Manilla Road Special (1): Vladimir Garčević (Claymorean)

It’s time to kick off our Manilla Road Special which we announced on Facebook and Instagram. We’re extremely happy that so many musicians from all over the world would like to participate. Without their passionate contributions, there wouldn’t be a series like this, of course. That’s why we want to hail everyone who answers our – rather difficult – questions about Manilla Road for this platform. One of them is Vladimir Garčević from Serbian epic power metal band Claymorean. Enjoy reading – and check his amazing band out.

Would you classify Manilla Road as an important source of inspiraton for your music?

Vladimir: Musically not that much because let’s face it – Manilla Road is a very very unique band and any attempt of incorporating their musical side into one’s own music can only lead to a bad imitation. The true inspiration I got from Manilla Road and Mark Shelton is in their philosophy (let’s call it that) – the most important part of being involved in a band is making your own music, playing it live and not caring about the trends.

Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Manilla Road?

Each time I play their CD is special, but personally it was the moment when Shark and late Mitchell Bowen met with my close friends Tanya and Matt and discussed my band’s cover version of «Into the Courts of Chaos»… That was surreal. I’m just sorry I couldn’t be there… 

What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?

It’s a combination of many elements, starting with Shark’s distinctive vocal style and guitar tone, but also the vocal melodies and lyrics which are unmistakably a brand of their own. Then there are the other guys who were a part of the band and each and every one of them had a tremendous impact on the overall music of Manilla Road, especially the drum sound and the playing style of Randy Foxe, which is still a puzzle to me. The man is incredible, but that can be said about every other member, from Scott Park and Rick Fisher to Bryan, Cory, Harvey, Mark, Josh, Phil and Neudi. 

What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?

Oh, man, it changes from time to time. I really love ‚em all… But let’s say that The Deluge, The Courts of Chaos and Mystification have always been at the top of my list, and not just in Manilla Road’s catalogue, but generally in the entire music history. 

What’s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?

Probably one of the albums that came after the reformation in the early 2000s, maybe Playground of the Damned or Mysterium, even though these albums truly rock. Then again maybe Invasion or Metal could be more appreciated, because those are great records!

What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?

Huh, that’s even harder than choosing the favorite albums… Hmm… Also, have in mind that this changes frequently, but I would say: «Cage of Mirrors», «The Veils of Negative Existence», «Ninth Wave», «Mystification» and «Into the Courts of Chaos»… Aaah, dude, this was truly hard, haha. 

What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?

I think most of them are. Let’s be honest, most metalheads know about Maiden, Priest, Motörhead and Metallica, but not many of them know about Manilla Road. Hence the problem is that the entire Manilla Road catalogue is somewhat underrated. I suppose a decent amount of folks know about «Necropolis». Other than that, I think all the other songs are underrated. 

Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?

Each in its own way. It became impossible for me (and I know that I’m not the only one out there) to hear a Manilla Road song and not to succumb to emotions ever since Mark’s passing. I know my wife gets hyper emotional every time I play «Mystification». 

What’s your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?

Again, very difficult question. You are merciless, my friend, haha. I love ‚em all. Mark was a player with the feel. A lot of his guitar expressions reminded me of Hendrix, or how Jimi would sound like if he played in the 80s. There were a lot of Lifeson moments in his playing too. Lots of improvisation. If I have to choose just one solo, let it be «Divine Victim». 

A lot of his guitar expressions reminded me of Hendrix, or how Jimi would sound like if he played in the 80s.

Vladimir Garčević about Mark Shelton’s guitar playing.

How would you define the term «epic metal»?

Epic metal as a subgenre of heavy metal music needs to have several elements to be what it is – the atmosphere (think of viking era Bathory), the lyrics (sword and sorcery or even history), the melodies (which can differ from the classic ones of early Manowar to Bal-Sagoth or Moonsorrow)… I don’t consider Manilla Road to be strictly an epic metal band. They have lots of epic songs, but also some speed, thrash, even power metal tracks throughout their career. But did they define the epic metal as a style? Sure, they were among the pioneers, along with Cirith Ungol and Manowar. The torchbearers of US metal overall I’d say. 

Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate? 

I believe so. There are many newer bands out there who did a cover song of Manilla Road, like Visigoth or Crystal Viper, but whose style of metal isn’t directly inspired by Manilla Road, which leads us back to our first question and answer in this interview. And it’s a great thing that no one thinks about copying the musical direction of Manilla Road, yet still can be inspired by everything else they represent. 

What do you generally think of Manilla Road’s legacy and the current epic metal scene?

It’s certainly sad that Mark isn’t here physically to witness the legacy of Manilla Road, but nevertheless he did leave the everlasting mark (of the beast) on us all. I do believe that festivals like Keep It True or Up The Hammers certainly carry the huge amount of Mark’s spirit and that goes for all the bands who play on these festivals. The current scene is healthy, I would say. There are many epic metal bands out there that are worth checking out. My favorite is definitely Atlantean Kodex. They have what is needed. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the intentionally bad sound or so called echoey 80s reverberate mixes these new bands are sticking with, but as long as the songs are good I’m fine. 

I do believe that festivals like Keep It True or Up The Hammers certainly carry the huge amount of Mark’s spirit and that goes for all the bands who play on these festivals.

Vladimir Garčević about Mark Shelton’s legacy.

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