Ho boy. I signed up for this review based on my experience with Meden Agan’s 2014 release, Lacrima Dei, which I thought was pretty stomachable – commenting as a fellow who has little patience for generic female-fronted sympho-goth outfits. However, I’ll admit that almost all of my immediate impressions of Catharsis were negative, both musically and thematically. The album is largely inspired by novelist and self-proclaimed philosopher Umberto Eco’s most famous work, The Name of the Rose, a (very) fictional murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian Benedictine monastery. As someone who’s dissected that novel as an academic exercise, and has studied both period music and the history of the Catholic Church, well… let’s remember this is a metal album – a genre not precisely reknowned for its ideological/philosophical expertise or impartiality, and focus on the album’s musical merits.

One thing is immediately noticeable about Catharsis from the first moments of opener “The Purge,” and it’s the band’s newfound rhythmic intensity, which re-asserts itself repeatedly throughout the album. One remarkable aspect of Meden Agan’s work in the past has been its fairly exceptional (for its chosen niche, at least) lead and solo guitar work, which has assisted the band in maintaining its truly metal identity while many of its “gothic metal” contemporaries have drifted into the realms of industrial metal or lighter, symphonic rock. However, Diman Koutsogiannopoulos’ guitar work decidedly takes a back seat throughout this album, and as a general rule, when anyone anywhere reduces the role of guitar in heavy metal, bad things happen.

Songs like “The Purge” and “Veil of Faith” put the best side of this newer, more intense incarnation of the band on display with energy and good chorus lines, along with the best of the album’s guitar work. Others, like “Cleanse Their Sins” and “Whispers in the Dark,” however, exhibit a stylistic stagnancy that, in my experience, is rather typical for the symphonic/gothic scene. When combined, we get a strange mixture that sounds most like mediocre power metal, toward which Catharsis as a whole trends when compared to Lacrima Dei and Erevos Aenaon. While I’ve previously assessed Meden Agan as a more-than-passable sympho/goth outfit, their talent for power metal is underwhelming. It occurs to me that this is because the band has strayed a bit too far over subgenre lines and doesn’t quite know what it is collectively doing. In the process, something about the band’s identity has been lost.

Take new singer Dimitra Panariti as a primary example. I find her full-voiced alto I/soprano II delivery to be exceedingly generic in a subgenre that struggles with the trite sound of classically trained female vocalists attempting to blend with metal instrumentation in a style that has become the modern, popular music attempt to ape a cantata or opera. Her more conventional, popularly-styled vocals are painfully over-emotive and even more badly colored by her (presumably) Greek accent. The backing male vocals, of which brief glimpses are captured here and there, are much less wearying, and their strong presence on closer “Weaver of Destiny” helps make it my pick for best song on this otherwise tepid album.

I feel little else remains for me to comment on. Catharsis may continue to appeal to fans of the likes of Epica, After Forever, ReVamp, and others on the “heavier” side of symphonic female-fronted metal, but I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would choose to listen to this album rather than any of the above. In brief, I think Meden Agan has been creatively watered down, vocally kneecapped, and become rhythmically imitative of more neutered mainstream acts. Some are (of course) calling this Meden Agan’s heaviest, darkest, most intense effort to date. I suppose it might be that, but those were never the band’s strengths in the past, and they aren’t now. More than anything, Catharsis will be known as the point that Swordborn stopped paying attention to Meden Agan. Forever.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: No Remorse Records
Websites: medenaganmusic.com | facebook.com/meden.agan.official
Releases Worldwide: January 5th, 2018

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  • Nukenado

    Actually, I’d totally listen to this if Floor Jansen was singing on this.
    Also,
    “Some are (of course) calling this Meden Agan’s heaviest, darkest, most intense effort to date”
    “More than anything, Catharsis will be known as the point that Swordborn stopped paying attention to Meden Agan. Forever”

    You might have the least brvtal taste on this website but damn, is that br00tal.

    • Swordborn

      Floor Jansen would improve this album pretty dramatically, but still perhaps only to 3/5 levels of decency.

      • Nukenado

        Yep. “Rather listen to After Forever and ReVamp” seems about right.

    • Brutalist_Receptacle

      I RMEEMBER WHEN THIS WAS A METAL SITE

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        Still hooked on phonics eh?

