Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2022
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Let it also become myth - 100%

gasmask_colostomy, November 5th, 2019

Ask any fan of traditional heavy metal how they would like an album to sound, then play them this and watch them completely change their answer. For a band who never quite did things the way other bands would, Pagan Altar certainly ended up uniting metalheads with this superlative third album. (The chronology is hazy and conflicted at best, so don't ask why Mythical & Magical gets to be the Brits' third album.) Think about it: did any of these things make your list when you were thinking about your perfect trad metal album?
1. Raw, trebly guitars that are weirdly overdriven;
2. Scratchy-voiced singer;
3. Soft, quiet drums;
4. Plenty of folk ballads;
5. A concept about witches and fairies.
Likely not. The only album I can really think of that is anything close to Mythical & Magical could be (The Lord Weird) Slough Feg's Down Among the Deadmen, not only because of some connected Celtic themes but also due to the way that fairly classic lead-drenched heavy metal is taken to a classroom, sat down, and thoroughly schooled by a bunch of slightly odd middle-aged men. And in this classroom, the teachers don't permit of asking questions, because their instinctive wisdom just feels right.

Pagan Altar were much more of a doom metal group before this album and then returned closer to that style with the eventual follow-up The Room of Shadows. Nothing particularly heavy or slow gets poured into the cauldron of Mythical & Magical, the listener more likely to find themselves confronted by folky acoustic guitars and shuffling drumming, such as the twang and bounce generated during 'The Crowman', which hots up exquisitely at the drop of a hat. A great deal of the listen feels like a jam session, Alan Jones playing lead guitar for practically half the album, covering the moments when Terry Jones drawls not. (I was surprised to find that Terry was Alan's father, not brother as I had always assumed.) Frankly speaking, I never want either of them to stop, so it's amazing that my wish comes true and the pair of them keep going in turn for over an hour. Saying that both are excellent seems redundant, because it doesn't explain why they concoct such a special performance here; perhaps their qualities come from the fact that the sound of both guitar and vocals strike a familiar pang of deep-rooted nostalgia that I just didn't know I could feel until I heard this.

Terry's voice is autumnally crisp and dry, the only voice I can remember that justifies the description of "reedy". It's the same kind of harsh yet pure croaking whistle you hear when you blow through your fingers onto a reed, and he feels hundreds or even thousands of years old, especially when narrating pre-memory tales like 'The Erl King' and 'Samhein'. The lyrics form a bizarrely resonant tapestry of life beneath all the trappings of modern existence, as if Pagan Altar had stripped us of our clothes and our mindsets and found the same heart still beating within. Few other vocalists could fulfil their role in that context; however, Terry Jones feels and sounds like an enchanted mouthpiece of British (call it Celtic if you like) folk history. For anyone whose only reference for British accents is a Cockney Londoner, consider that King Arthur was supposed to come from Cornwall, which even today has its own language and a very distinctive accent; Jones may not be Cornish, yet he embodies that kind of ethos about his homeland and simply sounds timeless. I could listen to him all day even if there wasn't any music playing.

The guitars overlap with a lot of that description, though Trevor Portch and Mark Elliot should not be forgotten either. Portch's bass allows itself to be frequently overpowered by all the guitar layering and the general crackle of distortion, playing modestly while still producing a great deal of feel, a position that the drums also occupy. The lead players feature so high in the mix that Elliot becomes almost drowned out at climactic moments, which testifies to his timing during the up-tempo 'Flight of the Witch Queen', where certain fills still manage to deserve a tip of the listener's hat before another screeching chorus. The main reason that the rhythm section gets a mention before the younger of the Joneses is merely that the rhythm guitar and lead guitar fit the folky lope like a glove - a glove on a scarecrow, that is. By which I mean that Alan so capaciously envelopes the raw rhythms with warmth and comfort that one can barely believe how rich the album ends up. I'm not sure how many times I've listened to Mythical & Magical, though I will tell you that I barely noticed the riffs because of just how many leads and melodies are gifted us during every song, the album absolutely drenched with sweet, nectarine solos that drift and swoop endlessly across each song. I'm sure to give the wrong impression if I say that the smoothness of these solos are almost unmatched in heavy metal, since Alan fires off some more raucous leads on 'Daimoni na Hoiche' and a few of the higher-paced numbers, yet everything feels in keeping with the rest of the music, like a shadow following its master.

