrick's and must admit that by the time "Luxifera's Light" and "Sword of Hate" roll around I start to lose interest a bit. These songs sound a lot like the preceding cuts and would be great if it weren't for there being a lot of other material on the album that sounds similar. Even with a bit of a lull toward the end the album is quality through and through. I have to say that I don't normally get excited about drums, unless they are poorly played, but Andreas "Neudi" Neuderth plays with such flair and feel that from his roto tom rolls on "The Blessed Curse" I found myself constantly impressed with how he elevates each song. The lyrics are equally "epic," covering topics from ancient civilizations to the relationship between religion and science.
The second disc, After the Muse, has some experimental stuff like the multi-layered "Life Goes On" and "In Search of the Lost Chord" along with a long-lost epic "All Hallows Eve" that is presented here in its original rehearsal form from 1981 featuring the "classic" Road line up of Shelton, Rick Fischer and Scott Parks along with a newly recorded version (2104) also featuring Fischer but with E.C. Hellwell on bass as Parks declined to participate. Both feature the band at a creative zenith with the 1981 demo version full of youthful enthusiasm and determination and the 2014 version full of confidence and skill. After the Muse feels like a "complete" album despite the varied origins of the songs it contains and while some run a bit long for my taste, writing it off as an afterthought couldn't be more misguided. Some of the band's influences can be heard in the classical guitars of "In Search of the Lost Chord" which sound like 2112/A Farewell to Kings-era Rush and the attempts by Shelton to build up an "orchestra" of guitars on "Life Goes On" the way The Moody Blues did on some their early albums. For and old fan of Rock like me these things bring a huge smile to my face every time I hear them.
The Blessed Curse is an amazing album from Manilla Road and watching the band sharply improve over the last few releases should make all fans of the band and Traditional/Epic Heavy Metal throw their fists in the air. Highly recommended.
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