Manilla Road - Mystification
Black Dragon
Epic Metal
9 songs (43:02)
Release year: 1987
Manilla Road
Reviewed by James
Archive review

(NOTE: Although my version of Mystification is the reissue, which has a markedly different tracklisting to the original pressing, I'm still treating the album as if it had the original tracklisting. It's worth making a playlist of the original running order if this album is on your computer, as I find it to be a much better paced and more satisfying listen. Also, I just happen to have posted the original cover art rather than that of the reissue)

Striking back fast with their third album in three years, Manilla Road make yet another progression in heaviness. Yet more thrash influences creep in here, particularly in the pounding Up From The Crypt, amd the galloping rhythm break on Masque Of The Red Death recalling prime Slayer. The previous tinny production seen on their first five releases has been dropped in favour of a considerably more meaty, bass heavy sound, about as polished as an underground metal release could get in 1987. Interestingly, Mark Shelton chose to solo without rhythm guitar accompaniment here, giving Mystification a considerably more live sound than usual for most releases from the time period. The lyrics have taken a noticeably darker turn than the fantasy themes we're used to, this time taking on the works of Edgar Allen Poe as inspiration. Interestingly enough, despite the songs generally being a bit briefer than what we saw on The Deluge, they're quite a bit more complex, throwing riffs at you from all angles.

Yet at its core, Mystification is still very much the Manilla Road we know and love. The musicianship is still as endearingly sloppy as ever, the atonal yet oddly soulful soloing of Mark Shelton dominating this album. And despite packing things into shorter, heavier, faster bursts this time around, the band still show they have a knack for an epic, the title track growing from semi-heavy ballad into a full-on thrasher halfway through. The riffs still twist and turn like they used to, each song on Mystification being an ever-shifting rollercoaster ride. And as always, there's a handful of tracks that rank up there with Manilla Road's best. This time out it's the opener Haunted Palace, boasting one of the best choruses in the Manilla Road arsenal, and the aforementioned title track.

Admittedly, Mystification is something of a step down from the metallic glory of The Deluge. Perhaps this is because it feels very much like a transitional record, sounding like Open The Gates on its way to the full-on prog-thrash of Out Of The Abyss. Perhaps it's because there's nothing quite on par with The Deluge's best tracks here, despite everything here coming up to the same high Manilla Road standard we've come to expect. Mystification is very much a worthy addition to their catalogue, but at the same time, it still feels like, well, just another Manilla Road album. Still, those who liked the heavy Slayer influence on this one are in for a treat on the next album...

Killing Songs :
Haunted Palace, Masque Of The Red Death, Mystification
James quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Manilla Road that we have reviewed:
Manilla Road - The Blessed Curse reviewed by Andy and quoted 83 / 100
Manilla Road - Mysterium reviewed by Andy and quoted 79 / 100
Manilla Road - Playground of the Damned reviewed by Alex and quoted 82 / 100
Manilla Road - Into The Courts Of Chaos reviewed by James and quoted 84 / 100
Manilla Road - Out Of The Abyss reviewed by James and quoted 87 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
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