Major Denial – Duchess of Sufferings / CRASH Presents

Major Denial – Duchess of Sufferings / CRASH Presents

Duchess of Sufferings is the first full length release from Greek progressive power metallers Major Denial.  The album is inspired by the Clive Barker novel Coldheart Canyon, about an ageing and abandoned movie star, who falls under the spell of the titular duchess and her promises of immortality. Lovely!

Unfortunately the concept isn’t as clear or fleshed out as it could have been lyrically, but you get the gist of it. (And since the lyricist, Nektarios Ntagkas, also wrote all of the tracks on the album, it’s obvious he has some skills!)  After the euphoric power metal feel of opening track Illustrious, comes the defiant but doomier sound of album highlight Rise with the Dawn. Session male vocalist Yannis Papadopolous absolutely excels in this track, and his switch in the chorus from soaring highs to harsh vocals (“It’s time for me to be reborn/Rise with the dawn!”) followed by that crushing main riff is my favourite moment on the album. Both lead and rhythm guitars were performed by Achilleas Diamantis, who shows off his talents at both intricate and heavy riffing, along with sweeping leads.

A couple of the tracks, particularly Immortality and She Wears Shadows do slip into the formulaic, with some uninspired riffs and vocal lines, although the use of sitar in the latter is a nice touch. The Chains Of Failure is the longest track on the album at near 7 minutes, and while I didn’t get into the ponderous intro, the pure bombast and despair once the music kicks in wholly redeems the start of the track.  The final trio of tracks, Agonies Of Fear, the title track and closer Se Ipse Necavit, are all standout tracks. Agonies Of Fear has another outstanding vocal performance from Papadopoulos, as well as the bass of Panagiotis Haramis coming to prominence for the verses. The title track comes in with a wistful piano line, adding a touch of the gothic to proceedings, and Diamantis shows off with brilliant sweeping leads evocative of Nevermore’s Jeff Loomis. In closer Se Ipse Necavit the duchess finally gets her time in the spotlight, performed by Lisette Van der Berg. (Listeners may recognise Van der Berg from Ayreons most recent studio albums.) The duchess berates our unnamed protagonist for his narcissism and mocks him as he joins the other lost souls. The piano line and spoken word outro are compelling, and the album ends with the haunted whisper of “Se Ipse Necavit.”

The dolorous mood and consistently low tempo gives this album quite a doomy feel, particularly on the instrumental sections, and while you can hear the progressive elements in some of the extended and intricate instrumentals, Major Denial seem to take inspiration just as much from the power and epic doom styles. Both Papadopolous’ vocals and some of the instrumental sections are redolent of bands like While Heaven Wept. Despite some tracks sliding into the formulaic, Duchess of Sufferings overall is a strong first album from Major Denial, and one which has grown on me with each listen. The title track, Agonies of Fear and Rise with the Dawn are all highlights, and fans of all of the more emotive styles of metal (power, epic doom, symphonic etc) will no doubt enjoy this release.

You can purchase the album on Major Denial Bandcamp.

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