Manilla Road Special (9): Pete Salatellis (Zodiak)

No Manilla Road Special without our highly talented friend Pete Salatellis from NWOTHM band Zodiak who is really very dedicated to our music. We’re sure that he’ll create some great epic stuff in the near future – no doubt about it. Enjoy reading!

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

Indeed I would! Ever since I discovered Manilla Road, I began to look at songwriting and composing differently. Before I started listening to them, I was writing stuff that was a little too generic, in my opinion at least. I was never as satisfied as I wanted to be with my ideas, but when I encountered Manilla Road, I was more encouraged to think outside the box. For example, I was more encouraged to use more complex song structures and progressions, longer instrumental sections and of course, they got me into the fantastic world of sword & sorcery and mythological lyrics!

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

Unfortunately, I never got that chance to see Manilla Road live before Mark Shelton tragically passed away. But I remember when I first started getting into the band, I listened to them for almost two months non-stop. I got inspired so much in those two and came up with so many riffs and lyrical ideas. I listened to every Manilla Road album, read every single one of Mark’s stories and just became so absorbed in the band. I don’t really know how to explain it, but it’s like I was in the best mood ever. Nothing could disappoint me. It really made me realize what kind of power great music has and that this was a band that was gonna be extremely important for me.

What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?  

I think, above all, Mark Shelton makes the band truly special. He brings the unique vocal style, riffs, lyrics, songwriting approach and production. He basically makes the band identifiable from miles away. I also love the fact that Manilla Road is a very versatile band. Not one of their albums sounds like another and they all have their own charm. To add to this, they are not only versatile, but also very consistent. Take the albums Open The Gates and Out Of The Abyss for example. They are pretty different albums in terms of musical style, but they still have the unmistakable Manilla Road sound.

I also love the fact that Manilla Road is a very versatile band. Not one of their albums sounds like another.

Pete Salatellis

What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums? 

My three favourite Manilla Road albums (in no order) are probably Mystification, Crystal Logic and Atlantis Rising. Even if I tried, I could never get bored of them. Every time I listen to them, I just end up appreciating them even more. I also find those are the albums that have provided me with the most inspiration.

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

Probably Atlantis Rising. Even Out Of The Abyss isn’t talked about a whole lot. Could possibly be because they get overshadowed by the albums that came before. I think those albums definitely have something special. I mean, Atlantis Rising is based on a fascinating concept that Mark came up with, and I love the Lovecraftian horror influence on Out Of The Abyss. What’s not to like eh?

What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?

Choosing only five tracks is a very difficult task. I’ll probably instantly come up with ten I left out when making this list haha! I think probably…

  • «Children Of The Night»
  • «Spiral Castle»
  • «The Riddle Master»
  • «Helicon»
  • «Divine Victim»

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

I’ve never really heard people talking about «The Books Of Skelos» that much, but I think it’s a brilliant tune. Great riffs, amazing lyrics and it’s just really well put together in general. It has a very mystical and dark vibe to it. Fits the lyrics perfectly!

Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?  

Probably «Mystification». It’s based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe and of course, I love reading his stories. There’s something about that song though… the music and lyrics mix perfectly with each other. And when Mark sings «I’m mystified», I get chills every time. Pretty much exactly how I feel when reading those stories…mystified!

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

He’s got a very unique playing style. I remember when I first heard the lead in the intro of «Children Of The Night», it got stuck in my head for the rest of the week, haha! It has the signature Shelton flair and builds up the song so well. I’m not an expert composer, but I confirm that that is some EXCELLENT composing.

In my opinion, the music itself of a great epic metal tune evokes feelings of power and mystique.

Pete about epic metal.

How would you define the term epic metal?  

That’s an amazing question! I find that the subgenre of epic metal is very loosely defined and therefore, it’s very open. Take Manilla Road and Virgin Steele for example. Both bands can easily be considered epic metal, but they sound so different. The definition of epic metal really depends on who you ask. To me, the essence of epic metal lies within the composition and the lyrical topics. In my opinion, the music itself of a great epic metal tune evokes feelings of power and mystique. From what I’ve heard, this is usually done with the use of melodically interesting riffs, gripping melodies, and elongated (and sometimes more progressive) instrumental passages, similar to what we hear in a lot of classical fugues. The lyrics of the songs are very often based on fantasy, ancient history and battles, mythology, original concepts, etc. The element they have in common is that they are written in a way that they tell a fascinating story, either from an omniscient point of view or even the perspectives of certain characters. I find epic metal is one of the only metal styles in which this is very present and Manilla Road definitely inspired a lot of bands to play this style of metal.

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

Indeed there are! I love bands like Eternal Champion, Ironsword, Battleroar, Visigoth, Possessed Steel, Gatekeeper, Legendry, Throne Of Iron, and many many more. Yes, these bands are very influenced by Manilla Road, but none are copies of the band. They all have their own sound, and you can definitely hear that. I recommend these bands to any metalhead. In my opinion, they are definitely worth listening to and they definitely raise the epic metal banner high!

When you have dedicated fans, no matter how many, your legacy will live on.

Pete about Manilla Road’s legacy.

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

Manilla Road is a band that has an EXTREMELY dedicated fanbase. It’s not about the number of fans you have, it’s about the true fans. These are the fans that will become immersed in your music, that will buy every single release, that will go to the live shows, that will tell their buds about you. Those are the fans every band should wish for and those are the fans that Manilla Road has. When you have dedicated fans, no matter how many, your legacy will live on. I’m beyond fascinated by the current epic metal scene and I love listening to and discovering these new bands, the torchbearers. I’m seeing that these bands are getting more and more support, and that makes me so happy. We see so many young bands covering Manilla Road songs (my band included) and dedicating albums and concerts to them. It shows dedication. I’ll also give a shout out to D.M. Ritzlin from DMR Books for dedicating the Swords Of Steel: Omnibus to Mark Shelton. It’s a collection of sword & sorcery stories from the Swords Of Steel trilogy written by heavy metal musicians, specifically epic metal musicians. Here’s another example of the dedication the fans have towards this genre. In fact, The Shark himself wrote three stories featured in this book, and all three are phenomenal. It’s something I definitely recommend for all sword & sorcery readers.

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