Sunday, February 10, 2013

Morgana Lefay - Past, Present, Future (1995)

You will probably notice I have a lot of 1995/96 albums. This was because I now had my own disposible income. Not much, for sure, but since I was still living at home and not paying board - it allowed me to expand my collection. It is also about the time when I started buying mainly cds instead of cassette tapes.

Morgana Lefay began in Sweden as "Damage" but renamed themselves after the sorceress from King Arthur. Their sound is thrash style music - heavy, slowish rifts, but the guitars and vocals are more power with Charles Rytkönen have quite a higher pitched voice, with a somewhat sinister edge. He screams rather well. After self producing their first album, they released four with Black Mark, before dumping Black Mark and the "Morgana" and switching to Noise under Lefay. Presumerably this change was to enable them to break the contract.

This is a very attractive album, and comes with a poster. Due to a rather significant design flaw - the poster will not fit inside the CD cover and has to be stored separately. It contains the cover illustration on one side - an hourglass crackling with electric energy and covered in either spiderwebs or a finely woven silk. This is actually a "zoomed in" image from the cover of "Secret Doctrine", plus the lyrics to two of the "brandnew" tracks, and on the reverse is a bunch of band photographs, and their previous CD covers. I have three of their previous albums, but these were acquired much, much later.

One of the brandnew tracks, "Sculptures of Pain" is a powerful piece with desperation in the vocals and heavy rhythms.

I love the opening to "Lost Reflections" which is eerie and sinister.
"Locked in the attic, been here so many years, Shanna won't set me free..."
I still wonder who Shanna is. The music playing counterpoint to the snarled vocals is thin, spooky. Until... BOOM, it roars into a dramatic explosion of a guitar solo almost 3/4s of the way into the piece. It appears, being trapped in the attic, has driven the narrator quite insane...
Shanna had better watch out!
This is a cover of a Crimson Glory song.

Another haunting number, "Rumours of Rain" starts slow and sinister. It is taken from the album "Knowing Just As I", becoming increasingly frantic as the song progresses, before fading out to melancholy.

Then we walk the "Alley of the Oaks", take from "The Secret Doctrine". It is a menacing place to meander, filled with dark shadows and sharp teeth hidden in the gloom:
"Was there something behind me? What did move over there?"

"Battle of Evermore" is a melancholic number, starting with aching guitar chords and solemn vocals. It is from "Knowing Just as I". Not to be confused with the Led Zep song by the same name. The angels are at war.
"Angels fighting angels, Heaven is painted red. Crimson rain is falling..."

Another brandnew track, is a fantastic cover of "Voulez Vous" as Morgana Lefay pay tribute to Sweden's most famous band, ABBA. It's a fast-paced number, filled with energy and also rather amusing. I love heavy metal covers of pop songs.

"The Mirror" holds darkness and fear, hidden in ominous lyrics and solid beats. Taken from "The Secret Doctrine".

Aniother slow. melancholic and achingly sorrow-filled song is "Last Rites" - a song about being sent to the gallows. Also from "The Secret Doctrine". Dying alone, his fate is to feed the crows. We never find out his crime, not on this album, anyhow.

A fitting follow up - "Sorrow Calls" or rather, screams. This one is from "Sanctified". It starts slowly - as many of these tracks do, then builds and swells in frenzied desperation.

"Why?" Asks Rytkönen  in this slow, bittersweet number. The vocals are achingly mournful, almost lost. I think this is a song about the dissolving of a relationship. His voice is a little softer here, less raw around the edges, melodic and melancholic. From "Sanctified".

We conclude with another brandnew track - "Symphony of the Damned" an extravagant almost 10-minute track tinted with a range of bitterness, anger, desperation and despair - all of which Rytkönen's voice does very well. I cannot imagine him ever sounding truly happy.

This was the first Morgana Lefay album I owned, and in all honesty, probably the only one I really needed. The songs follow a similar structure - slow beginnings, bitter but sweet vocals, building into a heavier eruption of sound and with a strong atmosphere of the slightly sinister, slightly macabre. The lyics are also really interesting and, for the most part, completely audible. It contains two or three tracks from each of their previous albums and four that have not been on anything else, and is a rather nice "snapshot" of their career up to (and including) 1995.

I rate it 7.5/10.

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