Manilla Road - Out Of The Abyss
Black Dragon
Epic Thrash Metal
9 songs (42:35)
Release year: 1988
Manilla Road
Reviewed by James
Archive review

Ever since the very beginning, Manilla Road had been getting increasingly heavier with each album, so I suppose it's natural that this progression would come to some sort of conclusion. Enter Out Of The Abyss, which remains to this day, the heaviest thing ever to bear the Manilla Road name. Mark Shelton has stated in interviews that the album was essentially an attempt to play Slayer through a Manilla Road filter, and while it doesn't quite match the ferocity of that particular band it's still as thrashy and aggressive as you like, while never losing the knack for complex arrangements that makes Manilla Road one of the greatest metal bands about, even to this day. Opener Whitechapel kicks off full of snarling aggression, taking us on a seven-minute tour-de-force of top flight thrash riffing. Elsewhere we have malevolent mid-paced chugging (Rites Of Blood) and Lovecraft-inspired half-balladry (Return Of The Old Ones). So while Out Of The Abyss sees the band at their most furious, it's still unquestionably Manilla Road.

Having said that, there's something oddly different about Out Of The Abyss. Perhaps it's the ditching of the usual warm, 70s-inspired analogue tones the band used before in favour of a colder, more processed, digital sound. While this certainly brings out Mark Shelton's razor-sharp riffs it also means the album loses some of that esoteric sound that drew me to Manilla Road in the first place. It's fair to say that everything about Out Of The Abyss, from the clinical guitar tone to the pictures of the band dating from this period, feels very much like an attempt by Manilla Road to modernize themselves into something far shinier and cutting-edge. This colours the next couple of Manilla Road records, in fact, from the somewhat silly use of keyboards and programmed drums on The Courts Of Chaos, to whatever the hell The Circus Maximus might be. And where previous records sounded old, this period sounds dated (and there is a difference between the two).

Manilla Road save themselves, however, by coming out with one of their strongest collections of songs to date. Whereas Mystification, as good as it was, kind of felt like just another Manilla Road album, here the band sound positively invigorated, the ability to explore new musical avenues means the band have composed fresher sounding songs here, the likes of War In Heaven fusing traditional epic metal with the newer, heavier sound. Vocally, Mark Shelton is on fire, rasping and shrieking his head off in his most bilious vocal performance.

So while Manilla Road updated their sound and proved they could play with the big boys of 80s metal, it wasn't to last. Out Of The Abyss ends something of a golden period for the band, and I'm afraid it's a difficult couple of albums for our favorite epic metallers. The band were completely unprepared for the sweeping changes about to spread across the metal landscape, and so entered the 90s looking more anachronistic than ever. We're about to enter Manilla Road: The Wilderness Years, and while the results aren't up to scratch, they're pretty interesting to write about, at the very least.

Killing Songs :
Whitechapel, Rites Of Blood, War In Heaven
James quoted 87 / 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 - Mystification reviewed by James and quoted 85 / 100
To see all 12 reviews click here
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