What really brings my logic to the point of defeat is that the purer heavy metal songs on Mythical & Magical - for all their free-flowing glory - end up utterly overshadowed by the whispering acoustic songs and ballads. The manner in which the world freezes as the meticulously atmospheric 'The Erl King' appears through the trees must surely be real magic, since the subtle use of keyboards, effects, and teased notes of crystal lead guitar creates an unearthly hush for the equally unearthly piping of Terry Jones's anxious father character, a story that compels you to stop what you're doing to listen, whether the first time you hear it or the twentieth. Except for saying that 'The Erl King' gets to the heart of everything, there seems no objective way to describe its brilliance. By contrast, one may be tempted to find fault with the noisily jolly 'The Witches Pathway' that follows the long ballad, especially as the raucous riffing and deliberate shredding call to mind particular disciples of hard rock and heavy metal from ZZ Top to Angel Witch; however, Pagan Altar also pack an emotional punch when trading restraint for rocking out, as your obnoxiously tapping foot will soon reveal.

If you are looking for weak spots in Mythical & Magical, you will probably need to listen to the album several times with intense concentration to understand that the only mistake the band really made was not finishing the album with 'The Erl King', not that 'The Rising of the Dark Lord' merits much less respect and attention. Of course, once you've listened to this release that many times, any notion of flaws will have been thoroughly excised from your thinking and you will have instinctively given in to the irrational beauty of this work. I wouldn't like to write another thousand words, so I will have to conclude without mentioning the progressive twists of 'Dance of the Druids', another searing ballad in 'The Sorceror', and the encompassing, tumescent ritual of 'Samhein'. Exquisite execution usually comes with some songwriting defects and compositional prowess is often attenuated by some measure of deficiency in performance, but Pagan Altar achieved something here that absolutely befits the title of Mythical & Magical. Let it also become myth.

Preaching at the altar of the lead - 89%

lord_ghengis, December 20th, 2013

I love guitar solos and leads. They're wonderful additions to any song which can provide flair, excitement, emotion, sheer technical impressiveness, cover for dynamic shifts, provide melody and beauty or savagery and insanity, or any other number of glorious things which make metal songs even better than they already were. One thing I couldn't say however, is that solos can really make a song. By definition, they're a topping, a little bit of extra awesomeness to add to the bulk of the song. As such a good solo never really makes a bad song "good", it just means you've got a bad song with a ripping lead guitar section in it. Manilla Road's gloriously well composed licks and harmonies never make up for the fact their vocalists suck and they sound like they record their music inside a cardboard box with the microphone left outside, Ningen Isu's unique playing style can't make up for the fact their majority of their riffs are tired rehashes of rehashes from the Black Sabbath days. Obviously after a set up like that it should be painfully clear Pagan Altar completely mess up this argument.

I'm just going to start off by getting all your bad will thrown at me right away; Pagan Altar are kinda mediocre going on a bit crappy. Literally everything they do that isn't a lead guitar line or outright solo either sucks or is completely inconsequential. The vocals sound like a mix of Sol Invictus guy, both old bored man Mark Shelton and earlier, ridiculous nerd with the presence of a wet moth Mark Shelton, an old soft rock singer my Mum likes who's name I can't remember so you'll need to trust me, and finally, I don't know, a giant nose? Admittedly they write pretty solid vocal lines for his chops, there aren't any attempts at glorious and epic soaring heights or rapid fire tongue twisters, it's just nice mid paced hooks make good use of his "Nyeeeeehhhh's" and "Nyuuuuuhhh's", making his performance likely the best non-lead guitar aspect of the album, but I'd hardly call this album a vocal powerhouse. At best it's a clever recognition and acceptance of one's limitations and weaknesses.

The production is old school as hell, but very, very easy going. It provides no heaviness for the underutilized doomier side of their sound or the more commonly used rocking and trad metal riffing based one. Not to say that all heavy metal really strives to be the most devastatingly immense thing in the world all the time, and a very good portion of the album is very folky and slight in stature, but this is a fair bit too weak sounding for my mind for anything with the amount of rhythm guitar a genre like metal revolves around. The drumming is as inconsequential as any drumming performance and sound has ever been, and he's been mixed accordingly. The bass certainly does different stuff from the guitars, but it lacks the rumbling, dense production it needs to make it worthwhile.

