Also this Sunday we dedicate ourselves to Manilla Road and Mark Shelton. This time Chris Latta from Indianapolis has his say. Many of you know him as a reviewer, but certainly also as a member of various bands. He currently sings for the doom outfit Lavaborne – we wish you an exciting read!
André: When did you first come across Manilla Road in your life?
Chris: I was honestly a little late to the party when it came to checking out Manilla Road. I had heard the name in power metal circles for years and even missed a chance to see them play at a bar here in Indianapolis around 2013-2014, but didn’t properly listen to them until a couple years before Mark’s passing. Once I listened to Crystal Logic and Open the Gates, I kicked myself for not getting into them earlier.
Would you classify Manilla Road as an important source of inspiration for your music?
They’ve likely had inspiration on our style in an indirect sort of way. I heard a couple folks compare my vocals on Black Winged Gods to Mark and I take that as a compliment! Guys like him and Tim Baker from Cirith Ungol are inspirations in terms of that more eccentric character-driven singing. I’m a weirdo that recognizes other weirdos.
Can you point out a special moment that you experienced with Manilla Road?
I went to the Mad with Power Fest in 2018, I forgot what band was playing but they decided to end their set with a cover of “Necropolis“. Between that and the numerous covers that have been recorded in recent years, it made me realize that the song has basically become epic metal’s “Freebird“. I can’t help but love that.
What makes Manilla Road special in your opinion?
I really like the way that their style evolved through the years while consistently maintaining that mystical vibe. Whether they’re picking up prog, doom, thrash, or even death metal influences along the way, each of their albums ends up having a distinct identity while serving as part of a greater trajectory.
What are your three favourite Manilla Road albums?
- Crystal Logic
- Mark of the Beast
- The Courts of Chaos
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road album in your opinion?
The band’s 2000s albums seem to be rather overlooked in general, but I think Atlantis Rising might be the most so. It was the start of a great second wind and has a story about the Aesir fighting Lovecraftian deities, what’s not to love?
What are your five favourite Manilla Road tracks?
- “The Riddle Master“
- “The Fall of Iliam“
- “Death By The Hammer“
What’s the most underrated Manilla Road track in your opinion?
“The Fall of Iliam“ is one of my favorites. That riff set lives rent free in my head and it’s impressive how they’re able to sustain that structure for fourteen minutes. The Trojan War-themed lyrics are a nice cherry on top as somebody with an interest in antiquity.
Which Manilla Road track moves you the most emotionally?
“Epitaph to the King“ definitely hits the hardest in light of Mark’s passing. I’d also like to shout out “Sword of the Flame“ by Battleroar, which has Mark singing and playing guitar on the track. It’s such a phenomenal track and considering he passed just after a month after that album came out, it really feels like a passing of the torch in a way.
What’s your favourite solo/lead played by Mark Shelton?
“The Ninth Wave“ has some of his craziest guitar work across the board. I also love his more mellow approach on the Mark of the Beast album in general.
How would you define the term epic metal?
Epic metal is metal with an otherworldly, arcane atmosphere that’s designed to transport you into another world. While that sort of intent is usually described as escapist in nature, I think it has just as much room for allegory. Its fantastical aesthetic puts it close to power metal territory but it comes with a blunter, more violent attitude that gives it a more distinct feel. It is all about triumph and empowerment.
Are there any young bands inspired by Manilla Road that you appreciate?
Obligatory shoutout to my fellow Hoosiers in Throne of Iron. I’m also into Gatekeeper, Smoulder, Visigoth, Legendry, Iron Griffin, and Possessed Steel among a multitude of others.
What do you generally think of Manilla Road’s legacy and the current epic metal scene?
I think Manilla Road may have the most definitive status of all the epic metal forebears. They had such a consistently strong run of albums that varied so much in style, all while the band was pushing through obscurity for a good bulk of their career. At the risk of a hot take, I think they were even more worthy of the documentary treatment as a band like Anvil. I’m just glad that Mark was able to see the gratitude that fans had for his work as well as the bands he inspired before his passing, there’s a real sense of vindication with how influential Manilla Road has become in recent years. If there’s anything for newer bands to take away from Manilla Road, it’s that sense of exploration and creative development. Like a lot of bands that come to define a movement, I think it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of Manilla Road and incorporate a rather shallow reference pool. While the band still kept some core elements, they picked up so many tweaks and fluctuations along the way. Don’t be afraid to do the same!