Would you classify Manilla Road as an important source of inspiration for your music?
Jonathan «Sealey» Seale: Absolutely! We’re all big fans of Manilla Road in Iron Void. Their music is timeless and unique and Mark «The Shark» Shelton was a very talented songwriter and certainly a massive inspiration to me personally. I originally heard of them from reading interviews with Doom Metal bands in various fanzines in the 90’s and they were mentioned in the same hallowed breath as Cirith Ungol. I obviously wanted to check out both bands and when I heard «Necropolis» for the first time it blew me away! From there, I delved deeper and deeper into their discography and became a huge fan.
Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Manilla Road?
Yes I can! When Manilla Road performed at Malta Doom Metal Festival in 2014 I attended the festival as a punter for the first time and it was the first and only occasion I witnessed them live to my eternal regret. However, I will never forget the experience and I will cherish those memories until my dying day! I remember sitting outside a bar before the festival started in Sliema on the seafront and Mark and the band turned up in a taxi outside the hotel where all the bands stay and I wanted to go over and say hello but I didn’t want to bother them and to be honest I was a little starstruck at the same time! When we arrived at the festival on the first night Mark was sat outside just chilling out and chatting to fans. I plucked up the courage to go over and speak to him and he was one of the nicest, most down-to-earth musicians I have ever met in my life! At the time, Iron Void were planning and preparing some of the songs that would eventually appear on the Excalibur album. I told him about this and I wanted to ask his permission and gain his blessing to write about the King Arthur myths and legends as Manilla Road had already covered this subject in several of their songs. Mark was really enthusiastic about the idea and was very complimentary. We got on really well and he even said if I was ever travelling in the States, I was welcome to stay with him and his family in Kansas! I was blown away by his generosity and kindness and he was such a humble musician who loved his fans and really appreciated speaking to them. I always think of him when I speak to Iron Void fans and try to emulate his kindness and modesty. The day Manilla Road were due to play the festival I was sat in the restaurant next door and had just ordered a pizza with my girlfriend at the time. We were waiting to have our food served and in walked Mark with Josh Castillo, their bassist. Mark caught my eye and walked over and asked if he could join us at the table for dinner! I of course said yes and he sat down and we ate dinner together. I remember he was eating some chips and was concerned about getting grease on his fingers as it would affect his guitar playing. A true professional and an absolute gentleman to match! After we had eaten, I asked if I could get a photo with him and he kindly agreed. Not long after they played their set and blew the roof off! They were amazing to witness live and I still wish I could have seen them many more times but those memories live on in my mind to this day!
What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?
There are many things in my opinion which make them special. The accomplished and often technical musicianship was jaw dropping at times but never at the expense of quality songwriting or catchy melodies and hooks. They incorporated Thrash influences to great effect on several albums and Mark’s vocals were unique, being both raspy and melodic with an innate ability to convey a myriad of emotions. Mark’s lyrics were also very epic and he was a master storyteller!
What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?
- Crystal Logic
- The Deluge
- Open The Gates
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?
There’s a few which are highly underrated in my opinion. The ones which spring to mind are Metal, Mystification and Spiral Castle.
What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?
- «The Veils of Negative Existence»
- «Crystal Logic»
- «Divine Victim»
- «Road of Kings»
- «Queen of The Black Coast»
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?
Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?
«The Veils of Negative Existence». Every time I hear that song, I feel both elated and sad at the same time but it gives me a sense of inner strength which is hard to describe. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end every time, it’s pure genius! Also, I love the lyric, «Excalibur at my side, we shall not fail»!
What’s your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?
This is a very hard question to answer and I’ve been listening to many of their albums all week trying to decide and I think I’m going to have to opt for the solo on «Crystal Logic», it’s absolutely amazing! In my opinion, Mark was very much influenced by Hendrix with his guitar solos and his soloing has a very unique sound which is unmistakably his own and instantly recognizable. One of the key traits of Manilla Road are the extended guitar solo sections which I absolutely adore being a big fan of guitar solos.
How would you define the term epic metal?
The music has to be epic in scale and grandeur and obviously metal but I personally think it’s the lyrics which define the genre, the lyrics should invoke images of great battles and tales of heroic deeds and sacrifice for the greater good. That’s the best way to describe it in my opinion.
Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate?
Visigoth, Eternal Champion and Smoulder are a few bands influenced by Manilla Road who I’ve enjoyed recently. I can’t really think of any others but I’m sure there are many I’m not even aware of. I’m a bit stuck in the old ways to be honest! Ha, ha! I do try and listen to newer bands as much as I can but I don’t have as much free time as I did when I was younger unfortunately.
What do you generally think of Manilla Road’s legacy and the current epic metal scene?
Manilla Road have left a lasting legacy which will continue for many years to come. Their influence can be heard in many bands today and this is the ultimate tribute to Mark Shelton’s musical and lyrical genius. I’m pretty picky when it comes to new bands and I don’t claim to be an expert of the current epic metal scene so it’s kind of hard for me to comment but I do know that Mark’s legacy will live on and that’s the closest to immortality you can get!
Up the Hammers, down the nails!