Manilla Road Special (4): Kalen Baker (Poltergeist/CAN)

Today, Kalen Baker from Canadian musical project Poltergeist answers our questions about Manilla Road. He’s a good friend of our blog on whose cooperation we can always count. Besides, he knows a lot about completely different styles of music. Against this background, we definitely wanted to include Kalen in our series, too. Well, here we go…

Check it out!

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

Yes, totally! I really enjoy Mark’s lyrical themes and writing style. Quite poetic and mystical. Their sound varies a lot and I’m really inspired by the more dreamy and trippy sections. 

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

After Mark Shelton died, I got really stoned and watched a bunch of interviews and live videos. It was pretty emotional knowing I’d never get a chance to see them but it was still so great to just delve into their music and really enjoy all the little things that make Manilla Road so unique. When you put headphones on and listen to Manilla Road stoned, you’re taken to another world. It’s also great to see how much Mark was just a fan of music. He was very humble and was very appreciative of his fans. Always supported bands who looked up to him and I’ve heard nothing but good things about him.

What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion? 

To say Manilla Road is a special band is an understatement. I’ve always loved 80s metal bands, especially more obscure ones. But when I discovered Manilla Road, something felt so magical. It’s everything from their sound, to the lyrics to the album art and themes. The most obvious answer would be Mark Shelton’s voice. It’s very nasally and dynamic. The first time I heard them, I thought he literally sounded like a wizard. It’s very distinctive and special. In terms of the music, I think they blend so many different sounds and styles in such a cool way. Of course, they were one of the pioneers of «epic metal riffs». They really took that medieval element of NWOBHM bands and took it in their own direction. The softer parts with clean guitar arpeggios are so enchanting and otherwordly. A lot of times, those parts are contrasted with full-on thrash metal in the same song then there’s blues and straight up classic rock. It’s just incredible what Manilla Road has been able to do with their music throughout their career and still keep things sounding fresh. 

To say Manilla Road is a special band is an understatement.

Kalen Baker.

What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums? 

  • Crystal Logic
  • Mystification
  • Open the Gates

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

Some of their newer albums can be pretty underrated. Old school metal fans love to praise the classics (and rightfully so). But some bands, including Manilla Road, have been able to still make great music in the past decade. I’d go with their final album, To Kill A King (2017) since I dig that album and don’t see it talked about as much. 

What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks? 

  • «Flaming Metal Systems»
  • «Mystification»
  • «Necropolis»
  • «The Ninth Wave»
  • «Dragon Star»

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

«Conqueror«.

Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally? 

«Mystification». Totally has that trippy and mystical vibe I mentioned earlier as well as some hard-hitting epic metal riffs. That track is such a wild ride and really sums up some of the best aspects of Manilla Road for me.

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

«Necropolis»! The first song I learned to play by them, it’s such a fun solo.

How would you define the term «epic metal»? 

It’s straight-up heavy metal with a specific «feel». There’s a certain aspect about the riffs that just feel epic which is why I think epic metal is such a great subcategory. Plus the fantasy/medieval lyrics and themes are great to supplement the epic sound.

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

So many! Smoulder and Gatekeeper are easy picks. Also Visigoth and Cauldron since they both did covers of «Necropolis»!

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

Most epic metal is basically just building off of the foundation that Manilla Road, Manowar and Bathory laid down. Manilla Road were one of the first epic metal bands and didn’t really get a lot of the recognition they deserved till later years. But their relatively small following is insanely strong and everyone seems to be bonded by their music. The fact that Up The Hammers is named after an Manilla Road lyric says a lot.

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