But most importantly of all, the riffs are generic as shit. They're old school, heavy metal true and proud no doubt, but these riffs are pure throwback with nothing to set it apart or above the stuff that was getting churned out in massive numbers back in the late 70's/early 80s. This isn't like Satan, who's modern take on old heavy metal managed to create new and lively riffs which still fit into the framework of the old school sound, Pagan Altar's riffs are generic gallops and power chord hooks which were dated by 1981 with nothing to set them apart from the pack. Maybe bigger NWOBHM fans than me appreciate the simple notion of throwing back to the past and successfully executing the extreme baseline rules of the style, but as someone who has to sit through dozens of the most faceless and lifeless retro old school death metal acts to find an Ignivomous or Embrional, I can't see other retro genres getting free passes for simply matching a sound roughly. For me there are legitimately four rhythm riffs on this whole album which rise above complete and utter mediocrity, at least half of them on Daemoni Na Noiche, and I haven't listened to that much NWOBHM. These are just old riffs, not new old riffs.

...But here's the thing; none of that matters on Mythical and Magical. Not one little bit of all that crappy to eh stuff matters one slightest little bit, purely due to the lead guitar chops of Alan Jones and the band well placed faith in him to be absolutely perfect absolutely all the time.

This album is just dripping with the gooey remnants of the best lead sex music has ever had. These guys don't just have ripping dedicated solo sections, they'll just straight up sit a song on top of a solo that just keeps playing the whole time because fuck it, the leads here are awesome and no stupid little metal song is going to interrupt it, so they may as well coexist. As a conservative estimate I'd say around 70% of the album has some kind of lead guitar lick or outright guitar solo on it. For instance, opener "Samhein" is five and a half minutes long and features a solo starting at around 1:15 which doesn't let up for the rest of the song! Not to say it degrades into a senseless wankfest or anything, they just resume playing their song with the verses and choruses and bridges and all those good old song parts right over the top while all the lead wizardry keeps going along at the same time underneath it, and it's pretty much the best thing in the world. This brilliantly over the top concept is repeated in the vast majority of the tracks on here.

The leads here are diverse, melodically appealing, fresh and elegantly composed. They cover a multitude of different sounds and moods, both across the songs themselves or the albums, "Cry of the Banshee" alone opens with medieval tinges of the licks in the verses, then has an up front genuine solo, then closes out with some very old fashioned drawn out notes which are quite dramatic and gripping. Other songs manage to fit in a of other ideas and emotions over the length of the album, from the epic magnitude of the solo at the end of "The Sorcerer", to the lightning fast meedling of "The Witches Pathway", to the outright beauty of the graceful background licks of "The Crowman" or the nostalgic rock phrasings of the mid portions of the same song, to the energetic runs of "Flight of the Witch Queen", the band nails a just disgusting number different types of lead and solos with utter perfection. They're always fitting, always fresh, always moving to a certain goal and always exceptionally well played.

Well, maybe I'm selling this album a little bit short; the band has a second ace up their sleeve, namely a bunch of really well done, fitting neofolk or folk rock or whatever. It's not my favourite style of music, but Terry's vocals really suit the less rocking style of music and all of the acoustic licks are flavoured with that nimble and wandering touch which makes the solos on here so delightful and addictive. Terry's old-man-who-can't-really-sing style suits songs that are made for old men who are tired of the world and just want to go die in the forest surrounded by cultists for obvious reasons. Admittedly, these songs do tend to cut down on the amount of outright electric guitar soloing compared to metal numbers (but fret not, they're still there for at least a few minutes of each song), but I think the overall product is far more compelling.

