Today, Luca «Fils» Cicero, former vocalist of Italian epic metal bands Assedium (2006-2008) and Axevyper (2009-2018) talks about his great passion, Manilla Road and Mark Shelton. Enjoy reading!
Would you classify Manilla Road as an important source of inspiraton for your music?
Luca «Fils» Cicero: Surely, Manilla Road and Mark Shelton are my main inspiration since I was a teenager. I was told that my singing style was very similar to that of Mark Shelton. No doubt about it because I always did my best to copy it and impersonate it. But I know that’s nearly impossible to reproduce it ‚cause Mark Shelton was unique. And he’ll always be.
Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Manilla Road?
In 2008, they headlined the second edition of the Play it Loud festival in Italy. Mark missed his flight from the US to Italy and was forced to take another one and managed it to get to the concert location a few hours before their gig actually started. When he headed to the theatre he was received and literally surrounded by some «hardcore» Manilla Road maniacs (including me) who started singing «Mystification» like we were some crazy soccer hooligans hailing the team they support at the stadium. He couldn’t believe his own eyes. He was very moved by our loyalty and love to his music. A very touching moment of real heavy metal fanaticism. Another special moment I witnessed was the first time I supported Manilla Road here with my band Axevyper. I was singing on stage and at a certain point a guy in the first raw called my attention and pointed Mark Shelton was next to him looking at our show and singing our songs. He was really the most down-to-earth guy in the heavy metal scene. Definitely the greatest success of my musical career!
What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?
It’s a feeling you can’t explain. The first time I listened to them was back in 2000 when I was 17 and I bought the CD reissue of Crystal Logic from Iron Glory Records and I found their approach a little bit, I mean, weird and basic because I was completely used to bigger productions. But then I started understanding their magic, the depth of their music. I have been listening to them every single day of my life since that time. I became addicted to them and started looking for as much information as I could get. I began buying every album I could find (they were very rare at that time but luckily they were gradually reissued).
What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?
- Crystal Logic, my first and eternal love and my favourite album of all time, along with Manowar’s Into Glory Ride and Iron Maiden’s Somewhere in Time
- The Deluge
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?
Gates of Fire, my fave Hellroadie-era album from Manilla Road. «Riddle of Steel» and «Rome» are amazing tracks!
What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?
- «Aftershock» from Mark of the Beast
- «The Deluge»
- «The Riddle Master»
- «Midnight Meat Train»
- «Dragon Star»
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?
«Helicon» from the Out of the Abyss album, a totally underrated song from an underrated album.
Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?
The acoustic part of «Dreams Of Eschaton»: The next president of the USA should introduce it as the new American National Anthem.
What’s your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?
«Astronomica»: pure magic. His touch was pure velvet.
How would you define the term epic metal?
Well, this is a real good question! It’s not all about sword and sorcery, heroic fantasy literature-inspired lyrics, killer triplets and things like that. It’s a conscience that comes from the bottom of your soul. You can play epic metal without singing about Conan and Elric. It’s a feeling you can’t understand, if you’re not into it. It’s passion, it’s a religion, it’s a continuous struggle against every enemy, it’s a cult that leads you straight to Valhalla, even if you’re not a guy from Scandinavia who’s looking like a Viking. It’s obsession. It’s a fire that burns inside. I’m gonna explain it directly to you as soon as we’ll meet gesticulating as a typical Italian motherfucker. [Sounds great, André!]
Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate?
Throne Of Iron, Visigoth, Smoulder, Kramp and Eternal Champion are great. But most of all, even if they’re not so «young», Ironsword and Ravensire from Portugal, Dexter Ward from Greece and Battle Ram from Italy are the real deal: True Metal made by True Metal people to True Metal People. No fuckin‘ posers allowed!
What do you generally think of Manilla Road’s legacy and the current epic metal scene?
Manilla Road will always be part of my heart and their legacy will be eternal. I’m noticing there’s a lot of young epic metal bands playing and releasing albums and I’m very pleased. Mark Shelton would be proud of all the young dudes keeping the flame alive. And I’m sure he guides these defenders up from above. Please feel free to follow me on Instagram and suggest me as much new bands as possible. These almost 40 y.o. fart wants to support and buy as much records as possible!