“The Edge of Sanity: ’88 Demo Sessions”

By Dr. Abner Mality

I still have a hard time accepting that Mark “The Shark” Shelton is no longer with us. The man was not only a phenomenal guitarist and metal to the bone, but he was a personal friend of mine. No apologies for being biased in his favor. Only time will reveal the depths of his loss.

Fortunately, the Shark was crazy prolific and I expect tons of tapes and files of unreleased Shelton goodies to see the light of day over the next few years. A great case in point is this eminently logical collaboration with another of the 80’s greatest US metal guitarists, David T. Chastain. “The Edge of Sanity” is a record of an epic jam session between the two mega-shredders and a valuable memento of something special. To get the obvious out of the way first, the sound here is pretty rough at times and the production is nowhere near the level of Chastain or Manilla Road’s work. Computer drumming has been added here to provide a suitable beat and it’s also obvious. Boy, this session could have used Randy “Thrasher” Foxe’s stickwork for sure!

That being said, it’s Shelton and Chastain together. “The Edge of Sanity”, the epic “Orpheus Descends” and “Fields of Sorrow” give these guys ample opportunity to cut loose with rugged US power metal just shy of thrash. 88 was the year that the thrashiest Manilla Road album “Out of The Abyss” was out and you can hear traces of that album’s style here. Mark’s vocals were at their peak as well. In addition to the three songs above, there’s a behemoth 20 minute plus version of “Orpheus Descends” that is ridiculously overlong but gives more room for these men to jam. For that alone, it’s worth a listen.

This is basically a guitar summit jam session and should be taken as such, but it’s so great to hear unreleased Shelton material and a collaboration with DTC that you can easily overlook flaws.

Arise, all ye faithful to the sword!