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Aside from my preference for thrash and black metal, I am also interested in "normal" heavy metal. After all, the traditional style is the nucleus of almost every subgenre. Back in the problematic nineties, I was glad for any kind of honest metal. Due to this situation, I bought "Sanctified". Lo and behold, this album really spread the original message of power, leather and chains, although its lyrics did not refer to these trite stereotypes. Nevertheless, the Swedish guys were not completely immune against the nonsense of the zeitgeist. The production had not much in common with the recordings of comparable bands of the eighties. The opener "Out in the Silence" came along with a very cold and computerized production. The rattling drums and the squeaking guitars during the solo part marked the main weaknesses of the mix. Aggravating this situation, the song itself did not surpass an undistinguished level. Morgana Lefay had to fight with initial difficulties and moved slowly into gear.
But the band proved its tenacity. The third track was the first number that revealed the strengths of the band. A classic riff, heavy and simple, kicked off "To Isengard". Stomping mid-tempo dominated and the reference to the Nordic mythology emphasized the mighty compositional approach. Lead vocalist Charles Rytkönen showed his capabilities. He made good use of his slightly limited, but vigorous and relatively expressive voice. "Mad Messiah" marked the second tune that stood out. It was another successfully elaborated mid-tempo track. Driven by earthy guitar lines and designed with a few breaks, it was more variable than "To Isengard".
Some of the guitar solos seemed to owe their existence to the dubious fact that pure heavy metal songs must have a guitar solo. Anyway, Morgana Lefay avoided gross misconducts. They moved between melodic speed metal parts and balladic excursions (the mediocre "Why?" has to be mentioned in this context) and everything was technically well done. But it was also true that they were not able to impress the listener in a sustainable manner. For example, "Sorrow Calls" began with tranquil tones and evolved into a genuine metal piece that possessed harsh parts as well as a very melodic guitar solo. And what remained at the end? An average, overlong number that was full of clichés. But the big amount of stereotypes did not surprise me. Just take a look at the multi-coloured and overloaded cover. If you suspect that I want to call it "terrible", then you are absolutely right. Honestly speaking, it has the power to cauterize my retina.
I would be lying if I said that the skip button did not come to my mind occasionally while listening to "Sanctified". It lacked of compactness and was simply too long. However, fans of true metal may add ten or even fifteen percentage points. Morgana Lefay surely did not disappoint their target group. But when considering the fact that "Sanctified" is not the only album of my collection, it is at risk of fading into oblivion. I fear that the same applies to the authentic band itself. This is actually a pity, because the majority of the here presented songs reaches a solid or even good level.
Morgana Lefay had a very distinctive sound. A good example of their originality is this fine album, a blend of power and melody, thrashy, epic and gloomy at the same time. "Sanctified" also marks an improvement in production and songwriting for the band, that after the previous "Secret Doctrine" chose a cleaner sound and an even more introspective atmosphere for each song. Not that "S.D." was a bad album, but it had some flaws, like many fans say, for some over-the-top lyrics and the overall modest recording and production. That's not the case of this album, luckily, being thicker and heavier than any other Morgana release, still retaining the psychological and mystical themes, plus the occasional Tolkien references. The tracklist is a rollercoaster between heavy ("Out in the Silence", the opener, "Another Dawn") and mid-paced, doomy songs ("To Isengard") and almost acoustic power ballads ("Why?" or "Sorrow calls"), though never lacking energy and originality. One of the highlights is "In the Court of the Crimson King" (for which a video was shooted), very fast and heavy and very representative of the album, musically speaking, as every note is played with great precision, every riff is interesting and all instruments, voice included, create a perfect mix; all this, while the arrangements are great on every song for they fit every different mood needed and the lyrics are thoughtful or fantastical, or both! To sum it all up, it's a great album, with many good moments, though some listeners will find it hard to get into or even cheesy in some details, nonetheless a very diverse release in the field of power metal, for its thrash, doom and other influences make it something different, and better, and the good music of this album is very enjoyable and surely worth a listen for every metal fan in general.