Hard to believe, but epic metal legends Manilla Road now have 16 albums under their belt with the release of their latest CD Mysterium. Considering the band have never had any sort of mainstream success, that might seem like a long time to keep flying the flag of metal but this little band from Wichita, Kansas keep slogging through the trenches and delivering quality material time in and time out. Mysterium sees the band taking more of a straightforward approach to their craft, as it features songs that rely less on epic length and more on a 'to the point' and 'go for the throat' attitude.
Tracks like "Only the Brave", "The Grey God Passes" and "Do What Thou Will" remind of some of the mid '80s material, when the band were in between their psychedelic/hard rock/prog phase and epic styled metal style, delivering here shorter, concise classic metal tunes that have an almost NWOBHM feel them. Mark Shelton's crunchy riffing and nasally vocals are ever present, driving such rippers as "Hallowed be Thy Grave" and the adventurous title track (the former sung by Bryan 'Hellroadie' Patrick), which is easily the most epic and progressive tune on the album. I'm not 100% sold on the ballads "The Fountain" and "The Battle of Bonchester Bridge", as Shelton's crooning vocals can get a tad grating, but the latter has a nice rocking climax to it that works well.
Though it surely won't be considered one of Manilla Road's defining statements, as with all their albums it's quite solid and probably an album that's going to take some time to really resonate with the listener. Those new to the band probably would be better off sampling any one of their incredible '80s releases first, but Mysterium is still mighty fine in its own right.
01. The Grey God Passes
02. Stand Your Ground
03. The Battle of Bonchester Bridge
05. Do What Thou Will
06. Only the Brave
07. Hallowed be Thy Grave
08. The Fountain
09. The Calling