High Roller Records, black vinyl, ltd 500, 425gsm heavy cardboard cover, cardboard insert, remastered and restored by Patrick W. Engel at Temple of Disharmony
Manilla Road are a legend in their own right. The band that time forgot! Without the shadow of a doubt one of the most innovative American metal bands of all time. In the late 1970’s, Manilla Road practically single-handedly invented what is today called Epic Metal.
Hailed as US Metal pioneers (their debut album »Invasion« was released on their own Roadster label in 1980), the band from Wichita (Kansas) has set the trend for the current renaissance of Epic Power Metal (despite being at best ignored and at worst derided by mainstream metal magazines around the globe for some 25 odd years).
The band’s second album »Metal« was once again issued via Roadster Records (seeing the light of day in 1982). In 1983 Manilla Road put out »Crystal Logic« considered to be their best album ever. This led to a deal with French label Black Dragon Records.
The mini-album »Underground«, issued via High Roller Records, marks Manilla Road’s first trip into a professional recording studio. The »Underground« demo contained the three songs “Far Side Of The Sun”, “Manilla Road” and “Hermann Hill”. Those were originally recorded way back in 1979 (even before »Invasion«). The fourth song “Flakes Of Time” has been added from a rehearsal tape.
Mark “The Shark” Shelton explains in more detail: “There are three songs from the »Underground« demo recording. The other song was a live rehearsal recording from our place that we called the ‘Roadhouse’. Those three songs though were our first actual recording session in a professional studio. These songs were recorded with our amps and gear turned up loud and to tell the truth this recording sounds more like the band did back in that day than »Invasion« or »Dreams Of Eschaton«. They were recorded at Miller Studio when it was just getting started and we had no idea what the hell we were doing, ha, ha. We were fortunate enough to find the original master copy tape in perfectly preserved condition making for a great sound.”
The Manilla Road chronology in the early days has not always been crystal clear, take the song “Far Side Of The Sun” for example. Mark laughs: “ ‘Far Side Of The Sun’ has appeared on three Manilla Road releases already and now this will be the fourth. This version is pretty much like the version on »Invasion« except that you have a different drummer with Miles Sype on the »Underground« material and the song is done much slower with almost a doom feel to it. For that matter the band at that time had a real early doom sort of sound going on. ‘Far Side Of The Sun’ also showed up on »Live Roadkill« with a super hyped up live version with Randy Foxe playing drums.”
And “Herman Hill” is to be found on »After Midnight Live« as a live
track. This now is the studio version… Mark Shelton: “Yep. This is the actual first studio recording of the song. This would be the version that was played on the radio in Wichita for a brief period of time after the riot occurred.”
“Flakes Of Time” though, the fourth track on »Underground«, comes from a different source: “It’s just another one of those songs that I wrote and we played live for a while but we never recorded in the studio and eventually it just drifted off the live set list never to be heard again. That is until we found this rather poor sounding recording of it.”
Mark Shelton concludes: “»Underground« was really never meant to be an official professional release for sale back then. There was no real connection between the three songs at all. One thing that I think is interesting that I really sort of forgot about until I heard the recording of the song ‘Manilla Road’ again for the first in like some 30 plus years is that the saying that we used on the back cover of the »Invasion« album is a line from the song ‘Manilla Road’. I had totally forgotten this. You know the saying that goes “People ask us what do you play – there’s only one thing to say we’re Manilla Road.’”