Manilla Road – Invasion (Reissue)
Posted by Terrible Certainty Zine
Shadow Kingdom continues its labor of love to reissue the better part of Manilla Road’s catalog, and next up is the band’s 1980 debut, Invasion.
The brilliance and personality of some legendary artists is clear from the get-go, but for others it’s a journey of stages. Manilla Road is one of the most underappreciated bands in American metal and unquestionably the end-all in epic heavy metal. But the band was on a somewhat different path on its early efforts, and did not truly find its voice until 1983’s landmark Crystal Logic. Invasion and Metal (along with recorded and shelved Mark of the Beast and the stuff on After Midnight Live) showcase a different side of Manilla Road. The material on Invasion is a product of the late ‘70s and only tangentially metal, rather it’s a spirit of the times blend of early Rush influence and an open, kicked back ‘70s heavy rock vibe.
As a debut, there are some patchy moments. “Far Side of the Sun” is an excellent song, but its trippy, echo-drenched two-minute intro is not, and the ballad “Centurian War Games” suffers from sometimes awkward verses. But there’s plenty of great material here, and on balance Invasion is very much a winner. The taut riffing and stuttering rhythms of “The Dream Goes On” have a strong Rush feel and set a great tone for the album. “Cat and Mouse” and “Far Side of the Sun” are massive ‘70s rock; heavy, fist-pumping fare just shy of crossing into the realm of metal. There’s also the cruising anthem “Street Jammer,” which Slough Feg covered on 2007’s Hardworlder.
You can hear the framework of the band Manilla Road would become. The most telling example comes via “The Empire,” the monster album closer that spotlights Mark Shelton’s penchant for epic arrangements and shifts, as well as his burgeoning lead guitar mastery.
Although Invasion has been available, you could only pick it up as a twofer with Metal, and it doesn’t sound quite as good as this remastered version. Invasion remains a fascinating look at the development of Manilla Road, but also has the chops to stand on its own merits as a rock record. Much like Rocka Rolla and Rush, Invasion isn’t necessarily the place to start with the band, but is certainly a prized album for the serious fan.