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Manilla Road - "Out Of The Abyss (Reissue)" (CD)

Manilla Road - "Out Of The Abyss (Reissue)" CD cover image

"Out Of The Abyss (Reissue)" track listing:

1. Whitechapel
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
8. Slaughterhouse
9. Helicon

Reviewed by on January 8, 2015

"This record reveals some of the band’s fastest and most brutal material."

“Out of the Abyss” marked the seventh full-length recording from Kansas’ underrated metal chiefs, Manilla Road. Released originally in 1988 via Leviathan Records, “Out of the Abyss” was a far cry from the band’s early, proto-metal releases. Now finding its re-release on Shadow Kingdom Records, “Out of the Abyss” showed the band continue on a path of thrash metal from “The Deluge” and “Mystification.” This record reveals some of the band’s fastest and most brutal material.

Manilla Road founder, guitarist and vocalist Mark “The Shark” Shelton, chose dark topics relating to horror and mystery. The master of horror H.P. Lovecraft’s writings inspired Shelton to write “Return of the Old Ones” and “Black Cauldron” and he found sanguinary visions through Clive Barker on “Midnight Meat Train.” I am not sure whether he intentionally raised his voice to the chilling highs of King Diamond, but the comparison is certainly there. Other artists comparable in style include power-speed artists Metal Church and Agent Steel.

The album begins with “Whitechapel,” one of its fastest tunes, which concerns Jack the Ripper. Shelton imagined the sights and sensations infamous Jack experienced dissecting young women in London. After a blistering opening barrage of chords, drummer Randy Foxe joins Shelton in a heavy gallop. The title track is another blazing tune showing Shelton furiously pick his guitar. This track also contains some of the best bass playing on the album, very sharp and audible. Also, listen to “Black Cauldron” and “Midnight Meat Train” to get your speed fix. As if performing a dying gasp, Shelton produces some of his best screams on “Midnight Meat Train.” The gallops heard on “Whitechapel” are even more pronounced on “Black Cauldron.”

“Out of the Abyss” is not standard Manilla Road fair, if there is such a thing. This album is characterized by its speed and brutality, but when I think of Manilla Road, I think of epic qualities. This album finds these qualities during slower tracks such as “War in Heaven” and “Helicon.” The guitar tones truly shine as they find more time in the airwaves on “Helicon.” Both these tracks are melodic, and “War in Heaven” even contains clean harmonies not far removed from Metallica’s “The Thing That Should Not Be.” While not as epic in scope, the eerie noises and plodding rhythm of “Return of the Old Ones” certainly justifies a heap of accolades. This track shows the band closest to purveying true horror. Cthulu seems to rise from another dimension at the end of the track.

Largely due to the injection of hardcore in the sound of Slayer, Anthrax, and Metallica, especially in the vocals, high pitch vocals were nearly as celebrated in 1988. Manilla Road itself is one of those under-the-radar bands that so many King Diamond fans would love if they only knew about them. The fans of the band know their greatness and “Into the Abyss” is definitely a shining moment in a career of great releases. The speed, bruising riffs, and horror subject matter make “Out of the Abyss” a classic record not only in 1988 but for thrash overall.

Highs: Mark Shelton's guitar play is sure to get a few heads moving.

Lows: The production isn't bad but could be better.

Bottom line: The guitars should appeal to most metal fans while the high-pitch vocals may be hard to overlook.

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)