When Mark Shelton passed away over a year ago, I was at a loss for words. For months I struggled to offer his shades tribute in my own way. I then recalled a brief exchange with him about how I played the song “Fall of Iliam” for a Latin Poetry class I had recently taught, and how it was in his music that I first felt that my passions for both heavy metal and classical antiquity truly came together as one.
One year ago today (July 27th) metal lost one of its most ardent and valiant warriors in Mark “The Shark” Shelton. Mark’s impact on the metal underground cannot be understated. He was a passionate musician who cared deeply for both the music and the people. His career with Manilla Road spanned four decades and nearly twenty remarkable records. Like many, I’ve taken the year since his tragic death to more deeply reflect on Manilla Road’s career. In doing so, I’ve found a much deeper appreciation for eras of the band that I had mostly ignored in favor of their classics. In particular, Mark of the Beast has resonated with me, leaving me wondering why I didn’t appreciate it as much before.
The Secret of Steel: A Guide to Epic Heavy Metal Pt. 1 – Introducing and Defining the Genre (Ft. An Interview with Manilla Road)
Part 1 of a 4 piece series on Epic Heavy Metal. This segment defines the sound and explores the beginnings of the genre. This part also features an interview with Randy “Thrasher” Foxe of Manilla Road.
Since the conception of metal, myriads of bands have dwindled in obscurity, taking it upon themselves to release only a few songs over one or two demos or singles before vanishing from the face of the earth, never to return again. We generally tend to polarize these bands based on the fact that they have so little material that it’s not likely to be diverse enough to facilitate a mixed opinion; thus the band is either thrown out the window as complete garbage, or elevated to a legendary status of a band untarnished by mediocrity, and, if they somehow reformed today, could certainly do no wrong. Enchanter falls into the latter category, releasing only eight songs over the span of two demos and a single in the late 1980s, but in this case, every song was absolutely killer, making for a spectacular compilation album and thrusting the band, at least in my mind, onto a pedestal of the grandest heights.
1990 was a pretty strange time for epic heavy metal, especially for Greece. The early 80s saw the beginning of epic metal, with releases from the grandfathers, Manilla Road and Manowar, as well as some lesser known acts, such as Legend and Dark Quarterer. The mid-to-late 80s saw a small wave of derivative acts, such as Baron Steele, Valkyrie, and Martiria, spring up in various locations (mostly from the U.S. and Italy). The movement would start to pick up again in the early-to-mid 90s, with acts like Longings Past, Wotan, and Crush, but ’89-’92 was a pretty barren time for Mediterranean epic metal; the founding fathers were mostly broken up, and the second wave hadn’t taken off yet for the most part. Enter Greece’s Ageless Wisdom.
It’s been three months since the legendary Mark Shelton of the epic metal titans Manilla Road passed to the other side. His sudden death made shock waves across the metal world. Mark was one of the kindest and most dedicated individuals out there – over four years of writing kick ass metal music without a hint of wavering. His never-ending devotion to music led him to a number of projects over the years in addition to his mainstay of Manilla Road – The Riddle Master and Hellwell to name a couple among a legion of others. One such project, buried long ago, was a collaboration with fellow US metal powerhouse David T. Chastain. Read more…