What I find most charming and interesting about Pagan Altar is that they've pretty much flown directly in the face of everything that I would always say makes a good metal album, and they've done it so well that it kinda ruins other bands for me. This is all about the little bits of flair that I would usually say are just the "extras" to the main portion of an album. All the usual things tend I look forward to in metal just aren't here, from magnitude, to riffs, to energy, to tone worship, it's all missing but I don't care. They've managed to make what are 30 second bursts of colour to other bands and turn them into something that can carry an entire song, hell, an entire album. The leads are so tightly woven into the composition that a whole song which fails so many basic metal quality checks for me suddenly kicks ass in its entirety. It's just such a wonderful concept that it completely screws up my listening habits for other bands. I can listen to the previously mentioned Satan and all I can think is "Yeah sure they've got these awesome riffs which are 70,000 times better than PA and the solos are sick as, but why aren't they playing those solos for 80% of the song?!", like it's some kind of reasonable request. This album has completely mangled my demands for bands to avoid having flat moments at any moments whatsoever. Soon as any band does some kind power chord riff or trad metal gallop without some kind of background guitar solo blazing along underneath I get insanely, irredeemably bored... so thanks, Pagan Altar, you killed your genre while not even being very good at the main core of it, well done, jerks. Awesome, awesome jerks.

The Secret Lords of Heavy Metal - 99%

DreamOfDarkness, December 16th, 2013

It's a miracle: Why is Pagan Altar still so obscure after all these years? Their previous outputs have been one of the finest in the entire heavy/doom genre, and Mythical & Magical is even better than these in the best possible way. It's heavily guitar driven doom metal with lots of melodic leads, accompanied by the nasal vocals of Terry Jones that take some time to get used to, but are very unique and do a great job telling the mystic and "pagan" stories behind each song.

The instrumentation is fairly typical for heavy metal: Drums, bass, rhythm & lead guitars and vocals, to which occasionally flutes, synthesizers, samples and a female choir are added. While the drums and bass take the backseat here and support but not lead the music, the guitars shine in every possible way. First of all, the guitar tone is just perfect. Warm, heavy(-ly distorted) and bluesy at the same time. While the riffs roar and rumble through the songs with power and groove, the leads are singing, wailing and screaming with a lot of feeling to them. No mindless shredding is to be found on here, not a single wasted note. Alan's guitar style in general is certainly unique and a blend of blues, heavy metal and folk and never sounds like a rip-off from Black Sabbath, whom they are often compared to, or any other band.

The vocals aren't technically very good as Terry's vocal range is rather limited and his nasal tone is sometimes almost over the top so that could put off some people. But somehow they work with what the band is trying to do, telling mythical and magical stories of witches' rituals, druids, sorceress and the like. Just as in Black Sabbaths eponymous song Ozzy's pleading vocals ("The flames reach higher, and higher!") couldn't be replaced by "clean" ones, an ordinary voice wouldn't fit Pagan Altar. Also keep in mind that Terry is really old for a metal vocalist, at least 60 when this album was recorded. However this makes the narrating part at the beginning of "The Crowman" and his general performance in "The Sorcerer" much more authentic and atmospheric.

I wouldn't want to put some songs above others as they are all part of the experience. There are folk-ish songs like "The Crowman", short bluesy pieces such as "The Witches Pathway" and the extra atmospheric ballads "The Sorcerer" and "The Erl King". Some songs could be seen as fillers, but not in any bad way. They are just shorter and simpler in their structure and allow for some breathing between the longer ballads. Even those "fillers" are excellently executed and provide a rather uplifting and relaxed hard-rock vibe to them.

Pagan Altar are far from modern - they sound ancient and aged in pretty much any way. But maybe that's why their music doesn't get old even on countless listens. I can loose myself endlessly in the dense atmosphere, the thoughtful and perfectly fitting lyrics and the soulful and spot-on guitar playing. Compared to their previous albums they improved the production that is now cleaner but still warm and organic. I'd also say they are a bit more melodic than on Lords of Hypocrisy or Judgement of the Dead as they have finally put down the typical NWOBHM sound that was present especially on the debut and replaced it with some more folk elements. Now they play a very unique blend of traditional doom metal, folk and blues I can hardly get enough from. This is their best release so far and certainly an album I'll still be listening to in 20 years.

Still Witched by This Thing - 95%

Ritchie Black Iommi, December 11th, 2012

A band that never had the time it deserved in the glory days of NWOBHM. Yes, that's what Pagan Altar was, long time ago.

And I say "was" because, now, they are getting it, and getting it very well with a couple of the finest heavy metal stuff released in the last 10 years or more. And if we consider their splits, demos and short releases, dude, we are serious, deadly serious.

