Manilla Road - _Mystification_
(Sentinel Steel, 2000)
by: Alvin Wee (9 out of 10)
OK, confession time. As cult as Manilla Road might be, I'm hardly familiar with the band's previous material, apart from their _Dreams of Eschaton_ demo. Expecting the mid-paced melodic epicness of their earlier material, I was rather put off by the unexpectedly thrashy nature of _Mystification_ at first, despite having been warned before about the band's new direction on the album. The trademark atmosphere isn't as evident as before, but still shines through in slower segments of tracks like "Children of the Night" and "Spirits of the Dead", and becomes more apparent in the album when listened to in its entirety. In fact, the entire masterpiece is a brilliant mix of aggression and melody; the highly atmospheric, Poe-inspired lyrics and Mark Shelton's uniquely mournful vocal delivery wrap up the musical package in shrouds of rich atmosphere. It's a pity that classic albums like _Mystification_, _The Deluge_ and _Crystal Logic_ had to wait so long for the slew of re-releases this past year, but it was worth the wait considering the quality of Sentinel Steel's re-issue. The lavish, full-color booklet boasts remarkably impressive artwork inside and out, offering not only the lyrics but extensive liner notes on the band and album history. Equally splendid is the sound: exciting and bold, without any hint of '80s fuzz surrounding it. Takes away some of the nostalgia, some might argue, but the sheer power and intensity of the music are all the more apparent for its crystal clarity. The only thing remaining is the label's adamant refusal to handle overseas orders, a strange decision considering the European market for metal...


(article published 13/3/2001)

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