Home > Music > Manilla Road – Spiral Castle (2002)

Manilla Road – Spiral Castle (2002)

folderManilla Road after 1990 or so is probably something of a caricature of its self. I might be hedging my bets, but in recent years, their traditional/doom elements have definitely been emphasized, tempos have gone down, song lengths have risen, and Mark Shelton found a doppelganger who can imitate his vocal style almost perfectly. On the other hand, if you’re into the epic side of the band, Spiral Castle is probably your favorite album of all time.

In many ways, Manilla Road’s decision to exaggerate themselves makes for a better album. For instance, Spiral Castle‘s production is one of the best they’ve ever had in their career, sometimes even outpacing that of Mystification for clarity and intensity. Furthermore, it builds off the atmospheric strengths of previous material, strengthening the impact that the most powerful and memorable riffs have on a listener. This trend also means that the band writes longer and more detailed songs. Admittedly, that’s not always a plus, and it backfired on them quite badly on this album’s successor (the horrifically overextended Gates of Fire), but here the band not only hits a sweet spot, but also leaves some room for more concise songwriting ala The Deluge. In this case, there’s more room for everyone to explore musical ideas as they see fit.

It’s worth noting that despite any expansions and exploration, Spiral Castle hews closer to the “epic heavy metal” sound Manilla Road became famous for. Their age of finger-blistering speed metal apparently ended with their breakup in 1990. In some ways, that’s unfortunate, mostly because Mystification and The Deluge both showcase the successful adaptation of more extreme metal variants’ technique. While you could make a case for the band’s new and more focused sound, this isn’t really that focused of an album; the extended song lengths make things meander more than they otherwise would. It’s also responsible for some of the later tracks on the album falling off in quality. “Throne of Lies”, in fact, was originally not included at the request of the record label and initially had to be downloaded separately, although recent pressings and editions of the album restore it, dubiously enough.

Still, there’s enough good material on this album to make it stand with the rest of the band’s discography. You’ll note that I’m not the type to disregard an album for having a few underwhelming cuts, even if they are “Throne of Lies”…

Highlights: “Spiral Castle”, “Seven Trumpets”, “Merchants of Death”


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