Manilla Road - Crystal Logic

Manilla Road - Crystal Logic

\r\nCrystal Logic, 26 years after its original release, remains probably Manilla Road’s most recognizable album. Not necessarily because it’s their best (maybe it is after all!) but mainly because it is the album where Manilla Road formed their own unique sound, through which they delivered monumental albums and with which they continue their march up to today.
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\r\nSo, we are in 1983 and a hotshot band from Wichita, Kansas called Manilla Road (which got its name by a street in Wichita which the band members used to cross almost every day on their way the rehearsal room) has already released 2 albums (1980’s Invasion and 1982’s Metal) which show a band seeking its musical identity somewhere between primal heavy metal, rock n’ roll and Hawkwind. It was that year that the band - then consisting of  Mark Shelton as guitarist, vocalist and main composer, Scott Park on the bass and Rick Fisher on the drums – would be lucky enough to be included in the U.S. Metal 3 compilation, which was released by Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records. Manilla Road’s contribution to the compilation was the song “Flaming Metal System”, which was probably the album’s best track and created some fuss around their name, bringing their sound outside the limits of the Kansas region, where they had already started to create a following.
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\r\nThe warm reception they received from their participation in U.S. Metal 3 compilation and their touring with Krokus and Ted Nugent led naturally to the creation of new material which was released later that year by Roadster Records, which was actually Manilla Road’s label that had also released their 2 previous  albums. The final product was named Crystal Logic and revealed a band with a distinct sound which was clearly metal and had a heavy and epic atmosphere, both musically and lyrically, as it was obvious that Shelton was deeply influenced by fantasy literature and ancient mythologies, themes that however coexisted with more contemporary issues, besides it was an era that the human psychology was dominated by the fragile nuclear equilibrium.
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\r\nThe album opens with a short intro which is followed by the fast pacing “Necropolis”, a Manilla Road trademark song that manages to put the listener straight to the album’s atmosphere while at the same time it gets stuck in your mind with its characteristic chorus, not to mention Shelton’s great solo at the middle of the song. Next is the album’s title track which, like “Necropolis”, is also a fast one but without sacrificing any of its epic feeling for the sake of speed and of course there is another one of Shelton’s beautiful solos at the song’s ending. The next track, “Feeling free Again” is by far the album’s most indifferent song (no, there are no “bad” songs in here!) as it isn’t more than a typical Manilla Road song that belongs however to their more hard rock side of their early years and was written under the producer’s pressure who believed that this particular song could give the band some airplay on the radio. What follows is “The Riddle Master”, with its epic riff paying respects to Black Sabbath and which starts at a mid-tempo pace, only to peak at an outburst of speed at the end. Something similar takes place at the next track, “The Ram”, which however holds a more steady rhythm, again with a brilliant solo at the end.  “The Veils Of Negative Existence” which follows, plunges you deep into its dark atmosphere with its draggy tempo and some ultra heavy guitars by Shelton, who also delivers one of his best vocal performances. The album closes with the monumental “Dreams Of Eschaton”, which can easily contest for the best song Manilla Road ever wrote, since within its 12 minute duration it manages to drive you through its various atmosphere alterations and create a genuine epic feeling.
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\r\nThere is of course one more track, “Flaming Metal System”, which was written more or less during the same period. It is a flaming piece of fast epic heavy metal that could have easily been included to the album’s original release in 1983, since it was totally into Crystal Logic’s mood, something that showed when it was eventually included to the album’s CD reissue in 2000 by Iron Glory Records. It is also notable that the album was virtually release only in the U.S.A. and it was not until 1986 that French Black Dragon Records released the album in Europe, in the form of a blue vinyl from which “Feeling Free Again” was absent.
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\r\nCrystal Logic is a milestone in Manilla Road’s career, as it crystallized their musical form and opened them the gates to a wider audience, pulling them out from the relative obscurity they were in until then and giving them the chance to start creating a fan base beyond the Atlantic, something that they actually ignored until a few years ago! It also highlighted Mark Shelton’s gifted music personality, as he emerged as a gifted composer and musician, the man delivering also an outstanding performance as a guitarist and a vocalist at the same time.
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\r\nManilla Road may have created more great albums in the years that followed, maybe even greater than Crystal Logic. However, this particular album will always be the first real and full testimony of a band that taught the way epic heavy metal should be played and which, almost stubbornly, remained always faithful to its original vision and its fans, without “discounts” and retreats on its music as other bands did.
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\r\nLambros “Metalshock” Panetas
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