        • Swordborn

          I just spat up my ginger beer.

      • Nukenado

        Nah, the only time when this wasn’t some prog site that happened to review metal was during AMG’s hiatus in 2011, and that was cut short by AMG suddenly writing a Camel Yer Prog is Olde.

      • sir_c

        Tinfoil is also metal, no?

  • Prostidude

    List!

    • SoLeftISeeRight

      I second this motion.

  • Maximos662

    I’ll be steering clear of this one, because I want to listen to this even less than I want to listen to Epica, who have become trite and formulaic over the last three albums or so – musically, that is. Lyrically, they’ve never stopped being trite. But this – this is more of a bad thing. I’m going to go listen to something brvtal, to cleanse my ears.

  • And so 2018 begins. Let’s see how long this one holds the title of worst band photo of the year.

    • Thatguy

      Oh, there will be a lot worse.

      This is pretty bad though.

      • I’m sure there will be much worse, I will never forget some of the gems from 2017. How long until this is surpassed is more of the question.

        • Thatguy

          Probably by the next bit of tripe Swordborn reviews. So probably later this week.

          • Swordborn

            I’d get upset, except the new Leaves’ Eyes IS probably tripe.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Tripe or not tripe, the band picture is probably worse.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra
          • Thatguy

            I’m almost afraid to ask what this is all about.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            No need to be afraid, it’s Leaves Eyes on a day off at the beach. I was sure their band picture would be bad, so I googled it and this is what I found. It’s just the band having fun.

          • Nukenado

            Please don’t tell me that’s their actual band picture. I mean, it’s less serious and more self-aware, but still…

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Oddly enough, it reveals the fact that Metalheads are more likely to remove their shirts onstage than at the beach.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I know what your Band Photometer™ says about this: CAMEL TOE!

        • Thatguy

          Too easy to pick on this. I will save the instrument for more worthy application.

          And, yep, take all the double meanings you want.

  • Septic
    • JeremyZero

      Oh my.

    • Mollusc

      Everybody stop zooming in on the (lo rez) crotch area.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        How do you know it’s low res?

        • Mollusc

          I had to zoom in in the interests of defending the young lady’s modesty.

      • HeavyMetalHamster

        GET OUTTA MY HEAD!

        • Mollusc

          Don’t worry, it’s only natural to want to gaze at the flange ov steel (somebody put some diacritical marks on that for me).

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            flänge öv steel

          • Mollusc

            That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Your answer made me think of Saxon’s “Wheels Of Steel”

            She’s got flänge, flänge öv steel
            She’s got flänge öv steel
            flänge öv steel
            Talking ’bout her flänge öv steel

          • Mollusc

            That’s amazing! I’ve honestly never heard that, but it makes sense that someone would have made a song out of it. Combining the best of civil engineering and heavy metal!

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            The original song is about “wheels of steel” but I replaced it with “flänge öv steel”. Come to think of it “flänge öv steel” would most likely be a Spin̈al Tap song.

          • Mollusc

            Ohhhhh, I see, sorry – tired brain here! We’d better get recording it before someone else gets a hit with it.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I’ll play the cowbell!

          • Mollusc

            Or whack the flange of an I beam with yer spanner.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Flange-whacking Spanners could be a band name…

          • Mollusc

            The AMG Commenters Allstar a Capella Singers and The Flange Whacking Spanners perform Flange ov Steel.

      • Eli Valcik

        you don’t need to zoom to see it

        • Mollusc

          You don’t HAVE to…

    • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

      I hate to be that nit picking bastard but that’s not Camelus bactrianus but rather a Camelus dromedarius…
      Who am I trying to fool? I love being that nit picking bastard!

      • Septic

        I new for a goddamn fact someone would notice… Curse you Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra…does this makes things better? 🐫

    • sir_c

      Could’ve been a pollicem alces.

      • Septic

        I had to Google that hahaha…

  • Maximos662

    All apologies, but I need to drag this again: conceptually, Epica already did this album. In 2007. Ok, sure, they didn’t say, 11 years ago, that The Divine Conspiracy was “based” on The Name of the Rose, but all of the fundamental ideas are the same. And those ideas are pretty damned weak, amounting to a junior-high level understanding of the subject matter.

