Manilla Road – The Deluge (1986)
Remember this one? No? Manilla Road remains fairly obscure, although well regarded in the days of the internet and what is generally seen to be a good comeback. On the other hand, Crystal Logic is their most famous album. Maybe it’s also their best, I have shockingly yet to listen to it. Needless to say, if that album is any good, The Deluge is the second peak in the band’s discography, essentially sharing that spot with its thrashier and better produced successor, Mystification. This one is generally described as being somewhere between traditional ’80s metal and thrash, with a healthy dose of progressive rock influence thrown in.
Two tracks show this off in a fairly “diverse” fashion. First, “Shadows in the Black” combines two discrete sections – the first being slow and clean electric guitar driven, and the second being fast and “heavy”. Obviously this has been done to death in metal, even by 1986, but knowing this is key to understanding the band’s approach during this period. The second, heavier part of the song remains fairly melodic, but includes more use of conventional dissonance (augmented intervals in the riffs and vocals), triplet rhythms, and so forth. It does not get as fast as even some of the “Big Four” of thrash metal did in their songs. In short, not so much boundary crossing as boundary riding. The title track near the end of the album similarly straddles these boundaries, and follows the same structure. “The Deluge”, however, expands the formula further, employing more musical elements, containing more sections and riffs that differ from each other further. Either way, it combines sections that wouldn’t be out of place on a normal progressive rock album with some that would fit power/thrash, and occasionally combines the two approaches within a section; in short Manilla Road does not stop at basic genre mixing.
Other songs on this album, however, are generally shorter and more intense in general, so they rarely have the time to go as far into the realm of prog as the album’s “epics”. On the other hand, they emphasize atmosphere, despite their overall more metallic approach. I’ve noticed that this band has a few recurring riffs and riff types that appear frequently throughout their discography, and indeed this album. Here, the repeats are used to unify the songs somewhat – lyrically they already involve a great deal of mysticism, but by linking the songs (although The Deluge is not a concept album) the band basically sets its own mood. The vocals help – Mark Shelton is known for his distinctive, nasally tones, but instead of making the album sound amateurish, he uses it to strengthen this “atmosphere”. Perhaps what makes the band so beloved in cult circles is that they don’t sacrifice the quality of their metal elements (riffs, solos, drumming, that sort of thing) in order to create the effect. Lots of bands fail and lots of other bands succeed, of course, but that doesn’t diminish this one’s success. The rest of the band’s discography showcases this ambition towards atmospherics; how well Manilla Road succeeded (or occasionally didn’t, admittedly) depended on how well they balanced their tendencies towards the epic with their tendencies towards being a metal band. Again, whether The Deluge is the peak of the band’s discography or not depends on my appraisal of an album I’ve yet to listen to…
The writer’s disembodied spirit was soon found in a necropolis, where it requested a phylactery.
Highlights: “Shadows in the Black”, “Isle of the Dead”, “The Deluge”, “Friction in Mass”