I mean, obviously, there are sporadical good releases made by some newbies in the metal thing, guys who like it easy and they play what the record companies want them to play, they sometimes manage to launch in the market maybe one album which reaches the "85%" rating, but no more than that. And that's because of the lack of creativity, vision and originality. Here, old Mr. Jones, a wise druid of heavy metal and his son deliver to us a mix of classic metal sounds with doomy atmospheres and the thing works perfectly well.

The sounds are classical, the recording is ala-classic, the sound mixing is ala-classic. Even the musical-lyrical placement in the songs is quite classic. What's innovative is the approach, the reach and the style. In the age of "play it loud and dirty, thrashy, we will correct that", a pure and well fonded sound is a bliss and a joy. The whole album contains this natural sound of the instruments. The exact touch of distortion. The exact touch of treble and bass and not an overly-proportioned dense, murky and non-natural sounds in excess.

The lyrical contents are about paganism, religion, prophecies, death, destruction... Very NWOBHM and very doom. If we can talk about perfect mixes, here we got one.

But the important thing is the music and here is where the Pagan Altar seems to be alive and breathing. From the very opening and Samhein til' the grand finale with Rising of the Dark Lord, the guitar provides us that natural and clean sound, which reminds us of early Ritchie Blackmore (or even Jeff Beck, leaving the heavy metal realms). Gains from us automatic attention. Add to this the vocals, that hypnotic voice, and there you go, you are completely driven. The drums are solid, tight and patchy and they are the ones who keep the New Wave feeling in this album, despite the intrincate and dark lines of the bass and, as stated before, the sound of the guitar and Jones Sr. voice. Needed is to be said that Alan Jones already showed us how great he is in the guitar with Lords of Hypocrisy and here he confirms it. He has, as well, the "touch", that thing which makes him sound unique. Many good guitar performers are nowadays in metal. But the ones with the "touch" of originality and distinction, those are few. Alan Jones has that.

All the songs are particularly great and I won't go in a tiring and wearysome song-per-song critique. And, just in case, if I'm giving such a high rating to the album, that's because all the songs work it out. But my favourites are Samhein, mostly because of the intro and the beat; The Cry of the Banshee with those magic solos; Daemoni na Hoiche and The Rising of the Dark Lord because of the arrangements and again, the guitars. The vocalist, Mr. Jones, does it perfect for the style he purposes and this band achieves an unique feature, as I wrote earlier: they manage to obtain an original and distinctive sound. That thing you cannot buy it.

I'm still witched by this album, every second of it contains something new and enigmatic. It was one of the finest experiences I lived in heavy metal of the last decade. It's Magical and Mythical (never ever a name seemed to be so precise).

Perfect mixture of doom and NWoBHM - 100%

username345, August 7th, 2008

Pagan Altar first formed in 1978 and after one independently released album, later named Volume 1, in 1982 they split-up and fell into obscurity. The story does not end there however; in 2004 they reformed and surprised everyone by succeeding in the rare feat of making a brilliant comeback album that arguably is even better than the debut. The quality didn’t stop there though as their third album, Mythical & Magical was released 2 years later in 2006 and is their best effort to date.

Because of their early beginnings this album has a ‘retro’ late 70’s/early 80’s sound to it, but with a much clearer modern production. A lot of the material on Mythical & Magical actually predates their 1982 debut. One of the first doom metal bands along with Witchfinder General, Pagan Altar took the slow riffs and atmosphere of Black Sabbath but also added a lot of influences from their New Wave of British Heavy Metal peers like Iron Maiden into their music, so for doom metal it is very light and accessable even for non-doom fans. As such, there shouldn’t be a lot that makes them sound at all original, but they perform their music with their own unique style and flair, making what they play sound completely unique.

A lot of this unique sound is due to their guitarist, Alan Jones, who truly is one of the most underrated guitarists in metal. You will hear no mindless shredding in this album, but well thought out and brilliantly composed solos with not only very technically impressive but also very emotional guitar playing. The riffs are all excellent, with plenty of memorable sections and catchy riffs. Unlike a lot of doom they never come off as being Black Sabbath clones. While many of the riffs may be similar to those of early Sabbath, they’re often played faster and aren’t tuned as low, creating a totally different atmosphere, no doubt because of their NWOBHM influences. It may be difficult to stand out amongst hordes of other metal guitarists, but Alan Jones certainly manages to.

