Friday, January 24, 2014

Manta Ray- Visions Of Towering Alchemy

Divebomb Records

For this entry into Divebomb Record's "Bootcamp Series" we must step inside the WABAC machine and return to another time period. While it might not seem as if it was all that long ago, as we're only talking about 20+ years having passed, the fact is so much has changed (from our day to day lives to the world in which we now we come home) that it might have been a 100 years ago! Long before the internet made us all slaves to technology, and the best albums (usually only to be found on cassette tape and vinyl mind you!) could still be had by going to your local Mom and Pop store down the street, a young band named Manta Ray released their one, and unfortunate as it would prove to be, only release in "Visions Of Towering Alchemy". The exact time (1990) and place (Dallas, Texas) are recorded in the pages of history (or Heavy Metal History that is), but what has been previously laid to paper in regards to this young band is woefully inadequate! The band Manta Ray, which had formed one year earlier and was lead by guitarist/vocalist (and recent Hollywood Musicians Institute' graduate) Lance Harvill, issued this (originally) four-track EP that, despite being less then twenty minutes in length, told the world everything that they needed to know about the band's long-term potential. Unfortunately for every good album that came out that year (Death's "Spiritual Healing", Annihilator's "Never, Neverland", Judas Priest's "Painkiller", Prong's "Beg To Differ", King's X's "Faith Hope Love", Mother Love Bone's "Apple" and Social Distortion's "Social Distortion") there were more then enough train-wreck releases from likes of  Poison, Warrant, Slaughter, Don Dokken, Firehouse and Dread Zeppelin (God, remember them?) to derail the hopes of any up-and-coming band. And of course lost in the shuffle of a dying heavy metal scene was this young Dallas act. At the time this should have been just the starting point for a promising career. While the Lance Harvill might not ring any bells now there was some serious talent waiting in the wings as far as Lance's cohorts. Standing beside Lance was guitarist Mike Morgan (ex-Hell Church, ex-Seventh Gate) and two gentlemen who would go on to have quite the successful careers (bassist David Harbour and drummer John Luke Hebert). While both of these individuals would go on to play with Chastain, Leather and King Diamond (!) it would be David, whose exceptional bass playing was obvious from the very start of his career, who really took after Manta Ray's far too brief existence! Not only did this talented bassist find himself with Chastain, Leather and King Diamond (and not to mention the ambient act Equimanthorn), but he was also involved with solo projects from the likes of David T. Chastain and Michael Harris. All of which is fine and dandy I hear you saying, but what about this particular band and the re-released "Visions Of Towering"? I'm glad you asked as "Visions Of Towering Alchemy", which was originally laid to tape at Dallas Sound Lab Studios (Pantera and Rigor Mortis), showcases a young band that had so much to offer a scene that was in desperate need of earnest heavy metal like this. Early Queensrÿche would be one good starting point as far as references are concerned. Anything from the "Queensrÿche" EP up to "Rage for Order" would be in order. But, "Visions Of Towering Alchemy", having now been expanded to a six-track EP thanks to the inclusion of two bonus cuts in "Guilty" and "On My Own" (both from the 1991 demo "Die Hard"), would likely be a welcomed addition to those who count Sanctuary's "Refuge Denied" and Dio's "Lock Up the Wolves" as part of their personal heavy metal collection. Along with a little maybe a little Crimson Glory ("Transcendence"-era), Lethal (their "Programmed" album), Fates Warning (only up to their "No Exit" album though) and Mainiax & Ray Gunn (two cult 80's metal bands who sadly only released one release apiece like Manta Ray!) and there you have it! Six (slightly) prog-leaning heavy metal/power metal tracks of exceptional quality. That is what this particular "Bootcamp Series" release from Tribunal Records' offshoot label, Divebomb Records, has to offer. Here's the thing though (and this is one thing that I really like about Divebomb releases). You don't just have to take my word for it. Nope. You can actually listening to samples of this cult re-release at the link below! How sweet is that! Just be forewarned though of one tiny little detail. As with the other release in the "Bootcamp Series" this one is limited to just  500 copies! So, you know the drill then right? You snooze, you lose! It's as simple as that folks! Personally I'd suggest that you not miss out on this one, but that's just me! Still, at a mere $7.00 this one seems like a real no-brainer my friends. I'm just saying....

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