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'Out Of The Abyss' (2015 Reissue)
(Shadow Kingdom Records)
Out Now

Johnny Main

johnny main

manilla road

Manilla Road may not be a name that's familiar to you, and I was in the same boat when the 'Out Of The Abyss' album landed on my desk here at MetalTalk Towers. A quick look through the liner notes explained that this wasn't some new band trying to make their way in the business, but it was actually a reissue of an album that was originally released back in 1988, when I was just discovering Iron Maiden!

More investigation on my part revealed the rich history of Manilla Road and proved to quite enlightening. The band were formed in Wichita, Kansas by front man Mark 'The Shark' Shelton in 1977. The group were playing local pubs and clubs over the next couple of years and by 1979 they began to draw attention to themselves with their song 'Herman Hill', which was inspired by the a riot which took during a rock concert at Herman Hill in Wichita. The band were picked up by Roadster Records and released their debut album, 'Invasion' in 1980.

Further releases followed including 'Metal' in 1982, 'Crystal Logic' and 'The Deluge' in 1983 and 1986 respectively where they honed their Thrash based sound. 1987s 'Mystification' album saw them go out on tour and record the live album 'Roadkill' before they returned to the studio in early 1988 to record what would become 'Out Of The Abyss'. The band split in 1992 but came back to prominence nearly a decade later with the release of the 'Atlantis Rising' album in 2001 with a new line up and a re-energised Shelton.

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Since then, the band have released another eight albums with 2015s 'The Blessed Curse' being their current release. So why re-release the 'Out Of The Abyss' now, I hear you ask? Well, it's certainly a diamond in the back catalogue of the band and with resurgence in Thrash bands over the last few years, why not release what can be considered as a forgotten classic of the early movement.

The first thing that struck me about the album is that it hasn't dated at all. Sure, the production may not be the best in the world but the songs and the arrangements are as credible today as they were back in 1988. Back then, the band was a trio (whereas now they're a four piece) with Scott Park (who left the band in 1990) on bass guitar duties whilst Randy Foxe was the drummer until 2000 when he left just before the band were due to play at the Bang Your Head festival in Germany.

manilla road

The trio work together well and you can see why the band were so productive between 1980 and 1988. The album was on the cusp of the golden age of Metal with bands like Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Judas Priest and, a little later, Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica producing classic albums that have stood the test of time.

Manilla Road may not have been selling the same quantity of albums or playing to huge audience like these other bands but they were still capable of producing a very solid piece of work. As frontman, Shelton has a great voice and uses it to its full potential.

During the fast and furious 'Black Cauldron', you expect an aggressive vocal but what you actually get is quite the opposite. It's a rather laid back performance, pushed back into the mix so that it's not the centre of attention. One of the most aggressive vocal performances is saved for title track, 'Out Of The Abyss', but you still feel like Shelton is holding something back. He's capable of Rob Halford style screams as can be seen by 'Midnight Meat Train' but he doesn't overuse them so it's still a great performance.

As far as the rest of the album goes, 'Helicon' is amongst the best tracks. Kicking things off with a nice lyrical guitar from Shelton whilst Foxe comes in with some creative drum fills as the intro progresses. The pace picks up slightly as Shelton's vocals come across as another calm and easy to listen to performance. As the pace quickens, Foxe utilises every drum and cymbal available to him before the mid-section where Shelton's guitar performance takes centre stage. It's the slow build up that really sustains the interest here and the band have this type of performance down to a fine art.

It's clear that the band is still very much a going concern as their latest album and tour confirm, and it's good to re-issue something like the 'Out Of The Abyss' album because, far from living on past glories, it simply widens the appeal of the band as people like me get hold of it, like what they hear, and want to find out more about the band's music.

If you'd asked me six months ago about Manilla Road, I wouldn't have had a clue who you were talking about, but with this they've become one of the "new" bands that I'm into, and I look forward to investigating more of their back catalogue releases.

You can hear the track 'Midnight Meat Train' here:

'Out Of The Abyss' Tracklist:
Rites of Blood
Out of the Abyss
Return of the Old Ones
Black Cauldron
Midnight Meat Train
War in Heaven

Manilla Road (in 1988) were:
Mark Shelton – Guitars/Vocals
Scott Park – Bass Guitar
Randy Foxe – Drums/Keyboards/Vocals

Manilla Road photo – © Manilla Road (

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