The other musicians are hardly poor either. Diccon Harper, who once played for Dragonforce plays some fantastic bass-lines and gallops while the drums play an impressive variety of styles. The singing by Terry Jones could put some people off, as the vocals are often in a slightly high-pitched and sometimes very nasally style best comparable to Ozzy Osbourne’s. It’s not a huge problem though as they’re more unique than bad, fitting the atmosphere of the music, and are definitely bearable at least. Terry Jones is often backed up by several male and female backup singers on certain songs. His lyrics, about pagan myths and legends are all well-written though slightly cheesy at times.

There is also a slightly folky feel throughout some of the album, giving it a strangely ‘pagan’ feel fitting with the band name, album title and lyrics. The folk flourishes work perfectly, subtly adding to the atmosphere without ever becoming too overbearing on the overall sound. At no moment could this ever be labelled ‘folk metal’ or anything close.

Despite the 1 hour running time, the album never gets close to being at all boring because of the excellent musicianship, songwriting and variation. The only real problem is that it does sound so old, which could definitely put some people off. Overall though, it’s an amazing album recommended to all fans of metal and hard rock and not just doom fans, as it barely qualifies as doom metal anyway.

One of the best metal albums I've ever heard. - 100%

Empyreal, November 29th, 2007

Holy fucking wow. I knew Pagan Altar were a good band, as I had heard several of their songs before I got this, their newest album to date, but I never expected anything like this. For those of you who don't know the story, Pagan Altar formed way back in the late 70s and recorded one debut album (the superlative Volume 1) in 1982 before vanishing without a trace for over 20 years. But, lo and behold, they eventually resurfaced from their hiding place in the shadows and released a second album, which was actually even better than the debut - Lords of Hypocrisy was its name, and after that, the name of Pagan Altar became a sacred one, like holy water on the cracked, dry lips of a dying desert traveler. In 2006, they unleashed their genius upon the world again with this album, and it is by far one of the very best metal albums of the new millennium, and probably in the top 15 or 20 metal albums ever created.

Mythical & Magical literally has me at a loss for words, being both a rocking, vintage time-traveling journey back to the 70s and a beautiful, enigmatic masterpiece all at once. The band has always played a very Sabbathine, retro style of doom metal that just puts 90% of doom today to shame. Mythical & Magical is not quite as heavy as Lords of Hypocrisy, but it is every bit as cool, and it's even more beautiful and stirring than that already great album was. The riffs are huge and bloated, a feast for the old school metal glutton, and the solos are pure bliss every single time they grace your ears - which is quite a lot on this album. Alan Jones is one of the best guitarists you'll ever hear; soulful, melodic, and just flat out jaw-dropping awesome all the way through. He gives a 120% performance of his life here, and I'd call this his swansong, but Pagan Altar are nowhere near done yet, and I'd go as far as to say they've still got another handful of great albums like this in them. If you're a guitarist, no matter how serious about the craft, then you must hear this album, or else your life will never be fulfilled.

Not to say that Jones is the only reason to get this album, though, as the whole band meshes together into a tight, functioning unit, playing each and every song flawlessly and without a note out of place, a vocal line left lacking or a riff left imperfect. Terry Jones's voice is rather reedy and nasal, a bit like an odd combination between Manilla Road's Mark Shelton and Ozzy Osbourne, but really he has his own unique voice. I know plenty of people who wouldn't much like the vocals on this album, or on any of Pagan Altar's work, but nobody else would work right for this band, period. Nobody else could even dream of carrying the band's powerful music as well as Terry does, as he is just as retro and cool as the music is. Mark Elliot is behind the drumkit, and he backs up Mythical & Magical with a powerful, jumpy bounce that brings the songs to life, invigorating them with such fire and passion that you'd think they'd get up and start walking around. This is the sound of a powerful, unified band that does not and will not ever follow any trends or modernize their sound.

