There are few bands that have as strong a back catalogue as US heavy metal band Manilla Road. Having released several underground classics since their formation in 1977, it is still somewhat of a crime that their status never got bigger in the overall history of heavy music.
Because of this small, or cult, status, Manilla Road have had their fair share of re-issues including some well executed ones by High Roller Records. This re-issue of ‘Mystification’, courtesy of Shadow Kingdom Records, holds true to the 1987 release, having the correct track listing and original mastering for the first time on CD.
Although ‘epic’ has become a cringe worthy word thanks to needless overuse it is the true fitting of ‘Mystification.’ ‘Spirits Of The Dead’ epitomises epic metal with that untouchable atmosphere created by mastermind Mark Shelton that takes you straight out of the modern world and into his fantasy lair.
‘Mystification’ is largely regarded to be the album where Manilla Road embraced thrash metal influences, though there was some clear tendencies on previous opus ‘The Deluge.’ Giving Manilla Road a much harder edge, tracks like ‘Up From The Crypt’ showed the band unafraid to embrace new styles and expand their sound whilst still sounding different from other bands of their era.
Where the thrash element was taken to new levels on this album, the familiar strong and otherworldly riffing remained intact. ‘Children Of The Night’ has that unpredictable yet welcoming structure that fans have always held in high regard and certainly makes for more interesting listening than many other bands in 1987 that were beginning to run out of ideas.
This well thought out and individual sound has prevented Manilla Road from sounding dated or weak. The title track is the best example of how timeless their sound is, with one of the most atmospheric songs of their whole career.
Mark Shelton is clearly a perfectionist and it is usually a guarantee that each opus will have powerful and well fitting artwork to complete the finished package. ‘Mystification’ is no different with a slightly bizarre yet typically metal image that would stand out in a record store.
This re-issue is certainly the way ‘Mystification’ should be presented with the finished product the way it was originally intended. If you want to know where nine out of ten modern heavy metal bands got their best riffs from, ‘Mystification’ is a large piece of the puzzle.
Scribed by: Alex Varley