Riddlemaster is the new project from Manilla Road founder/guitarist/vocalist Mark 'The Shark' Shelton and original Manilla Road drummer Rick Fisher, along with bassist E. C. Hellwell. The idea to put this band together came about when Shelton and Fisher happened to be talking one day and reminiscing about what Manilla Road might have sounded like if Rick has stayed in the group and never left back in 1984. Well, now they are picking up where they left off over 30 years ago.
Quite a bit more atmospheric and progressive than current Manilla Road, Riddlemaster go in some different directions here on their debut Bring the Magik Down. The opening, near 15-minute title track has elements of heavy metal and hard rock, but also dabbles in spooky prog as well, Shelton's nasally vocals and beefy guitar riffs present as always, but with some added synth passages and percussive textures from Fisher it's a well balanced and intriguing epic. Some moody, almost doom laden tones mix with a classic rock sensibility on "Crossing the Line", while brighter arrangements and a Southern Rock feel, including some engaging acoustic guitars, permeate the catchy "Every Mothers Son". Another lengthy track is "Lair of the White Witch", which again crosses over somewhat into doom territory, though the guitar riffs are more textured and less pummeling dirges, the atmosphere ominous and the lead guitar work effective. Look for more acoustic tones on the folky "Ghosts of the Plains", and the band get all sorts of Cactus/blues rock on us for the raucous closer "Go For the Throat", complete with slide guitars and plenty of wild grooves.
Those expecting the epic classic heavy metal sounds of Manilla Road will be in for a bit of a shock here on Bring the Magik Down, as Riddlemaster instead dabble more in areas of hard rock, classic rock, blues rock, folk, and prog. Give the guys credit for branching out into other styles here, and it will be interesting to see if this is a one off or whether more albums are on the table for the future.
01 Bring The Magik Down 13:59
02 Crossing The Line 4:51
03 Every Mothers Son 5:04
04 Lair Of The White Witch 9:03
05 Ghosts Of The Plains 7:20
06 Go For The Throat 8:02