Manilla Road Special (3): Justin McKittrick (Scrollkeeper)

Today, Justin McKittrick, vocalist of US heavy metal band Scrollkeeper answers our questions about Manilla Road and Mark Shelton. Enjoy reading!

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

Justin McKittrick: I would personally say that I find them to be inspirational. Shelton had a unique way of making the epic storytelling come across in a way that wasn’t cheesy the way later power metal would be.

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

My special moment: Mark and the band watching our set from backstage the whole time. When we finished he very sincerely looked at me and said «You guys are great. Very impressive.» He was also really happy to receive the Scrollkeeper hat I gave him at the end of the night.

«You guys are great. Very impressive.»

Mark Shelton about Scrollkeeper.

What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?

Manilla Road occupy a unique space within metal where they’ve created their own sonic universe.

What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?

  1. Open the Gates
  2. The Deluge
  3. Out of the Abyss

In that order.

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

The Courts of Chaos.

What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?

  • «Weavers of the Web»
  • «Rites of Blood»
  • «Divine Victim»
  • «A Touch of Madness»
  • «The Veils of Negative Existence»

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

«Seven Trumpets«.

Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?

«The Fires of Mars». That evil greasy riff!

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

«Astronomica», the first solo section has almost a 70s psychedelic vibe to it, then the solo before the outro gets soaring and super emotive. This song is a contender for most moving as well. There’s a reason Open the Gates is my favorite album of theirs.

How would you define the term epic metal?

Essentially, epic metal is a more burly and gritty variant of the US power metal and Euro power metal genres. It has a firm footing still rooted in the 70s at times and also winds down some of the paths tread by doom groups. Storytelling is an essential component as well. The themes must be grand and larger than mundane trivialities. Less dragons and wizards and more low fantasy like Conan though. Haha!

Storytelling is an essential component as well. The themes must be grand and larger than mundane trivialities.

Justin about epic metal.

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

There are plenty of young bands carrying on the tradition: DoomSword, Gatekeeper, Eternal Champion, Visigoth, etc. Maybe even us to a degree, though our take on the NWOTHM sound nods a bit more towards thrash and extreme metal.

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

As for Manilla Road’s legacy, I think the newer bands listed above are evidence that their influence is quite strong and in no danger of fading anytime soon. One could even argue that their influence is greater now than it was even in their classic 80s period. I think they were very much lost in the shuffle during the initial metal wave of the 80s. Being from Wichita, Kansas, likely didn’t help either. They were just too provincial and it took the scene a while to catch on.

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