Manilla Road
The Blessed Curse
Golden Core
Street: 02.13
Manilla Road = Cirith Ungol + Ageless Wisdom
Seventeen albums and 38 years into their career, Manilla Road are still somehow releasing exquisitely weird heavy metal. While it doesn’t have the same catchy timbre of 2013’s Mysterium, The Blessed Curse is a slow-growing masterpiece that demands your full attention. Mark Shelton’s eminent riffcraft serves as architect to an album of incredible dynamics, encompassing the tender, psychedelic tones opening “Tomes of Clay” and the doughty Cimmerian thunder on “The Dead Still Speak” with equal precision and power. Side one of The Blessed Curse frequently calls to mind the brilliant first third of Gates of Fire, but effortlessly surpasses it with layered, virtuosic complexity that unfolds with each successive listen. The second disc, After The Muse, presents mostly the brighter, more acoustic side of Manilla Road, and includes the shockingly beautiful “Reach,” an ode to man’s self-destructive nature and the boundless frontiers of space travel. This album is simply gorgeous, a momentous achievement even compared to the best of Manilla Road’s work. –Henry Glasheen