Another thing Pagan Altar did here was add much more of a folksky flourish to their old school doom sound. "Samhein" is a riveting, atmospheric stomp that will take you back to times long past, a deliciously epic opener that just seems to get better each time I hear it. Very "middle age folk," if that's the right term, and very, very cool all the way through the entire 6 minutes of it's duration. There are faster cuts here, like the ripping "Cry of the Banshee," the retro fun romp "The Witches Pathway," and the titanic doomy stomp of "Daemoni Na Noiche," but even those tend to meander into the gloriously cool folk weirdness at times, blossoming with ornate, colorful leads that will sear your soul. But while every song here rules in their own respects, the real gems here are the two 8 minute epics, "The Sorceror" and "The Erl King." Invoking the spirit of Jethro Tull, Pagan Altar showcases a softer, much more mellow sound here, without any real riffs or heaviness at all - two long, soulful folk tunes that will tug at your heartstrings. They're absolutely enthralling, and while they might take a few listens to sink in (they did for me), eventually you will want to stop whatever it is you're doing and just listen to these beautiful, beautiful pieces of music. "The Rising of the Dark Lord" closes off the album, and it's one of the best songs they've ever done, a dark, Satanic thrill ride that will have you grinning and headbanging in no time. An excellent end to an excellent album.

I'm wholly impressed with this. Pagan Altar are an absolutely world class band, and definitely better than at least 95% of the "metal" floating around these days, and this album alone is better than most other albums in '06 combined. If you like metal, you will like this. End of story. Get it now.

Originally written for

The power of doom - 95%

Theli, October 2nd, 2007

Pagan Altar have done it again. Every Pagan Altar album is a classic, this one not the least of all. While you can still hear heavy Sabbath influence Pagan Altar have taken their folk influences even further and really became a unique band. Pagan Altar capture a special mystical feeling in their music that is unmatched by anyone today, and reminds me of greats from the past like Legend (US), Black Sabbath and Uriah Heep.

Pagan Altar started their life in the late 70's, however they only released one album in 82, though they continued writing and recording material. Finally this material was released on Lords of Hypocrisy and Mythical and Magical. This material really proves how ahead of their time Pagan Altar were. It wasn't until the 90's that metal bands really started to incorporate folk influences in their music. Mythical and Magical is full dark, occult and epic lyrics with the music to match. Samhein and Cry of the Banshee start of the album with a punch, delivering epic dark metal with some great leads. Other stand out tracks are The Erl King and The Rising of the Dark Lord.

The only reason this album didn't get 100 was because of the mixing, the vocals need to be a little lower in the mix and the drums raised, at times it's almost impossible to hear the kick drum.

The best things about this album is the excellent songwriting and seductive leads. If you're a fan of Pentagram, Witchfinder General, Black Sabbath, Legend or Uriah Heep you should definitely check this album out.

Worship at the Altar - 100%

Sargon_The_Terrible, September 5th, 2007

Ah, the marvelous, unsung, unknown Pagan Altar, probably the best band in the UK. I was hoping it would not be another 20 years before we got a third album from them, and not only were my hopes fulfilled, but this album is way beyond even my expectations. Pagan Altar's third album is certainly my favorite, and likely their best, though all their works are so good picking 'best' is pretty much moot.

Pagan Altar are so retro, they make retro-wanna-be bands like Witchcraft and Wolfmother look like the modern posers they are. This is old-school metal in the vein of classic 70's icons like Sabbath - except Sabbath never made an album this good. Mythical & Magical features the best guitarwork you will ever hear, as Alan Jones just goes insane with blazing leads, headbanging riffs, and the best guitar tone ever. If rockers like "Cry Of The Banshee" can't get your head flailing, then you have a problem. This album gave me a cramp from trying to simultaneously air-guitar and throw the fucking horns for over an hour. This disc is folkier than Lords Of Hypocrisy and maybe a bit less heavy, but the songs are so good it's impossible to argue. The vocals of Terry Jones may again be a sticking point, as he reedily honks his way through the album, and again I have to say that his voice just fits this music perfectly, and is a major part of the retro charm of this great band.

Those addicted to aggression or married to castrati vocals may not get this at all, but if you love old, old, old-school metal, or if you love metal guitar in any way, shape or form, then this is an album you need to have. Now good fucking luck finding it, as Oracle is a label so small I'm not sure they really exist, but if you do run across this somewhere, don't pass it up for anything. Stellar.

