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MANILLA ROAD - Spiral Castle (12" LP)

United States | Epic Heavy/Power
Price Range:   $17.77
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Roughly ten years after what was originally planned as a Mark Shelton solo project, namely "Circus Maximus", the album "Atlant's Rising" marked the comeback phase of Manilla Road. They had signed to Iron Glory Records in Germany and issued two records in quick succession, "Atlant's Rising" in 2001 followed by "Spiral Castle? in 2002. As "Spiral Castle? was released so shortly after "Atlant's Rising? it might be legitimate to wonder if all the songs on "Spiral Castle" were already written when "Atlant's rising" came out. The overall style of both albums is indeed a bit'similar. "Good question", finds Mark Shelton. "And thanks for paying such close attention ha, ha. Actually some of the songs on 'Spiral Castle' were written when Randy and Harvey were playing with me in the mid 1990's. After we did 'Atlant's Rising' I decided to resurrect those songs. I re-wrote them a little and changed the titles and sort of re-arranged some of them to fit the group of guys that I had playing with me at the time (Anderson, Patrick and Peters). Since the songs were written before Bryan started singing with us we changed the vocal approach on most of the songs. So it did not take too long to have some of 'Spiral Castle' written. The song 'Spiral Castle' was originally called 'White Goddess'. 'Merchants of Death' was originally called 'Holy War' and 'Seven Trumpets' was first called 'The Gods Are Sleeping'. The rest of the songs on the project were written specifically for the project. I would not'say that the album is a total similar style to 'Atlant's Rising' but there are similarities because of it being the same band members playing on the project. I personally feel like there was a bit more of an art'stic approach to 'Spiral Castle'. It's not a huge epic concept like 'Atlant's Rising' was and I think 'Atlant's Rising' was a bit more of a direct approach to the songs than 'Spiral Castle'. 'Spiral' has a real artsy feeling to most of the songs. Especially songs like 'Seven Trumpets' and 'Merchants of Death' and 'Gateway to the Sphere' and 'Sands of Time'. We experimented a little more on this album than we did on 'Atlant's Rising'. Even though 'Atlant's Rising' was a sprawling epic concept I think that many of the songs on 'Spiral Castle' sound more like epic material.?
The song "Throne of Lies" was only to be found on the original vinyl edition of "Spiral Castle" but not on the CD. It was by far the most untypical song of the record. The Shark agrees: "Yes, it was a lot different'style than what we usually do. But that is what Manilla Road has been about through all these years. Experimenting with the fusing of styles with metal has been fundamental with the style development of the band's sound over the years. The song sounding so different from the rest of the material on the album is what led the label to not putting it on the CD. I was pissed because they just did it without telling me. The song would not have even appeared on the LP if it was not for me raising hell with the label about it. I have heard differing opinions about the song. Some say that it is the worst'song on the project and others can't understand why anyone would have wanted to leave it off. I myself think that the song is definitely different from most Road tunes but I also think that the bridge solo section in the middle of the song is rather cool. I really like the guitar solo that I did on that'song."
The original vinyl edition of "Spiral Castle" out on Black Widow is pretty rare nowadays, so the High Roller re-release definitely makes sense. Mark: "I think it was only released in a limited amount of copies on Black Widow. Sort of like the first 'Invasion' release on Roadster Records. The first cover style on that album saw only 1,000 copies pressed. We changed the cover a little when we changed pressing plants and all the rest of the 'Invasion' copies were different. So since so few were produced it makes them very collectable.?
When asked how Mark would personally rate "Spiral Castle" in relation to the other Manilla Road albums, he answers: "My favorite Road albums presently are 'The Deluge', 'Gat's of Fire', 'Atlant's Rising' and 'Playground of the Damned'. And I think that is the order that I would put them also. 'Spiral Castle' would most likely fall in place right after those. You always put me on the spot with these types of questions ha, ha. I have songs that I truly love on every album we have put out'so it is really hard to choose sometimes which are your favorite projects. The ones I have listed though are albums that I feel like the whole of the project was done really well. 'Spiral' is one of those projects that was a collage of different approaches to the music. More of an experiment album than some of our others. We were starting to incorporate Bryan more into the vocal position at this point which made it very different from any other Manilla Road album put out to that point in time. I did most of the singing on 'Atlant's Rising' and we were determined to work the Hellroadie into a much more important vocal position than he had been on that album. So there is a lot more of Bryan on 'Spiral' than on 'Atlant's' which in itself made the project very different from all the previous Manilla Road albums.?
