Oh hey there – welcome to Throwback Thursday! This is the place where we get to indulge in nostalgia and wax poetic about excellent metal of years past.
This series embarks on a journey in search of albums that have primed the canvas of today's metal music scene. For this, the 19th edition of this series, we're gonna explore some of the eeeaaarrrllly roots of heavy metal in…
MANILLA ROAD'S CRYSTAL LOGIC
Release Date: 1983
Record Label: Initially Black Dragon Records, then re-released on Iron Glory Records
I remember when I first listened to Crystal Logic. For those of you who've followed TBT for a minute, you know that I am a sucker for bizarre album artwork. Who isn't? The stranger, the more drug-induced, the more fantasy concept driven, the more retro-futuristic, dystopian, woman with armor wearin' the cover – the better. Anyway, upon listening to Crystal Logic (whose cover made it a no-brainier purchase) I thought to myself, "How have I never heard this before?"
Crystal Logic is one of those albums that has (for me and someone of my generation) flown completely under the radar. And, that's a shame. Crystal Logic is fantastic start to end. It has presence and vision and that fantastic proto-metal feel. It's echoy, mid-tempo, and feels organic and exciting. You hear elements of metal in the 9 tracks on Crystal Logic that are so familiar in very recent trends in the metal genre. It's so cool to hear them in their earlier forms being fleshed out like a guppy coming out of the ocean to see what walking on land is like. You can actually hear the evolution of metal in the making on albums like Crystal Logic.
Manilla Road formed in Wichita, Kansas in the mid 1970's. Influenced by the look of Kiss and the lore of classic epic adventure books and wizard-y nerd shit, Manilla Road congealed as a band thanks to the efforts of lead singer and guitarist Mark Shelton. Crystal Logic is the fourth album from Manilla Road. At the time of the album's recording and release, the band was a mere 3-piece comprised of Shelton's drinking buddy Scott Park and friend from high school Rick Fisher.
Manilla Road have been mentioned in the same breath as Cirith Ungol and Angel Witch. The obvious comparison I'd draw is between Manilla Road and fellow early metal pioneers and beloved icons Iron Maiden. Both of these bands formed in the mid 70's and initially executed similar styles of metal. For example, I'd call them similar because of the pacing of the music and the clean vocals that experimented with vibrato and higher pitches. There's also an unwavering consistency to the song writing at this point in time for the two bands. Considering that the two groups developed in different continents, I'd say that the similarities are striking and worth noting. While they have parallels, Manilla Road took a different direction in originality and I'd consider them far more than 'America's Iron Maiden' or a rip-off band. Songs like "Dreams of Eschaton Epilogue" display their thoughtful song arrangements that include story-telling woven with doom riffs and march-like consistency.
I have to admit that there is one dud on the album, a song entitled "Feeling Free Again". It's not a *bad* song, but it just doesn't fit. It sounds too wholesome, day-at-the-beach for me. One thing I noticed about Manilla Road is that Mark Shelton's voice sounds a little Skeletor decided to become a lead singer of a band.
It's awesome to imagine a blue robed skeleton laying down vocals for a fantastic track such as "The Ram":
The standout track of the album is hands down "Necropolis":
This is a great track, and I find myself putting it on when I can't think of what I want to listen to. Over all, Crystal Logic is a standout and solid effort from Manilla Road. It is also immediately likable by more than just metal fans. This is another reason why music from this era is exciting. Not only does this album have intricate solos, speedy riffs and distinguishable moods – Crystal Logic is easy to listen to. It's not the first time I've called a metal record easy listening. I think 'ease' is a really desirable and over-looked trait in metal offerings. To keep a metal album likable for a wider audience without pulling in pandering pop-elements is quite a feat. I could let a variety of my non-metal friends listen to this album, and aside from the Skeletor vocals, we could all play a drinking game while enjoying it. Crystal Logic, and other offerings from the same year such as Iron Maiden's 1983 release Piece of Mind is are great gateway albums for the uncultured but curious music lover.
Do you have a proto-metal band you feel is underrated? Who do you love? Tell me down below, I love hearing from you. As always thanks for stopping by and I'll see you all next week!