Originally written for

And perfection yet again - 100%

exumer, March 20th, 2007

The wind circles softly around the small Elizabethan chapel, which ruins grace the foggy, Anglo-Saxon landscape since times long past. And lo: A chiming bell, which spiritlike tells of times, when a Pagan Altar stood just at the place, which churchmen later would call holy. The “Samhein” begins and even as the “Cry of the Banshee” announces the death of the beloved, “The Crowman” awaits the “Demons of the Night”. Just then “The Sorcerer” stands lonely on his mountain throne and as his gaze wanders to the sky, “The Fly of the Witches” conjures the soon to begin “Dance of the Druids” at this time-honoured place of changes. “The Erl King” proceeds with the devouring of young souls, while he waits on “The Witches Pathway” for the “Rising of the Dark Lord” and his bony hands stretch against the non-foreboding wanderer. And still on chimes the lonely bell, until even death may die…

Grandeur is the word which describes the new album of Pagan Altar best. With the predecessor already being far beyond perfection, the lads from Pagan Altar achieved to top this again and deliver a classical, folk-influenced masterpiece, which is really non-competitive.
With most bands of the old school being crept in by wear out, Pagan Altar still play with a juvenile enthusiasm, which carries you along and doesn’t let you go. Alan’s guitarplay is top notch as we are used to and I really don’t know, why the guy is not much more known amongst guitar experts. One terrific lead follows the next and gets only interrupted by highly melodic and emotional solos. Trevor’s enchaining basslines and the precise drumming build the frame in which Alan’s guitarplay can fully evolve. While Terry’s unique voice still will be the crux of the matter for some, he not only does accentuate the prevailing mood of the songs with his vocals, but also creates the perfect counter-part of the guitar, so that a rounded whole emerges, that hovers somewhere between classic-epic Hard Rock, Folk- and Doom Metal. Valerie’s clear and expressive voice again builds the female counterpart to Terry’s voice just as in “Lords of Hypocrisy” and is much more integrated into the whole concept this time, as it has been on the predecessor. Finding a genre for Pagan Altar is truly a Sisyphus-work, because you cannot be just to the outstanding sound the band creates. Pagan Altar clearly are a genre in themselves. An honour, only few bands are granted with.

Contrary to the two prior albums, Pagan Altar also tread slightly new paths with their third work. This album is a lot more influenced by English folk than the predecessor or the doomy debut. But this fits the band quite well, because Terry’s singing and vocalstyle comes very close to some old folksingers. Also the guitarplay, mainly in the acoustic part, reminds me often of Anglo-Saxon folk. The album is more complex, deeper and more emotional as its predecessors have been and even after many listens delivers still enough unheard details, to keep the listener lastingly thrilled.

There are two songs to be particularly pointed out: “The Sorcerer” is an absolute hymn for the gods and has the best melody lines I ever heard from the band. Within this song Terry’s voice also develops his full emotional spectrum. Though different of style and musical conception of the band, the song can be described with the monumental emotionality of old King Crimson Ballads like “Epitaph”. The lyrics form the perfect foundation for the music and it always sends shivers down my spine, when Terry starts to sing,

„He stands upon his mountain throne
His arms held high he’s all-alone
Ashen face turned towards the sky
His eyes reflect a tormented soul
Endless years have took their toll
His mind too troubled to let him die”

The second song is named “The Erl King”. Those who know the poem of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe will already know which emotional sentiment this song has. I think I have hardly heard a song in my live, which gets the sadness and desperation across to such an extent, like it is already almost bodily sensible in Goethe’s poem. Terry’s adaptation of the lyrics has really to be pointed out, because they really live up to the original, what is in itself already a big praise. The musical realisation is perfect too and moves you to tears. It really has to be heard to believe it.

The album gets rounded by a very beautiful cover and the great design of the CD-version (however without the lyrics, which can be downloaded on the band’s homepage). The Vinyl-version will be released just as the predecessor by “The Miskatonic Foundation” (Spring 2007) and will be most probably just as fantastic in its optics and the design as the Vinyl of “Lords of Hypocrisy”.
Concluding I can state that I have found my favourite album of 2006 (of the new millennium?) and think, that most people will agree, after hearing this album in its full.