“Catharsis” is the fourth outing for Greek Symphonic Metallers Meden Agan, who continue to make further in-roads into the imposing territory occupied by bands like Epica, Xandria and Nightwish (by pure coincidence, and in-keeping with Symphonic Metal history, it has a bit in common with the final Elis album “Catharsis” as well). This album also marks the introduction of another new vocalist (their third in four albums – but it worked OK for Serenia in the early days so why not?) Dimitra Panariti, who has the ability to not only nail any earlier material the band throws her way, but also the kind of voice that will appeal to a much wider audience.
The musical emphasis from the word go is on powerful, melodic heavy symphonic metal, which means sharing a live bill with Within Temptation, Tarja and Epica (which the band have already done) will leave fans of the headliners keen to check out Meden Agan in the following weeks. Drums and bass drive the songs along at their core whilst guitar and keyboards vie for melody-carrying attention, trading the limelight, bringing greater impact to each track – ‘No Escape’ is a fantastic example of this but most tracks will leave devotees of the heavier aspects of symphonic metal more than satisfied.
Now OK, these are all traits admirably displayed on the band’s previous album “Lacrima Dei”, but four years have passed and it feels like with their ideal vocalist on board the band have been able to expand their sound, concentrate on re-creating their own identity and really re-hit the ground galloping. The vocals hold the greatest change obviously, and Dimitra’s ability to mix the band’s traditional soprano vocal with her own distinctive natural voice gives the songs much greater variation and added dimensions. Coupled with the added symphonic/neo-classical progressive-ness to the lead breaks (both with keys and guitar that remind me of turn-of-the-millennium acts like Majestic, Athena and early Symphony X), so expertly mixed in to Meden Agan’s modern and current take on symphonic metal that it is all just an added bonus – or additional sparkle if you like.
All the songs are dynamic and dramatic – there isn’t a balladistic moment until track 8 ‘Salvation’ arrives, but even then it has moments that threaten to grab you by the throat. Additionally they follow it with the speedy heaviness of ‘A Curse Unfolding’ and it makes you wonder if the band took it’s foot off the power at all and you imagined it. There is a fabulously unrelenting power and energy to the album, each song has an epic feel to it due to it’s intricate and captivating arrangements, but not one of them weighs in at much more than five minutes long, keeping each track fresh and leaving no room for reflection until the album roars to a close. Meden Agan have settled on a great line-up, written and recorded some excellent songs and have really upped their game. “Catharsis” was certainly worth waiting four years for.
(8/10 Andy Barker)