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.
There are masterpieces, and then there are masterpieces. What I mean to say is, an album I might describe as a “masterpiece” usually tends to become so in my perception in one of two ways: the first is the type in which it’s immediately, or at least quickly, obvious that it’s a challenging, cerebral album, one that has the potential to be a “masterpiece” in some way, but which takes a lot of time to fully digest and understand. Albums I would put in this category include Fates Warning’s Awaken the Guardian, Psychotic Waltz’s A Social Grace, and Holocaust’s Covenant. The other kind, though, doesn’t necessarily immediately (or ever) strike me as overly cerebral or complex or challenging; it might not even seem especially interesting or ambitious upon the first few listens. This sort of masterpiece is more subtle in a way; its brilliance creeps up on you gradually, and at some point you suddenly realize everything works together perfectly, or the juxtaposition of melodies just strikes you in a way that you never noticed before. Albums I’d put in this category would include Screamer’s Target Earth, The Mist of Avalon’s Here and After, and, getting more to the point of the review, the self-titled debut from British post-NWOBHM act Full Moon.