Released: 2005, Black Mark
One of the most hideously underrated bands ever. Morgana Lefay (for a short time, Lefay) came out of Sweden in the early 90’s with a heavy riffing style reminiscent of American styled heavy power metal with big nods to thrash. Charles Rytkönen proving himself throughout the 90’s, and into the next century, to be one of the best voices in all of heavy metal while the band created music that was destined to be timeless, yet for some reason stayed rather unnoticed, especially on North American shores where it can be rare to find a fellow metalhead, let alone someone who’s heard of the band.
The band’s official website states that during 2001-2003 the band took a “long vacation” but the official announcement from the band at the end of 2000 had been a full break-up. Of course, for a big fan such as myself this was just heartbreaking as their string of classic albums had been broken and my hope for a new kickass album was instantly squashed. The band eventually reformed, much to my delight but it still took quite a while for the band to get a record deal and finally release their new masterpiece, THE GRAND MATERIA. And yes, what a masterpiece it is.
GRAND MATERIA is a bit of a different beast for the band. With the time between albums the band has updated their sound somewhat, gaining a bit more speed this time around as well as mixing that up with more stop/start riffing that was, prior to this album, not as prominent. To get an example of what I mean, think of the chorus riff in “Child of Time” off of THE SEVENTH SEAL or the small section in “Cimmerian Dream” where the drums and guitar sync up. The main difference this time though is the production. On earlier albums the sound was rather dry, just straight guitars, drums, bass, and vocals. This time things seem a little livelier, the drums sound a lot more energetic and punchier and the guitars have more of a modern edge (which might become a turn off for some, even though this is basically the same band it was 5 years ago).
The album opens with guitars slowly coming in before a simple, 3 chug riff comes in with a clean picked melody. Then eventually a third guitar comes in with a second melody used to accent the clean one and the song bursts forth with guitar and drums syncing up. The riff is very much like the one from say, “Cimmerian Dreams” but it’s a lot less compact with some space inbetween where to leave wide open spaces in the song. This leaves lots of room for Charles’ vocal melody and come time for the chorus “Grand Materia” goes over the top with a choir section. The climax of the song comes near the end with the choir and opening riff/melody coming together. “My Funeral is Calling” starts off with a soft, ominous melody before slamming into thrash mode. I quite enjoy the guitar/drum interplay during the verse as the drums start off directly following the riff each time, before going into a typical 1-2 drum beat. Keeps things a bit livelier.
“Only Endless Time Remains” is a mostly acoustic ballad that comes off very strong with its vocals being so smooth and powerful overtop. Rytkönen’s dramatic flair boosts the song to another level. “On the Other Side” begins oscillating between a soft, slightly atmospheric verse that leans heavily on the vocals before the chorus and break bring heavy, crunching guitar riffs. Later, “I Roam” starts off with its rather melodic chorus riff before it comes into a rather foreign riff to the band’s sound. Think Machine Head or the last couple Nevermore albums, with it’s rather groove metal styled first half, although it segues nicely back into the chorus. “Angels Deceit” comes in as being my instant favourite, kicking off with that always recognizable Morgana Lefay thrash riff before a melodic verse riff comes. The thing I actually enjoy the most about the verse is how the bass interplays with the riff, not just following the same pattern, but having its own little slide flourish at the end of the riff. The chorus is extremely catchy and grabbed me right away with its trade off between gang vocals and Charle’s solo voice.
Morgana Lefay haven’t just risen from the grave, they’ve ripped open the coffin with their brand of no bullshit heavy metal. Just be sure to give this one a little time to grow and you won’t be able to pry it out of the stereo.