MANILLA ROAD - Metal LP (bone)
Metal was Manilla Road's follow up album to their legendary debut "Invasion" (issued via their own Roadster Records in 1980). In contrast to other bands starting out, "Invasion" and "Metal" (originally released on Roadster in 1982) are not too similar in style and substance. According to Mark Shelton, there is a reason for that: "There was a whole album and another three song demo that had been recorded between the time that we recorded 'Invasion' and 'Metal'. I am referring to what eventually turned out to be released as 'Mark of the Beast'. So there was a learning curve between those two projects. 'Invasion' was recorded with analog guitar processors and 'Metal' was more like it should really be, with Marshall Amps miked up and turned up. Huge difference in the sound of the guitars on 'Metal'. I'm not saying 'Metal' was a great recording but it was a great leap forward for us at the time."
In contrast to "Invasion" there was only one single vinyl pressing of 2,000 copies with no re-pressing. Manilla Road went on to working on the "Crystal Logic" album almost immediately after "Metal" and never looked back.
The original cover artwork of "Metal" was very simplistic, Kiss would spring to my mind ... "The cover was not very cool for me", finds The Shark. "The original was much more detailed than what transferred to the cover on the LP. But it was still very simple and not very impressive at all. In my mind it is the most lackluster album art that Manilla Road has ever had. But thank goodness Alex has come to save us with a new cover that represents what the original cover was supposed to convey. I don't think the art was really influenced by anything except that I told the artist that I wanted a heavy metal looking landscape with volcanic stuff in it and a river of blood or lava. For the re-release of 'Metal' on High Roller Records there is the brand new cover and there is a version of the original cover art also. That's one of the many reasons I love High Roller releases. They always go the extra mile and the quality of the releases in all ways is the fantastic. I am totally enjoying working with this label. They have a very artistic approach with their sites set on pleasing the consumer. It's not just always numbers it's still art. As for the Kiss influence. I have always respected Kiss for their stage antics but I have never been a huge fan of their music. They did come out with some rather catchy songs but they never show up in any of my top ten lists. Don't get me wrong though, I think they were a big influence on the rock industry in the world."
What kind of music did Mark Shelton listen to in 1982? The N.W.O.B.H.M. had just reached its peak in the UK and Iron Maiden released "The Number of the Beast" in 1982 ... On the other side of the Atlantic, in 1981, Riot from New York had issued maybe one of the best US Metal albums in history: "Fire down under". "Oh yeah, I love 'Fire down under", confirms Mark Shelton. "I still have the LP. And of course I was totally into Maiden and still am. I was really getting into many things but Judas Priest was mainly the thing that lived on the turntable most of the day and night. I was also absorbing Black Sabbath and Mot-rhead at the time as well."
So would it be fair to say that "Metal" did show quite a vast variety of different styles? "Out of Control with Rock 'n' Roll" was a straight-forward rocker whereas there were a fair couple of more epic and spacey songs on there as well (like "Far Side of the Sun") ... The Shark agrees: "Yeah, and the title cut 'Metal' is sort of a spacey thing at first. Even 'Cage of Mirrors' has its space-like passages. There was still the remnant of standard hard rock within some of the songs like you pointed out but we really were starting to breach out into a much more epic and heavier approach to the music This was the first time that I felt like we really were starting to find a true direction for the band. It was even further defined in out next project 'Crystal Logic'."
Over the years, all the songs from "Metal" made it into the Road's live set at one point in time or another: "'Far Side of the Sun' is even to this day popping up in our set list every once in a while. We will be adding the title cut to our show for the 'Up The Hammers' festival in Greece. Back in the day though all of the songs were played live off of that album. You have to remember we only had a couple of albums out at that point and we did not do much of the stuff off of the 'Mark of the Beast' album after we started working on 'Metal'. We actually did play quite a number of gigs around 1982. They were mostly local shows around the state of Kansas. We did make it down into Oklahoma a couple of times but most of the shows were around our home town of Wichita, Kansas. We played at one club or another about every weekend. We did get some cool gigs supporting Krokus and Ted Nugent back then, which really helped our popularity locally. Sort of became the 'king of the hill' at home at that time."
Manowar had a famous song entitled "Defender" around the time of "Metal". Has Mark Shelton been aware of Manowar at all by 1982? There was a Manilla Road number entitled "Defender" on "Metal" as well. The Shark: "I don't think I really had a real awareness of them at that time. I am sure that I had heard the name but not the music yet. I wrote the song 'Defender' about the video game machine of the same name."
I always asked myself if there were any reactions from Europe (press, fans, labels) at all regarding the first two albums or did this only start after "Crystal Logic"? "Not too much going on in Europe for us at that point", states Mark Shelton. "'Flaming Metal Systems' is what really brought us to the metal public eye and 'Crystal Logic' was the real turning point for the band as far as public knowledge of Manilla Road goes."
What did the term "Metal" mean for Manilla Road back in 1982? Did it describe their music adequately? Did the band feel part of an American or world-wide "Metal movement" at all? "'Metal' was a statement of attitude and free thinking for me back then", says Mark Shelton. "I felt like it was more of a world-wide movement because most of the bands that I really liked the most were from other countries than the US. Metal was always about adventure and fantasy for me as well. Nothing like a great fantasy adventure story to get the blood boiling, you know."
The first US Metal fanzines also started around 1981/1982, like Brian Slagel's "The New H.M. Revue"? For Mark Shelton, however, they came into focus some years later: "We eventually became aware of the US mags but it was still mainly Kerrang!, Enfer, Creem and Circus that were in the shelves at our stores. I don't think there has ever been a pure Metal publication in the Midwest of the US, ha, ha. It's amazing that we have telephones out here. Still get our mail by Pony Express here, you know? Even our e-mail is by Pony Express. LOL. 'Metal' is still a good listen if you want to see where the actual turning point from Space Rock to Epic Metal was in the career of Manilla Road."