    The difference: in 2007, Epica were still musically compelling.

    • No apologies necessary, please continue.

      • Although, for my money, Epica was never really musically compelling.

      • Maximos662

        Well, this is a metal blog, so I don’t want to derail even a subthread with philosophy, politics, and religion, but the straightforward, “religion is bad” sorts of lyrical tropes are really hackneyed. If metal bands want to express anti-religion sentiment, a more philosophical and abstract, anticosmic approach is way more interesting, as on, say, Grey Heaven Fall’s Black Wisdom, than just saying, a thousand times, in the same way, that religion is bad. OK, we get it. Can we move on to something more interesting, like a compelling riff? An enthralling vocal melody, since we’re talking about symphonic power metal? Some thematic development that would justify the classical imitation/pretension?

        I’m going to channel Diabolus from 2016’s best-of week: Christian prog-power band Theocracy, in the lead track of their release of that year, criticized the tiresome persecution complex *of their own tribe*, telling them to get over it and put it in perspective. So, I’m just saying that bands that take a different perspective should, uh, up their lyrical and conceptual games. I don’t care one way or the other what stance bands have on religion; I’m listening for the music. But while I’m there for the music, it would be nice if some thought were applied to the lyrics: could they try not be be cliche and embarrassing?

        • Kronos

          One of the few bands that tackles religion well is Deathspell Omega. Most other religious commentary in metal is pretty damn ham fisted.

          • Kryopsis

            Ham and pigs in general are quite Metal, from the bacon-pirates of Alestorm to “I carve my truth into the flesh of swine”, the first line of ‘Truth Defiled’ by Trials.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Don’t forget those boar tusks on Snaggletooth.

          • JeremyZero

            I like ham fisted in metal personally. I for one never cringe at a good FUCK GOD 666!!! SATAAAANNNN RULES

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I have always thought that Immolation does a pretty good job of writing anti-religion lyrics that are both intelligent and in good taste. Then again, I might be a tasteless dumbass.

          • Kronos

            Oh man that can be fun… I really enjoy the bridge of “Goat of Departure” by the Black Dahlia Murder where they just yell “SIX” incessantly.

          • JeremyZero

            Really, metal is the bread that holds hearty helpings of ham and cheese, and I wouldnt want it any other way.

          • Thë Brycërøy

            Hannes Grossman’s “Hail Satan” always puts a smile on my face. So silly, but so much fun.

        • It is a metal blog but it seems to me that people have aired their grievances before. Anyone, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

          Lyrics are not the most important part, not by a long shot, but really good lyricism can definitely be a game changer (and vice versa).

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Music always suffer when there is a “message first” approach. That is the REAL reason why most christian music sucks.

          • Nukenado

            Departé has a very strong Christian message.
            It’s just really hard to tell underneath all the DsO-isms.

          • Nukenado

            I think it’s the inverse in extreme metal.
            Christian extreme metal bands know that the “message” will make their records be unfavorably looked upon, and actually work harder to circumvent that.

        • WhamBamSam

          Anti-religious or at least anti-Christian lyrics usually get a pass from me. After all, at least in the context of the US, it’s punching up at a powerful conservative political force, and frankly one that seems impossible to depict too ham-fistedly. That’s obviously not the same as the Christian persecution complex, which is basically that same politically powerful group whining about other people also having rights.

          • Nukenado

            I feel the opposite, actually.
            Although I have inherited a healthy hate of the US from my home country, there is no actual “pushing” being done by US bands. There’s lawyers, laws and the underground giving you legal and emotional support for “rebelling” against Christianity. In other words, your freedom of speech is guarenteed in the US.

            What kind of bands are actually pushing back against a “powerful conservative political force”?
            Polish BM bands, MENA black metal bands and Al-Namrood.
            Unlike the US and other more open countries, Poland has anti-blasphemy laws. Behemoth has been repeatedly threatened (and dealt with) legal reprecussions. There is a legitimate threat in Poland.
            MENA bands have it tougher. Being a BM band in Israel is bad enough. There’s Iranian metal bands. It’s called the Islamic Republic.
            THAT’s rebellion. And of course there’s Al-Namrood, who are literally facing death for playing black metal in Saudi Arabia.

