It was in 1977, when Mark Shelton left his first band EMBRYO, in which he had been playing since the late 60’s after playing with various Country Rock, Jazz bands before forming MANILLA ROAD, where he had first played as a drummer and then as a bassist. In 1973 Mark bought his first guitar before he formed his first three piece band APOCALYPSE in 1974. This band changed their name to MANILLA ROAD which means “road of light” but which at the same time is the name of a highway between Colorado and Kansas (highway 75) that Shelton used quite often. According to Shelton the sound of this combo was very MOTÖRHEAD-like although Lemmy was still active in HAWKWIND at that time. He first got to know his later fellow soldiers Rick Fisher (drums) and Scott Park at Highschool. Fisher, who is as old as Mark, went to the same class as he did and he first met the somewhat younger bassist Park at a party where Shelton and Park hung out with the same people. In about 1979 this trio first recorded a demo which contained the songs “Far Side Of The Sun” (later also on Invasion), “Herman Hill” and “Manilla Road”. At about the same time, Shelton was thrown out of the College Radio when he was the first “DJ” to start playing Heavy Metal in the States. A bit later, shortly before the recordings for “Invasion”, the combo’s debut, they realized that at this time, it would almost be impossible to get a deal. So the three piece simply started an own label (“Roadster Records”) through which they wanted to distribute the following records. In 1980 they released the self-produced debut which contained “only” 6 tracks, but 2 of which were surprisingly long and progressive for a band in this stage.
That’s it about the early days of MANILLA ROAD, now we’ll jump to the year of 1990 in the band history, when “The Courts Of Chaos” was released, one of the absolutely godly works by the band. Even though some fans will beg to differ due to the Thrash influences. However they weren’t that important because for the most part there was an Epic feel that even the older discs couldn’t top. What was rather new was the keyboard sound that was integrated more strongly, which fits amazingly though. Some of the pieces wouldn’t even work without the keys. You would have to take into account that this album was recorded during a time of personal conflicts within the band, which is why the band split up after the release of “The Courts Of Chaos”, which is surprising to me because of the quality of the song material. For the furious opening with “Road To Chaos” alone, a very suspense-laden instrumental that is based on spacy key sounds and uncannily groovy drums only, and the following “Dig Me No Grave” are already very impressive. Even the cover version “D.O.A.” by BLOODROCK was incoirporated into the band sound and sounds like madness put to music…An epic consisting of several parts such as “The Books Of Skelos” wasn’t there on the original LP, but it definitely belongs to the very best of all the bands’ efforts! The elegiac title song is reminiscent of “Mystification” and is pure magic. Another absolute hammer is “The Prophecy”, a piece every MANILLA lover will instantly fall in love with…All songs are really well-done and bring home once again how underrated this band was/is. Furthermore you have to state that “The Courts Of Chaos” is the band’s most aggressive album so far…I think that it also contains the best vocals by Mr. Shelton, who sounds very raw and pissed off here – but on the other hand also very tender and fragile with the calm passages… (Online January 22, 2005)