Manilla Road is the band that occupies the most space in my record collection. Not because they are my favorite band (though I am extremely fond of them), but because they have a huge discography dating as far back as 1980. Even more impressive is the fact that there is not really a bad record among them. "Crystal Logic" is the one that I find myself reaching for most often, it is one of those rare perfect albums. I'm going to assume that if you don't already own this album you probably know little to nothing about the single-most greatest heavy metal band to ever come raging out of Wichita, Kansas, so allow me to give you some history. Manilla Road was formed in 1977 by guitarist/vocalist Mark "The Shark" Shelton and his tight bros, Rick Fisher (drums) and Scott Parks (bass). The band was diligent and in 1980 they released their debut "Invasion" on their own label, Roadster Records. "Invasion" is a cool album of early Rush inspired hard rock/prog even if the playing falls short of the benchmark. Manilla Road unleashed a great follow-up album called "Metal" in '82 that showed the band adopting a more NWOBHM style. "Crystal Logic" followed in '83, and this really was the start of Manilla Road finding their own voice and creating something entirely their own. Shelton is a gifted songwriter and this album is testament to this fact. The songs vary from Iron Maidenesque gallops to slow mournful doomscapes with Shelton's unique, nasal voice spinning grandiose tales of fantasy with himself as the protagonist. There is absolutely no fat on this album (save for the intoduction), each moment, each riff is tremendous and has purpose. "Crystal Logic" never fails to entertain me no matter my mood nor how many times I have heard it before, it's always perfect. How many albums can you say that about? Mark "The Shark" still lives in Wichita and Manilla Road has existed now in some form or another for thirty years. 2005 saw the release of their fourteenth album "Gates Of Fire", and, dude, it's good. If there truly was such a thing as karma, or god, or whatever name you assign to the notion that the universe is fair, Mark Shelton would live in the castle that graces this masterpiece's cover, where he would sit on a throne of gold while oily concubines wash his feet in the tears of faeries. However, fortune rarely favors the geniuses and visionaries, and I am sure that Mark Shelton's reality is far less romantic. But through his work we all get to leave the mundane for a spell, and hear some great fucking songs in the process. Thanks Mark, you rule.