Somebody once mentioned that "Merchants of Death" was actually written about the Klu Klux Klan. According to Mark this is a rather free interpretation: "No, it was not written about that. I suppose that if I was using them as the basis of the song I would have had to write 'We don't want your racial war', ha, ha. 'Merchants of Death' is about opposing conflicts based in religious arguments. Way too many people have died, with the excuse for warfare being a difference in religious beliefs. That is just bloody stupid. Let's call it by what it really is ? greed. All wars are based in some sort of greed. Greed for power, land, resources or even food. I bet if the greed emotion did not exist we might not even have war. I guess I just don't like seeing folks killed or persecuted in the name of god. It is like a cheap deception that everyone can see through. We all know deep inside that organized religion of any sort only exists to control the masses. Oooops, the greed of power. I usually don't get political with our music but in some cases I like to point out my own opinion of the flaws I see in man's philosophy of life and death. 'Merchants of Death' was more of a stab at religious fanatics and ethnic cleansing, which by the way is also very bloody stupid as far a I am concerned."
I got the impression that the "Atlant's Rising"/"Spiral Castle" comeback phase of Manilla Road is some kind of a forgotten era compared to the band's 1980's and 2000's catalogue of work. Mark Shelton does not'see it quite like this: "I don't think that phase has been forgotten here in the Stat's because 'Spiral Castle' actually made it onto one of the Rolling Stone charts in the number 2 slot for one week ? ha, ha ? one week ? man, I finally got there ? now I'm a rock star, ha, ha. We toured in the Stat's a bit during that time and so both of those albums are fairly well known in the mid west and northern stat's in America. As for Europe or the rest of the world, I'm not really sure. I know that 'March of the Gods' from 'Atlant's Rising' is pretty popular in Greece. It was a really interesting phase for the band because of the reforming of the band and figuring out what direction to go musically with a reformation. Do you try and come back with something that is just like the stuff you got famous for or keep on going down the road of invention? I decided that the road of invention and always searching for the lost chord was what was most important. My roots will always stick their head up in different'songs but I still think that moving on and not trying to copy the sounds yore is still the best approach. I would say though that I do like staying true to certain traditions, for example the lyric style and choice of topics. And I will always throw in a few signature guitar chops for the hell of it also.?
Manilla Road has over the years earned their fair share of criticism regarding cover artwork. In most cases, I could not really relate to that criticism. In the instance of "Spiral Castle?, however, I also think that it's probably a bit too obvious and too close to Manowar. ?I was never really that happy with the art on that cover", reveals the Shark. "It was a lesson learned for me. The label did all the art management and consultation for the cover on that album. It is the only album besides 'Mark of the Beast' that I had nothing to do with the layout or design of the project. There is not one single Orc in the lyrics or stories on this album, yet there are on the cover... ha, ha ? what the hell? I'm always into a good fight'scene but it really had nothing to do with the content of the album. Don't get me wrong, I think the art'st is really good. For that matter he did 'Atlant's Rising' as well and I really like that cover painting. But it just'seemed to me that the art did not fit the concepts within the album."
If nothing else, the release of "Atlant's Rising" and "Spiral Castle" in quick succession at the beginning of the new millennium made it clear to all fans that Manilla Road was back to stay. The Shark agrees: "Yup, sorry but it's true and I've said it for years, as long as there are supporters of the band out there that want more new music from me then they will have it. If you want it live then let us know and we will make that happen also. I have been blessed with the best fans in the world and their undying devotion to the music is what keeps me going. My thanks to all of you for giving me the opportunity to be the voice of the muse. I am still working on a plan that allows me to still do this after I die. Still working on that one though, he, he.?
Matthias Mader

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