Long one of the best kept secrets in heavy metal, Wichita, Kansas' Manilla Road certainly have a semi-legendary career that started back in the late '70s and continues strong to this day. Out of the Abyss was the bands seventh album, originally released in 1988 and now being reissued by Shadow Kingdom Records, who are doing a great job making sure that these classic Manilla Road records stay in print. Recorded shortly after what is considered their 'glory' years with releases such as Crystal Logic, Mystification, Open the Gates, and Deluge, Out of the Abyss saw the bands continued shift towards more brutal, thrash oriented song structures. At this point comprised of the trio of Mark Shelton (guitars, vocals), Scott Park (bass), and Randy Foxe (drums, backing vocals), Manilla Road were as powerful as ever, the 9 crushing songs proof of their skills at creating hard hitting, memorable, and epic heavy metal material.
With the pulverizing opener "Whitechapel" telling the tale of Jack the Ripper, the band dip into more horror themed lyrical fare, and it's a trend that continues throughout the album. This lengthy song also fires up the thrash element in a big way, with breakneck riffing and nimble rhythms, not to mention a more violent vocal style from Shelton. "Rites of Blood" continues on with the lurid lyrical themes and thrash riffing, while the title cut and especially "Return of the Old Ones" take on a more traditional metal approach, the latter an atmospheric, ominous gem. Frantic rhythms and Shelton's chugging riffs permeate the killer "Black Cauldron", and "Midnight Meat Train", inspired by the Clive Barker story, is a furious ripper that sees Shelton hitting some King Diamond inspired vocal shrieks amid manic thrash arrangements. As in "War of the Old Ones", "War in Heaven" draws the line between prog and epic, atmospheric metal, with huge doom riffing, histrionic vocals, and shredding guitar solos. The album closes with the cracking 1-2 punch of "Slaughterhouse", a violent thrash attack, and the slow building but equally heavy & epic "Helicon".
Out of the Abyss showed that Manilla Road could easily keep up with the burgeoning thrash bands that were all the rage at the time, as well as deliver the classic metal sounds they were known for. If you haven't yet discovered this band, and want a taste of all that they encompass, this is as good a place to start as any.
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2) Rites of Blood
3) Out of the Abyss
4) Return of the Old Ones
5) Black Cauldron
6) Midnight Meat Train
7) War in Heaven