Manilla Road Special (28): Luis Thor (Interceptor)

Good Friday is a perfect day to talk about legends. That’s why Luis Thor from Argentine heavy metal band Interceptor honours Manilla Road and Mark Shelton for our blog. Enjoy reading.

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

Luis Thor: Absolutely. They were not only pioneers but also one of best exponents of Epic Heavy Metal, which is the kind of music that best represents Interceptor’s style and aesthetic preference, without trying to be a copy or clone. 

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

There are several, but I’ll choose two. One is the first time I’ve listened to them. I learned about the band around mid 90s through a local lengedary fanzine (Metalica Fanzine). After I read the review, I wanted to listen to them because the description, especially when describing the lyrical content, resonated with me and sounded like what I was looking for. The fanzine editor (Fabian de la Torre) recorded their live album on tape for me, Roadkill. I still remember placing the tape in my walkman and being blown away. The music was so unique, and at the same time so powerful, and Mark’s vocals so different from everthing else but at the same time a perfect fit for the music. Everything was so much better than I had anticipated and I became a fan right away. The second special moment is the first time I got to see them live. They came to play to South America to a festival in Chile, with Omen and some great local  bands. So I decided to go with some friends. After an unbelievable show I got to meet the band bakcstage. Having the chance to meet Mark in person and express how much his art meant to me is something I will treasure forever. 

What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?

I think there are many factors. Of course the personality and uniqueness of their music and songwriting, as well as Mark’s unmistakable vocal style and guitar playing. But also the fact that even after so many years and with each album being different from the rest, varying from Psychodelic Rock to Thrash Metal, and with the lineup changes they managed to be faithful to themselves and keep a driving chord and the epic feel throughout their entire career. Also live the band could deliver big time. Bryan did a great job stepping in for lead vocals, but I must say when Mark sang his parts, the entire place would fill with his Magick. On top of that, the fact that all the band members were such down-to-earth, accessible guys, and especially Mark that was devoted to the fans, always willing to have a chat, take pictures, sign albums. Such generosity with the fans is not regularly seen and for me it was as important as their music.

What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?

This is impossible to reply, as every album stands out. I think Open the Gates, Crystal Logic and Mystification – but I am hating myself for leaving the rest out.

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

Probably the later stuff is the most underrated. Many older fans do not care much for the post 2000 albums and stick to the classic 80s era, despite the fact that they put out amazing records especially Gates of Fire, Voyager and the magnificent The Blessed Curse which for me are amongst their best works.

What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?

If choosing three albums was tough this one is even worse. From the top of my head (and I’ll probably regret the answer later):

  • «Astronomica»
  • «Flaming Metal System»
  • «Dreams of Eschaton»
  • «Queen of the Black Coast»
  • «Mystification»

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

As I said, probably something from the later albums. Also Out of the Abyss seem to have been put a bit «under the carpet» although it has amazing songs like «Return of the Old Ones» or «Black Cauldron». 

Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?

«Cage of Mirrors» has an incredible atmosphere that always takes me back to the first time I saw them live, when they played this song. Still gives me goosebumps. «In Search of the Lost Chord» is another song that I feel represents perfectly what Manilla Road was all about. 

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

Another tough one. I believe «Dreams of Escahton»’s final solo madness is a favourite. 

How would you define the term epic metal?

Although it is often linked to Sword & Sorcery or Fantasy lyrical content in general, I believe it is much more than that. It has to do with the capacity to build a story and creating, through the music, the necessary atmosphere for it, like the bards and storytellers from old did. So, I believe it is a combination of both the music and lyrical content, that must pass to each other and blend to transport you for while to different times or alternate universes, where you can submerge in the story, stimulate your emotions and even extrapolate elements to your own reality so that you can feel pumped up when you are back to face the real world. 

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

There are several torch bearers that honor the Epic Heavy Metal style in the vein of Manilla Road and the US Metal in general. Not all are young, but they all keep the flame alive and are among my favourites: Fëanor, Battleroar, DoomSword, Ironsword, Dexter Ward, Visigoth and Eternal Champion, and many, many more.

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

Their legacy is eternal. There are festivals and stages named after their songs or even the Shark himself. Several new bands pay tribute with amazing covers, either in record or live, or even dedicate their own songs (like Lonewolf’s incredible «Manilla Shark»). But most of all I think it is the principles they stood by that will last forever: playing from the heart, being honest to oneself no matter what, giving always 100% no matter if it is a small bar gig or a big festival venue, respecting the fans and especially doing your possible best to master the art of storytelling through music. I think these values will still resonate with newer bands and generations to come.

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