Genre: Doom/Progressive/Heavy Metal
Label: High Roller Records
Mark “The Shark” Shelton is nowadays considered a living legend of Heavy Metal and extreme music, but up until now his journey wasn’t easy at all. 40 years ago, when he was starting with Manilla Road from Kansas’s Wichita, there was no sign that his insular and very epic music was going to be so unanimously appreciated. Except for his loyal followers (that I personally consider more as companions to his lonely journey) and some underground fanzines that foresaw Manilla Road’s grandeur, the rest of the world wasn’t even aware of Shelton’s existence, he remained in the shadows of the commercial trends that used to prevail these last decades. Hellwell isn’t his first attempt for a solo project; older fans might remember when he recorded “The Circus Maximus” through Black Dragon Records, back in 1992, even though it was released under Manilla Road’s name. The record label simply added the name for commercial reasons, which clearly didn’t work and the album remained undiscovered back then (the initial idea was for the project to be named Circus Maximus). 20 years later in 2012, after Shelton’s fame and status was established, he released the very good “Beyond the Boundaries of Sin” by Hellwell. A neat album with 7 tracks (the closing one of the album is almost 14 minutes long) that had a 70’s vibe, plenty of progressive elements and Uriah Heep/Deep Purple influences. In this years “Behind the Demon’s Eyes” things are way different. The production is modern, clearer, which doesn’t take anything away from the nightmarish atmosphere that the keyboards and synths are creating. The concept of the album is Sci-Fi themed. The addition of some brutal vocals doesn’t really add anything, but it’s not annoying either. The composition of the songs is definitely more technical compared to those in the debut, more progressive too I guess, while they’re certainly closer to Manilla Road’s sound (especially to the “Crystal Logic” era). The tracks in this album are definitely better and they could easily be in any Manilla album. “Necromantio” is an excellent fast paced song, the rapid solo and drum crushing in the middle of the song will -I assume- excite you, while the 13 minutes long “The Last Rites of Edward Hawthorn” is honestly an anthem. Epic chorus, changes, amazing dynamic, melodic keyboards, nightmarish atmosphere that pays tribute to 50’s and 60’s horror movies, an almost majestic intro, it’s a brilliant song! Overall, you sense a lingering attempt to link the music with sounds of 50’s and 60’s horror movies with plots similar to the theme of the album, without making the album a concept one, obviously. “The Galaxy Being” and “Lightwave” stood out to me the most, while regardless of being 16 minutes long I enjoyed a lot the “To Serve Man”. Highlight of this album is the incredible cover by Paolo Giraldi, his amazing work in this scene these last couple of years, undeniably left a mark.