            TL;DR: I think the idea of Christianity as this “powerful political force” is stupid, at least in the US. It hasn’t been powerful in a while, and nowhere as tough as other countries.

          • GrumpDumpus

            SAME FOR EUROPE ‘RELIGION’ IS JUST A CONVENIENT LYRICAL PUNCHING BAG FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT AN EXCUSE TO YELL

          • WhamBamSam

            There are anti-blasphemy and similar laws still on the books in some US states. They aren’t enforceable under the constitution, but they do exist. I understand that it’s not the same as somewhere like Iran, but while our secular laws are nice, they aren’t the end all be all. Fundamentalist Christians are unusually mobilized as a voting block in the US. Evangelical turnout was something like twice the average rate in the 2016 election. They overwhelmingly vote in one particular way, they do so out of hatred, and it has consequences not just domestically, but around the world. American evangelicals are also quite overt in their religiousity, which as far as I’m concerned, is an invitation for as much lyrical scorn as metal bands want to throw their way.

          • Nukenado

            Well, Trump knows his target audience.
            But I see your point.

          • Maximos662

            Well, I’d just say this: much of what happens in the US politically is a function of that faction lashing out *precisely because* they know that their time is short; all of the cultural and demographic trends are against them. And I’m okay with punching them, if it’s done skillfully. Hell, even Machine Head have done this on a level well above, “religion is bad.”

        • Swordborn

          As a practicing orthodox Roman Catholic who was actually led back to Christianity and away from existentialism and agnosticism by people IN the metal community, I suspect I represent a minority opinion here, but I perceive VERY strongly that, at least in the case of orthodox Christianity (read: not Protestantism), anyone who takes the precepts of their faith with considerable sincerity is unlikely to value something like heavy metal music enough to be a musician/lyricist. There are only a very small handful of exceptions that I can think of.

          Likewise, the generic “RELIGION BAD!” lyricism of many bands doesn’t offend me because, to be perfectly blunt, the overwhelming majority of musicians haven’t taken the time to know what the heck they’re talking about. Either that, or they’re selective to the point of intellectual dishonesty.

          And that’s all the worms I’ll dig up on this subject for now.

          • Nukenado

            I’m actually the opposite.
            As a Christian-turned apathetic agnostic, I actively despise “religion bad!” lyrics. I’m okay with an actually thoughtful rebuttal, but just “SATANSATANSATAN” turns me off a band despite not being Christian anymore.

            I feel Christian metal non-metalcore bands actually try harder than non-Christian bands due to having to sell themselves to a non-Christian audience. They also generally treat their Christian lyrics with more care.
            See: Departé, Zao, Theocracy, Black Sabbath.

          • Eli Valcik

            I’m an atheist who is somewhat anti religious, I try to respect people who follow religion because their religion is none of my fucking business. When I run into Satanic or Christian lyrics I treat them mostly as mythological music much like viking metal (but without the viking flare.) I’ve always greatly loved Bathory for his ideas/lyrics on those subjects, from nihilism to great spirituality but not a religious spirituality. I always loved reading lyrics on albums like Twilight of the Gods.

            Also I totally agree that Christian bands have to work harder, just look at Trouble.

          • Nukenado

            I’m actually okay with the Venom school of SATAN^3. It’s the half “profound” school that puzzles me. Bathory is great. I love Vikings.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            The juvenile, inmature, cartoonish Satanism is fine with me. The more “serious” you get about it, the lamer it gets, to the point where I find a totally theistic Satanist band to be equal to a Christian band, it’s the opposite side of the coin but it’s still the same coin. Give me more juvenile, inmature, cartoonish Satan! Give me weregoats raping busty nuns!

          • Nukenado

            I like cartoon Satanism and I like hippie Satanism, but nothing in between.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            What’s Hippie Satanism? Does calling Charles Manson “Charlie” Manson count as hippie satanism? Was Charlie Manson the first hippie satanist?

          • Nukenado

            Nah, I’m pretty sure he was just a crazy hippie.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Crazy satanic hippie.

          • Nukenado

            That works too.

          • Nukenado

            I’m thinking the more intellectual side of Satanism instead of edgelord Satanism.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            what’s edgelord Satanism? The more you answer the more questions I get…

          • Nukenado

            The Jon Nödtveidt school of Satanism.

