Well, it has finally seen the light of the day. Yes, I am referring to the material that Mark “The Shark” Shelton and David T. Chastain created together back in 1988. Well yes there is such material in existence and despite the fact that many people thought that this was just another… urban legend, the song themselves prove the exact opposite. But lets take things from the beginning.
In search of potential bonus material for future MANILLA ROAD rereleases, bassist Phil Ross listened to various unlabelled tapes he found in Mark Shelton‘s house. In addition to some exciting live material, he discovered demo recordings that David T. Chastain and Mark began in 1988.
This collaboration does not come as a surprise to anyone. When the US distribution of Black Dragon Records from Paris got into trouble in the late 80’s, David signed MANILLA ROAD on his own label, Leviathan Records. The result was “Out Of The Abyss” (1988) which became available in the US. Also, on the solo album by CHASTAINS‘s singer LEATHER, “Shock Waves”, the title track was written by Mark. In 1999 the song “The Edge Of Sanity” (included here as a demo version) appeared on the album “Symphonica Millenia” by Chastain’s group ZANISTER. But beyond that, the friendship was cultivated over the years and that led to the publication of these rare recordings.
You got the background story. But what about music? Well, first of all let me say that all we got here is three songs in total. The second one, “Orpheus Descending”, is also presented in an alternative extended version. The original version lasts almost 12 minutes, while the extended version lasts about 21 minutes. The album spans a bit over 42 minutes in total.
The opening track, “The Edge Of Sanity”, will bring back memories from the “Out Of The Abyss” era of MANILLA ROAD. Well, it sounds quite logic to me as back then – I repeat, we are in 1988 – MANILLA ROAD delivered their most brutal album (“Out Of The Abyss”), so it’s quite obvious that this inspired David Chastain a lot. It’s going to be difficult to disagree on this after the very first notes of “Edge Of sanity”, a US Metal song based on an thrashy main riff, leaving quite a space for Shark’s vocal lines. Yes, it is quite aggressive, but in the way MANILLA ROAD expressed aggression back on their 1988 “abyss” days.
“Orpheus Descending” is the composition that stands out in this recording. Dark and epic, it lets all the magic of Shark’s voice to fill the air, only to briefly expand to a little opus. And yes, we can still hear some aggressive riffing in here, but there is quite an actual balance in the actual composition. From aggression back to mysterious epic guitar lines. The extended version of the song is even better, as it includes an extra – almost neoclassical – guitar interlude, plus different arrangements with some – almost tech thrash metal – riffs, themes and parts.
“Fields Of Sorrow” is probably the darkest composition of all. You’re going to worship the interlude part and the overall obscurity and epic development of the song.
It has to be clear that these three songs remained in the demo stage and therefore are existing only with drum machine instead of real drums. Yes, my friends, demo recordings form the vaults.
Overall, it is a very interesting combination of David Chastain as a guitar hero and songwriter, and Mark Shelton as the voice of Epic Metal and author of intelligent lyrics. A travel back in time that spawns many interesting questions: “How a completed record featuring Shark and Chastain would sound like?”, “Why did those recordings remain unreleased all those years?”, etc. etc…