MANILLA ROAD - Mystification  LP
MANILLA ROAD - Mystification  LP
MANILLA ROAD - Mystification  LP
MANILLA ROAD - Mystification LP


HRR 581 LP, ltd 500, 200 x black vinyl + 300 x transparent ultra clear vinyl, 425gsm heavy cardboard cover, insert, A5 photo

Mark Shelton - Guitars, Vocals
Scott Park - Bass
Randy Foxe - Drums, Keyboards, Vocals

-Haunted Palace
-Spirits of the Dead
-Valley of Unrest
-Mystification
-Masque of the Red Death
-Up from the Crypt
-Children of the Night
-Dragon Star
-Death by the Hammer


AVAILABLE


With "Crystal Logic", "Open the Gates" and "The Deluge" Manilla Road had released three mighty fine albums in a row. In 1987 “Mystification” followed. It might appear that this album was heavily influenced by Thrash Metal, somehow a true product of its time. “We were always on a conquest to get heavier and faster but I was listening to really heavy and even some Thrash music at the time”, confesses Mark Shelton. “So it was a bit of both, I suppose. I would agree that there is a bunch of Thrash influence going on in 'Mystification' but I would have to say that 'Out of the Abyss' was our furthest incursion into the Thrash genre. We still touched on Thrash over the years and next albums with songs like 'Vlad The Impaler' and even on into our reformation era that we are still in now with songs like 'Siege of Atland' on 'Atlantis Rising'. I'm sure we will continue to touch on the Thrash style every now and then in the future.”
Drummer Randy Foxe was playing a significant role in the development of the band's sound towards the end of the 1980's. “Randy's drumming was essential to the sound of the band back then”, confirms Mark Shelton. “His capabilities were the reason that Manilla Road could traverse into the realms of Speed and Thrash Metal. Without his bombastic style of drumming I imagine that Manilla Road would have sounded much different.”
Some people have said that Mark Shelton's vocal performance on "Mystification" was only second to "Crystal Logic" (most fans' favorite Manilla Road album). “Well, I must buy those people a beer”, laughs the Shark. “That is a good compliment, I suppose. Although I know that my voice and vocal style are sort of an acquired taste. There are some that just can't stand my voice. I guess Geddy Lee has dealt with the same type of reactions to his voice as well. You just can't please everyone all the time but it is nice to have good comments about my voice like that every once in a while. My voice was in really good shape during the recording sessions I remember. It did not take very many takes to do the vocal tracks on that album because I was pretty dialed into the whole thing while we were in Memphis. Several of the vocal tracks were one takes and that is pretty rare even for an old pro like me. I did manage to do a one taker on 'The Strange Case of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes' on the Hellwell album we just finished. I don't think I had done a vocal track in one take for some time. It's a really good feeling when you do it though because it makes you feel like your a vocal god … ha, ha, ha.”
Outstanding tracks on the album are "Mystification" and "Masque of the Red Death" (based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe). However, Manilla Road was not the first band to adapt literature by E. A. Poe: “I know that Allan Parsons did a whole album based on Poe's works and I am sure that came out before 'Mystification' by several years. Allan Parsons was not Heavy Metal though. I really think there are several bands that have done their own adaptation of the story line. So I think we were just one of many in this case. Only the songs that were originally on side A of the first release of 'Mystification' are based on Poe's work. Those songs would be 'Haunted Palace (Fall of the House of Usher)', 'Masque of the Red Death', 'Valley of Unrest', 'Spirits of the Dead' and of course 'Mystification'. 'Children of the Night' was based on a short story of the same name by Robert E. Howard and the other songs were my own creations.”
“Mystification” was re-released on CD via Sentinel Steel Records in 1999. The sound on the CD was different from the original Black Dragon vinyl version. The Shark explains: “It was re-mastered and re-mixed and that gave it a really different sound even though you can still hear the original essence of the recording.” Both mixes are present on the High Roller double album of “Mystification”. Mark Shelton comments: “You have the original mix and release track order on the first LP and the 2nd LP is the re-mix and different track order that was done in 1998-99. The instrumental 'The Asylum' appeared only on the re-mixed version that was released in 1999. The song was a warm up piece that we did. We never really intended it to be a song on any album. We just came up with the instrumental to warm up on before we started tracking the album. We also used it as a song to get the sound of the drums and guitars at the recording session in Memphis. It just happened that we recorded it and saved it. It was not until we did the first reissue that we unearthed it for the album. It was always a instrumental and I never planned on putting vocals to it.”
There was also an alternative cover to the Sentinel Steel edition, which somehow came about by coincidence: “The owner of Sentinel Steel records is a friend of the Hildebrandt Brothers and he got that cover painting from Greg Hildebrandt. The Hildebrandt's did the first poster for the original 'Star Wars' movie if my memory serves me correctly. It was another rendition of the 'Masque of the Red Death' theme. We thought at the time that since we were remixing the album it should get a new look as well. But on the other hand we all still liked the original art done by Ryan Hendricks so we decided to make the CD booklet so that you could turn it around in the jewel case and have either cover art on the front to look at.”
By 1987, it appeared that Manilla Road's European partner Black Dragon Records had ran a bit out of steam. Ads for “Mystification” were hardly to be seen. Mark Shelton shares my view: “'Mystification' did not have a good sending off at first. And yes, you are correct in saying that Black Dragon was running out of steam at the time of this album's release. They had lost their good distribution and had managed to piss off most of the distributors they were dealing with in the States. They were also running short of funds and so the album did not receive much of a promotional push from the label either. The album did not really sell well until it was reissued on Sentinel Steel and it was only then that the album started getting the recognition as one of Manilla Road's best efforts.”
So there must have been a fair bit of frustration in the Manilla Road camp: With "Crystal Logic", "Open the Gates" and "The Deluge" the band had released three great albums in a row but were still far away from broader recognition apart from a small circle of die-hard fans … “It was indeed pretty frustrating to us”, agrees Mark Shelton. “And I'm sure some of that frustration was what led to the demise of that particular line up. We only did two more studio albums after 'Mystification'. The thing that really kept us going for some time after the release of 'Mystification' was that we were picked up by Leviathan Records in the States and had a really great budget and distribution to work with. Unfortunately, we spent all of the money we made on the album on the production costs. So we really did not profit from that deal but it did help keep the band alive in the market in the US. It was still a really frustrating time for us though because the Metal scene seemed to be on the decline and a lot of our older fans were not very happy with the extremely heavy and near Thrash approach we were taking at the time. We were still considered local heroes in our home community but it looked to us like our triumphs overseas were not amounting to much. Little did we know that there was an ever growing fan base that was springing up in Europe that would eventually lead Manilla Road back onto the path of the muse. It's always about the fans and every time I think of the history of Manilla Road it is evident to me that without our fans this band would not even be together in any form. So thank you all for your undying support and for allowing me to continue to make the music that I love so much. 'Up The Hammers & Down The Nails'.”
Matthias Mader