Manilla Road Special (25): Claudio Livera (Crystal Skull)

Today, Claudio «the Reaper» Livera from Crystal Skull talks about his deep passion for Manilla Road. Enjoy reading!

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

Manilla Road has completely changed my way of seeing and savoring epic metal and metal generally speaking. It’s a kind of music that isn’t exactly matching mine. Although I would definitely state that this awesome band lit up the flame of mysticism in me. A flame that became a friendly, welcoming bonfire that I share with others. Crystal Logic has changed me, it was a point of no return. When I listened to that album for the first time, some kind of magic happened: each and every note of it hit me deep inside, in such a way that I was inspired to recreate the same atmosphere in my own work. From then on, I definitely made it my own goal to give any composition of mine a tone of magic, or better, all the shades of mysticism Manilla Road is capable of gifting us with. Anyway, I’m always trying to reach new levels regarding the connection with one’s soul, I want to discover new depths.

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

I had the most special experience in Porto d’Ascoli, almost 1,000 km away from my hometown. It was in October 2002. Manilla Road had performed already twice in Europe, but it was their first concert in Italy. I found out about it in August. Imagine how excited I was! But I was very concerned: I had to find a way of getting over there since none – and I underline it: NONE – of the people I knew that time (including my closest friends, of course) wanted to go to this gig. However, I didn’t want to give it up, I absolutely couldn’t let pass this opportunity. I had to find a solution. I therefore decided (and managed) to buy a car, paying off the debt by working – fortunately, I’m an electrician. So, I departed to see the wizard… oops, sorry, I mean the «Shark», I managed it all on my own – «To hell with everybody else, haha!»

When I arrived in Porto d’Ascoli there were already lots of Greek metalheads around. I can tell you: This sight lifted up my heart! In front of Mark, I knelt down like a knight bowing at his king’s feet. Afterwards, he took my arm, helped me getting up (a gesture of approbation) and hugged me. What can I say about the concert itself? Manilla Road performed three full hours, it was amazing. They played all the «historical» pieces from their repertoire, they were going through restlessly. One of the best nights ever, at that moment I was lucky to experience this at least once in my life – I hoped it would not be the last night deserving it to be remembered…

What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?

Well, I consider Manilla Road as a master chef who selects the best ingredients before cooking on the basis of his recipes, think of, for example: atmosphere, magic and epicness. After that, these band’s peculiarities are wisely dosed and blended in order to reach perfection. When you take it out of the oven you get those juicy albums we are used to listen to. This shows their talent, they were able to express and transmit their passion to others and inspire them to do the same. In my opinion, each and every track is so powerful that it keeps you alert and focused, once you have entered the gates of Manilla Road’s enchanted world.

What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?

That’s a very difficult question!!! Basically, I love all their works – but if I must choose, I would say:

  • Crystal Logic
  • Open the Gates
  • Mystification

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

I think there would be at least two of them, since I believe those are great albums:

  • Atlantis Rising
  • Gates of Fire

What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?

Well, that’s madness, how could I possibly choose only one of them?! First of all, «Necropolis» which is the first Manilla Road track I’ve ever listened to, followed right away by «Mystification», «Into the Courts of Chaos», «Divine Victim» and «Road of Kings».

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

In this case, the winners are:

  • «Into the Courts of Chaos»
  • «Riddle of Steel»
  • «Seven Trumpets»
  • «Only the Brave»… (just to name a few of them, of course!)

Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?

I’m very attached to:

  • «Dragonstar»
  • «Astronomica»
  • «Mystification»
  • «Into the Courts of Chaos»

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

That’s easy:

  • «Flaming Metal Systems»
  • «The Ninth Wave»
  • «Epitaph to the King»

How would you define the term epic metal?

Usually, we define bands dealing with fantasy and mythological or simply epic themes as epic metal. They write lyrics in which battles and adventure play an important role. Manilla Road’s speciality is the capability of concentrating magical atmospheres in mystical musical journeys framed by Mark’s awesome storytelling voice.

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

Sure, there are a lot of them! You can find many bands, these days, which are inspired by them. I’m definitely favoring Ironsword, Visigoth and Battleroar.

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

In the 2000s, epic metal was considered a microgenre, with just a few strongly motivated followers. In fact, in order to be able to meet true fans you had to travel lots and lots of miles. Manilla Road’s return to the scene awoke many people, triggering their souls by touching their most hidden spot – especially in Europe. There were really strongly motivated followers! They lit up a strong flame that turned into a big fire that still lives on today – alongside many different kinds of metal, e.g. power, thrash, death, and so on. Today, there are many epic metal bands out there – and I think we should thank «Shark» and Manilla Road for that fact!

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