Saturday, 28 July 2018

REST IN POWER: Mark Shelton's journey through Manilla Road & Beyond

By: Richard Maw

Once again, one of the metal world’s heroes has passed on into the next world- whatever that may be. Mark Shelton is gone at 60 years old. Mark helmed Manilla Road through the years from the late 70s onwards; give or take a hiatus here or there. This warrior of true metal stayed active and creative throughout his musical life and is one of the very, very few musicians to reactivate a band that went on to greater success and recognition after their comeback.

Always the main man in the band- much like Lemmy was in Motorhead- Mark was ably and loyally assisted by a cast of stalwart brothers like Bryan Patrick, Rick Fisher, Scott Park, Randy Foxe, Phil Ross, Josh Castillo,  Harvey Patrick and Andreas “Neudi” Neuderth to name but a few. From early hard rock infused records such as “Invasion”, through the true metal breakthrough of “Crystal Logic” and on to bona fide underground classics such as “The Deluge”, “Open The Gates” and “Mystification”, Manilla Road continued to evolve and progress.

After a period of diminishing returns, Shelton put the band on hiatus for a couple of years in the 90’s but in the end the muse proved too strong and Manilla Road came back up from the crypt to create multiple more entries into the band’s prolific musical canon. The comeback albums pulled in influences from modern metal such as death growls and furthered the progressive element of the band. Each album was different from the last and the creativity on display on “Voyager” was matched by the intensity of “Playground of the Damned” and so on.

Right up to the end, Mark Shelton refused to lay down the sword and it is my view that the last few years produced some of his very best work. Manilla Road went back to metal basics on “Mysterium” and then made an absolute masterpiece with “The Blessed Curse” and consolidated that progressive metal approach with the superb “To Kill A king”. Unbelievably, Mark also found time for the deliciously dark side project Hellwell and the hard rocking “Riddlemaster”- with a release from each of those bands AND Manilla Road in 2017 alone! I cannot claim to have known the man, but the fact that he bothered to get in touch after I reviewed “To Kill A King” in 2017 is testament to a kind and caring man who was very gracious to me about a review I felt absolutely compelled to write- such was the high quality of the record I had bought. Neither he nor Bryan Patrick had to pass comment at all- but they did and it made my day that they were so positive about what I had written.

Manilla Road are a band that almost all underground doom and trad metal bands will name as an influence and that is testimony to the quality of the music that Mark produced. The albums were always idiosyncratic, always varied and featured production quirks, unique vocals and incredible songs. Mark Shelton will be missed as a man (a friend, a father, a relative, a band mate and so on) as well as a musician, but his musical legacy will live on. I would like to think that Mark’s quest continues beyond the veil and that somewhere in the halls of Valhalla he still searches for the lost chord, the next song, the perfect solo and prepares to do battle on stage again for all eternity. Rest in power.

The following is a statement from the band. 

It is with a very heavy heart that we announce the passing of our beloved brother Mark (The Shark) Shelton, founder and lead guitarist for Manilla Road. Mark passed away suddenly, while at the Headbangers Open Air Festival in Germany. His brothers and band mates are making arrangements to bring Shark's remains home. All money donated will go directly to Mark's Mother Janet Elliot for the hospital and mortuary expenses.

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