10/5/2005 - Review by: Eric Compton
Morgana Lefay - Grand Materia - 2005 - Black Mark Records
Morgana Lefay put out some of the best records of all time in the 90s, ending on a high note with what seemed like their swansong with 96's "Maleficium". After that record the band had a bit of a disagreement and doing what other bands have been famous for (Grave Digger, Saxon), they formed two bands. Singer Charles Rytkonen and guitarist Tony Eriksson formed Lefay and released a masterpiece in 1999 called "Seventh Seal". That same year the band re-recorded their original Morgana Lefay demo entitled "Symphony Of The Damned". While Lefay was busy with those records, original drummer Jonas Soderlind teamed up with bassist Joakim Heder to continue the Morgana Lefay lifeline, releasing a stinker of a record simply called "Morgana Lefay" in 1999. That was a bomb, Lefay put out another great record in "S.O.S", and by then, well the cards were just stacked against Heder and Soderlind. They eventually folded and the Lefay lineup became Morgana Lefay, enlisting the aid of new bassist Fredrik Lundberg.
Now Morgana Lefay are back in full motion again, releasing "Grand Materia" and putting all doubts aside on whether this band could really exist again considering the amount of drama in the past. "Grand Materia" is the band's best work to date. Yes, THEIR BEST WORK TO DATE. One listen to this masterpiece and you will be saying the same thing as well. Vocalist Rytkonen is absolutely on, just displaying a dazzling realm of exploration with his smooth voice. The man has so much power, so much eerie atmosphere...the man is on the same level as legendary vocalists like Jon Oliva and Ronnie James Dio. He is that damn good. The guitars here are just crushing, the heaviest of the heavy even when compared to the likes of Arch Enemy and the death metal band of the month. Tony Eriksson and Peter Grehn could be the best guitarists that you aren't reading about. Forget Gus G. and forget about those Amott kids. One listen to "Grand Materia" will put all of that out of sight and out of mind.
Beyond just the great musical craft comes the excellent songwriting, this time the band even more into the fantastic fantasy, delving into a rich tale of immortality. The album is spun around a young alchemist who learns how to live forever. The record is an emotional journey through his long lifespan, with the listener experiencing the wonder and the loneliness of a man who can never die. At times the writing reminds me of Anne Rice's earlier works with The Vampire Chronicles, but never quite with that much Goth or black attire.
The band continue the harsh, gritty delivery evident on "Maleficium" but still stray into that Euro melodic power range, keeping tradition with the likes of "The Secret Doctrine" or "Seventh Seal". Songs like "My Funeral Is Calling" and "On The Other Side" are driving, mid-tempo cuts that are extremely heavy and moving, both with multitudes of grinding riffs and punchy drums. Rytkonen is masterful on the emotional ballad "Only Endless Time Remains" (perhaps their best?), as well as the crunchy, down tuned chopper "I Roam". Favorite cut for me is the Sabbath worship of "Hollow". The whole album has that extreme melodic death vibe, fortunately though they possess that added asset of having one of the best vocalists of all time on top of that, making "Grand Materia" one for the ages.
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