          • Aguy

            So far as I understand it at all, the MLO’s “anti-cosmic Satanism” actually appeals to me quite a bit. Not that I’ve adopted it – but Gnosticism is where Christianity (if you can even call it that anymore) gets _weird_, and it’s a rich mine for ideas for cults and secret magic and such. But you take that stuff and filter it backward through teenage rebellion so that the universe is actually a prison and people are praying to Tiamat and conjuring “black fire”? It’s like a self-authoring D&D campaign. In fact I can guarantee (with at least 60% certainty) that I will be ripping those guys off wholesale next time I need some kind of crazy cult or black magical tradition.

          • Nukenado

            Oh, I don’t deny the weird part. I just really hate Satanic edgelords.

          • Maximos662

            I understand and respect that perspective, as someone whose philosophical and religious convictions are also certainly in the minority in spaces like this one. As someone who has studied philosophy and theology, I do kinda wish that people would understand a little about the subject matter when they decide to declaim upon it. Perhaps that’s a bit pedantic, but it is what it is.

  • Peter Rabbit

    Jesus, the delivery of the lines in the embedded track is horrendous. I don’t know if they are completly incapable of synchronize vocals with music, or are pausing at every fucking syllable to make it sound more dramatic. Either way, my ears are bleeding.

  • Kryopsis

    This sounds more like Catharism rather than Catharsis, by which I mean that this entire album is heresy and is worthy of persecution.

  • Eldritch Elitist

    Embedded track sounds about as interesting as air tastes. I nearly fell asleep twice.

  • Wes Allen

    They should have written the album on Foucault’s Pendulum instead.

  • JeremyZero

    I hate to feel this way but two of my biggest red flags in metal are the words “Greece” and “Italy”.

    • ToddRob64

      What no king fleshrod apocalips??

      • JeremyZero

        I really only enjoy them in pretty small doses. Dead Congregation from Greece is rad though.

        • SoLeftISeeRight

          That would be Hellasgod Necropolis. Zing

          • Kurt Kapferer

            fleshybod tacolips?

    • Nukenado

      why no codex omega septicflesh

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    “When anyone anywhere reduces the role of guitar in heavy metal, bad things happen”

    It’s only January 2nd and we already have a contender for quote of the year!

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Judging from the band picture my guess is that “Meden Agan” is greek for “Camel Toe”

  • Rowsdower

    Wow I read the FB headline like I might be getting a power metal version of Cradle of Filth and got excited for some reason

    • Thë Brycërøy

      Cradle of Cheese?

      Also, you seem like the man to ask: is there Metal on the sun?

  • Brian Hudson

    Two things:
    1. oh god another wannabe nightwish band
    2. Of the two (that I know of) Catharsis albums this first quarter of 2018, neither of them will be good, but Machine Head hopefully will release something marginally better than this.

    • ToddRob64

      Judging by the first song and their recent downturn I think it could be closer than you think, which is a shame

      • Brian Hudson

        Eh, no biggie, I couldn’t care less about the new Machine Head. I’ve got the much better new Watain, Tribulation and Necrophobic to look forward to.

        • ToddRob64

          Oh for sure I gave up years ago, Sunless in a few days is what I’m excited for

          • Urraca? Because you should definitely be excited for that, thing’s a beast.

          • ToddRob64

            Well what the hell has happened there? I have them on a list of new album in 2 days yet it appears metal archives has linked me to the Urraca album that came out last year!! So much disappointment right now….

  • Akira Watts

    Man. The Name of the Rose is one of my favorite books. I’d fucking *love* a concept album based on it. Damned shame this one sort of blows. Damned shame.

  • Nukenado

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IT’S THE SWEATY BACK

    • Marshlander

      WHYYYYYYY? Some of us are trying to start a new year here! Why is the back back?

      • Nukenado

        It’s AMG’s Back of the Year…
        Which means it’ll be here until the January AotM.

        • TminusEight

          Nah man, it’ll be Steel Druhm trolling us, and to give AMG shit for being late with his List. Love those guys.

  • Alped

    Furvus Malus Pain In Anus

  • Angelus
  • Martin L

    Band picture screams: “we sound like shit”