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Sorcerers and Witches; They’re All an Illusion - 91%

bayern, May 20th, 2017

Morgana Lefay appeared at the dawn of the new decade, brilliantly oblivious to the emerging trends on the scene. Their hearts lied with the classic metal canons, and their debut fully exemplified their passion with its old school feel with not a single detrimental ingredient. The style was pretty much classic heavy metal with shades of both thrash and doom the latter not a surprise having in mind that the band come from Candlemass’ homeland. Mentioning the latter, the legends’ game-changing “Chapter VI” instigated the progressive power/doom metal wave that spawned some of the finest acts to ever come out of Sweden (Memory Garden, Memento Mori, Veni Domine, Abstrakt Algebra, Fifth Reason, etc.), and kept the groovy/aggro vogues at bay for a large portion of the 90’s.

Our friends here do not belong to said wave as their approach is way more orthodox without too many progressive aspirations, unlike another Swedish outfit who started at around the same time, Tad Morose. When it comes to doom, though, their debut was full of it nearly occupying half the playing time, and it wasn’t certain which direction the guys would be willing to pursue on subsequent efforts. The sophomore answered that question handsomely by speeding up putting power and thrash up front, doom metal pushed towards the trenches… To an extent, though, as “The Secret Doctrine” brought it back on a couple of tracks immersing the delivery in dark, sombre “colours”.

1995 was a very busy year for the band who released a single, a split with some of their compatriots (Tad Morose, Cemetary, etc.), a best of compilation also containing one brand new track and two covers (Crimson Glory’s “Lost Reflection” and ABBA’s “Voulez Vous”), and a new opus. And that hard work paid off as the guys managed to break into the mainstream. A big contribution for this occurrence has the album reviewed here as it provides a wider palette for the audience to choose from, a diverse opus which pulled back the diehard fans a bit. There’s nothing wrong with it, on the contrary, it sounds more compelling with its bigger mixture of styles which begins with the crushing power/thrasher “Out in the Silence” attacking the fans with a pleiad of crunchy, heavy steam-rolling riffs Charles Rytkonen’s traditionally reliable emotional high-strung vocals ruling the proceedings with panache. “Time is God” is a more melodic power metal cut, another staple showing with more melodic guitars naturally leading to “To Isengard”, an epic masterpiece of officiant doomy proportions, one of the band’s finest achievements, a battle rouser that even Manilla Road and Manowar would find hard to produce. “Why?” is a great lyrical ballad, a welcome respite with Rytkonen nicely displaying his more tender side pitching it higher and more dramatically on the hard-hitting finale.

“Mad Messiah” is a seismic proto-groover, the first indication of the guys’ paying attention after all to what was going on around; interesting balladic breaks accompanied by thunderous bass can be come across those also present on “Another Dawn”, a more aggressive shredder with more intense thrashy build-ups the latter becoming quite speedy towards the end. “In the Court of the Crimson King” is not a King Crimson cover, but is a fabulous headbanging thrasher the guys unleashing a lot of fury moshing out in a way they haven’t quite exhibited previously. “Sorrow Calls” is a short peaceful ballad provided as the pacifier after the wall of rage that was the preceding number, and “Where Insanity Rules” is a more orthodox power/thrash piece with nice semi-technical accumulations and another unmitigated application of grooves. “Shadows of God” retains the hectic riff-patterns, but adds up more dynamics with boisterous bouncy rhythms thrashing more confidently without speeding up too much. “Gil-Gad” is an awkward piece starting with deeply atmospheric, sombre riffs followed by a long string of silence the latter interrupted by a silly crossover joke. An ill-measured epitaph that runs the positive impression, but just a bit…

Not such a big deal, after all, anyone can get tempted by the jocund, laughable side of life, and this effort remains one of the guys’ finest showings forming a really captivating package with the following “Maleficium” which was released a year later and provided the less immediate, more complex, progressive-prone alternative to the album reviewed here. More great things were probably going to appear out of their roster, but an internal turmoil led to the band’s split up into two fractions, a story that should be familiar to the metal heads with all the “gory” details by now. The supposed reunion album “Grand Materia” was a welcome return to their old delivery the band sounding even angrier and thrashier than before with added modern boost to the guitars. It all went further, up or down depending on the taste, on the following “Aberrations of the Mind” which is the guys’ most aggressive offering so far, but not in such a good way; the modern guitar reverberations sound annoying and too noisy at times, and Rytkonen tries to match the heavy unmelodic pyrotechnics of his colleagues with harsher, less attached vocal lines.

This last instalment was by no means a flop, and definitely deserved a dignified sequel, but the band fell into another creative hiatus which lasts until the present day. Not to worry, when the next gathering of sorcerers and witches takes place, there’s no doubt who’s going to provide the musical accompaniment to those “unsanctified” festivities…

Properly implemented metal - 63%

Felix 1666, July 19th, 2015
Written based on this version: 1995, CD, Black Mark Production

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.

A worthwhile experience... - 92%

Elric, August 13th, 2004

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.