Probably a bit late to the party given this got out about half a year ago, but didn’t want to skip it just for timing reasons. So, my fellow Greeks prog-metallers, MAJOR DENIAL, made it to their first “big” milestone and last December  their first full-length album saw the light of day.
After releasing their first EP [“Minor Ways”, 2015] and for three tireless years, both Nektarios and Achilles, the band’s masterminds, held a steady course which eventually led to “Duchess of Sufferings”. Given we’re talking about a full-length album, its duration is more than enough for us, listeners, to indulge into ten songs of pure progressive metal with a strong focus on melody and immersive soundscapes.
Many things have changed since the last time we listened to something from MAJOR DENIAL. Mr. Zonder (FATES WARNING, WARLORD) is not around anymore and this time there’s only one vocalist behind the mic. However, “Duchess of Sufferings” does not fall short of diversity when it comes to the music side of things.
If I was asked to describe how the band sounds like in one sentence, that’d be the following: take a dark, very dark version of SHADOW GALLERY, take that wall of keyboards out of them, and add lots of bits from bands like FATES WARNING, EVERGEY and DEAD SOUL TRIBE. Speaking of DEAD SOUL TRIBE at this point, and not that far away, I think I got that PSYCHOTIC WALTZ vibe from a couple of songs, which made me smile for more than a few times.
The album is inspired by Clive Barker’s “Coldheart Canyon” and while listening to it, I felt like “listening” to a mystery/drama movie. You see, it manages to capture that grim and emotional atmosphere you’d expect from such a movie in such a great way. It’s a weird thing to say for a music album, but I feel “Duchess of Sufferings” tells a story by relying more on the music than the lyrics, which is rather unique if you ask me. Another factor that greatly contributes in capturing that grim feeling I mentioned earlier, is the voice of YIANNIS PAPADOPOULOS (BEAST IN BLACK, ex-WARDRUM). Choosing him to “spearhead” the album was a very wise move that worked out seamlessly IMHO. By being such a versatile vocalist, Yiannis’ voice acts like an amplifier of emotions, highlighting the best parts and making the most out the songs in a very smart way.
I could go on and on and get into details about every song in the album, but I don’t think that’s the purpose of a review. I’m just going to say that “Rise With the Dawn”, “She Wears Shadows” (are you able to spot that Psychotic Waltz vibe I was talking about earlier?) and, of course, “Duchess of Sufferings” are among my top picks. “Agonies of Fear” is probably my favourite one. I’d also like to make a special mention of “Se Ipse Necavit”, a beautiful duet between Yiannis and Dutch vocalist LISETTE VAN DE BERG. It’s a very fitting closing remark for such an album.
Finally, I’m going to be honest with you. You’re not going to be blown away the first time you’ll listen to this album. It’s not that kind of record. You need to allow it to grow, session after session, in order to discover the “little moments” that will lead to the bigger picture. I’m almost certain you’ll feel the same excitement as I did while discovering these little “magic” moments.