Just like those profane little pranksters in Tenacious D, Sweden's Morgana Lefay have always seemed like one of those bands who liked Black Sabbath better when Ronnie James Dio was manning the mic, rather than Ozzy Osbourne. This is just a hunch, but make no mistake: Unlike that portly comedy duo, the five guys behind Morgana Lefay take their work very seriously -- dead serious! Since their inception, the band's every release had piled ambition upon ambition, and after pausing for reflection with 1996's semi-retrospective Past Present Future, the group resumed their career with a full-fledged concept album later the same year called Maleficium. Weighing in at over an hour, the album brought listeners back to the Middle Ages, telling the story of a magistrate tortured and killed by the Inquisition, and his subsequent postmortem revenge...you know the story. Seriously, though, the band's diverse musical accompaniment and utterly straight-faced devotion to their subject quickly dispels any chance of mockery, and, despite its sheer mass, Maleficium is surprisingly consistent throughout, making it difficult to pick out highlights from its daunting sprawl. This is also somewhat pointless, this being a concept album, after all, but for the sake of new fans, these should start with the excellent "Victim of the Inquisiton," "A Final Farewell," and "Master of the Masquerade." As with efforts past, singer Charles Rytkonene's strangled delivery (very reminiscent of Savatage's Jon Oliva) remains an acquired taste, but this author, for one, believes its grimy rasp contrasts nicely with the band's highly disciplined sound. Indeed, though Tony Eriksson and Daniel Persson's guitar riffs remain as crunchy as ever before, they are executed with utmost precision, matching the crisp dependability of the rhythm section of bassist Joakim Heder and drummer Jonas Soderlind. Sadly, the act of coming up with such a complex magnum opus left Morgana Lefay creatively spent, and, perhaps deciding they'd arrived at the logical completion of their mission, the band would soon go their separate ways.
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
feat: Thomas Persson