Manilla Road - Out of the Abyss (Shadow Kingdom Records)

Manilla Road's heaviest and most evil album gets the reissue treatment.
Release Date: 
13 Jan 2015 (All day)

1988 was a great year for thrash metal. Slayer released South of Heaven, Testament The New Order, Anthrax State of Euphoria, and Voivod the forward thinking Dimension Hatröss. Among the most well known thrash albums to come out that year were Megadeth’s So Far, So Good... So What! and Metallica’s ...And Justice For All. Both were plagued with production issues, and infamously Metallica’s album featured barely audible bass. One dynamic 1988 thrash album of high quality with clearly audible bass, but which also suffered when it came to its production, was Manilla Road’s Out of the Abyss.

Though they have covered and incorporated musical styles ranging from progressive rock, hard rock, and thrash metal), Manilla Road are best known and recognised for a distinctive traditional heavy metal and power metal style. On Out of the Abyss, they strayed further into thrash territory than ever before, but the power metal can still be heard. Think Helloween, but profoundly more dark, evil, and mysterious. Re-released on Shadow Kingdom Records, this event will hopefully bring greater attention to this gem of an album and Manilla Road’s wider catalogue.

First song Whitechapel, based on the stories about Jack the Ripper, is, well, an absolute ripper. Vocalist and sole guitarist Mark Shelton delivers a stunning performance from the perspective of the Ripper, rasping, cackling, and possessed with bloodlust. In fact it is so good, and of such storytelling quality, that it could have been brought to the stage as part of a professional musical or theatre production. Musically speaking, it is one of the best songs on the album. Rites of Blood draws you in with its interesting riffing pattern. Return of the Old Ones, a title clearly referencing the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, features dramatic soloing, power metal wails, and lyrically is a classic statement of fantasy and horror. War in Heaven is suitably epic, and is a little less heavy than the rest of the album, and thus more in line with Manilla Road’s earlier albums. Helicon starts with spacey guitar and distortion effects. Drumming is exceptional, alternating through a variety of rhythmic patterns that enhance the song rather than feeling jarring. Energetic solos performed with wild abandon add to the epic nature of the track, which closes out in as epic as fashion as possible.

Bass is a fundamental compliment to the rest of the instruments instead of being a mere add on. Production is somewhat flat, lacks weight and fullness which takes away from a greater appreciation of the album - however, it is not sabotaged and is far from unlistenable. The album cover could just as well have served as a cover for a Stephen King novel, giving a good impression as to what is contained within. Well paced, tightly plotted, featuring top notch musicianship, singing and intelligent lyrics with a vignette quality full of literary and cultural references, Out of the Abyss is an album that any respectable metal fan should have in their collection.