REVIEW: WARKINGS – “Morgana”
Warkings have been on my radar for the last two years pretty much. I finally gave in and listened to them for the very first time. This is already their fourth album in a span of 5 years which is quite mindboggling, to say the least! Let’s see where the warrior’s quest will bring us this time!
I was blessed back in the mid to late nineties to experience the genesis of the Power Metal genre. I may have not grasped the meaning nor the power (pun intended) of the genre back when I was in high school, but I rediscovered it about a decade or so ago. I was merely not ready for it back in the day and I was still struggling with my musical tastes back then and discovered Metal in 1994. Sometimes you just don’t know what you are listening to when you are younger, and yet you learn a lot about yourself in your own personal musical journey.
I was expecting something akin to the over-the-top (and slightly overbearing) Power Metal of old, like Rhapsody or early Stratovarius but Warkings are a hodgepodge of many genres. When I see Power Metal as a genre for a band, sometimes I cringe because I do not know what to expect honestly. I have reviewed over 600 bands throughout the last decade and I have seen so many carbon copies of bands of yore. Warkings are able to melt influences into something quite homogenous and on ‘’Morgana’’, they are able to make it all work together in perfect synchronicity.
I have not been impressed by many bands in the genre in the last 15 years I’d say. The good bands are few and far between, like Gloryhammer, Unleash the Archers, Derdian, Powerwolf, Dragony amongst a very short list. These bands are able to stand out and yet Warkings have been added to this list. I was really impressed by the fact that they are able to transcend a few genres along the way. They may not reinvent the wheel per se but what they do, they do it the right way.
On ‘’Morgana’’, they collaborate with Secil Sen aka Morgana Le Fay, a Death Metal vocalist from Turkey. I can safely say I never heard of her before but she channels her inner Angela Gossow at moments and really she was amazing on the tracks she was featured on. On a side note, I feel the album should have a full collaboration between Warkings and Morgana LeFay, it would have felt like a magnum opus. Maybe they did not want to overdo it obviously but I would have preferred to have this constant all throughout this album.
Enough chitchat let’s talk about this new album that was released on the 11th of November. As I said beforehand, this is their 4th album in a span of 5 years. The prolific band is back at it again delivering a number of things, they do not limit themselves to one genre, they grab the listener by the hand and lead them to various interconnecting paths along the way. Sometimes it sounds like Primal Fear, sometimes you can hear clearly the influences of Turisas, and yet you can have the high energy bombastic songs that remind us of Sabaton.
You can safely see the differences between the songs that feature the incredibly talented Morgana Le Fay and the other songs on the album. The contrast is remarkable, but the album flows better than you might think. Does it lack a bit of consistency? Unfortunately yes but I do feel that they show more than one side of their songwriting skills on this album compared to the albums I listened to. I was able to listen to their back catalog and see the evolution of the band since 2018. Morgana just gives this band so much raw energy that it leaves you wanting more. You are kind of disappointed when she is not featured on some tracks!
The standout track for me is ‘’Monsters”. From a lyrical standpoint, this is their strongest song. They talk about monsters, yet this is a metaphor for us humans. We are the monsters in the world we live in, we destroy, we create chaos and violence. We are the true villains in the history of this world. We are a menace to animals, to nature, to everything around us, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and truly see what damage we have done. This is a very powerful message, to say the least.
I feel this song surpasses anything else on this album but it does not follow the overall theme of the album itself. As much as I love the song, the lyrical themes are not consistent with the rest of the songs that focus on Morgana Lefay and her dealings with King Arthur, and Merlin in the Arthurian literary universe. It’s a longstanding character in this world and Warkings based this album on this contentious relationship of love and hate.
The production is of course very neat and clear, allowing all the instruments to be heard. I’m really glad the mixing doesn’t bring the vocals to the front. I’m not really fond of vocal-based albums. What makes this album good is the whole atmosphere created by the theme and lyrics as well as the keyboards and happy-sounding guitars. The lyrics focus on the Morgana Lefay character is something I find quite interesting. The use of battle sounds is nothing groundbreaking but really adds to the music and helps you create an image of a battlefield in your mind.
The instrumentation is really solid, the guitar provides amazing melodies that make you want to hum along while the keyboards and the use of choirs accompany them creating sweet dual melodies. The drums thankfully are not buried in the mix and we can clearly hear them pounding with power providing the needed rhythm for the music, alongside the bass. The bass is also really audible, something I always like in music. The added dialogue to begin some songs is a nice touch, reminded me a lot of Turisas and Sabaton. The Tribune’s clean vocals are also outstanding and really warm, not the best range in power yet his effectiveness is top-notch.
The album creates an atmosphere yet leaves you wanting more. It does lack a bit of consistency and the album as a whole is a great collaborative effort but it could have been even more majestic. The use of the harsh vocals reminded me a lot of Melissa Bonny aka The Queen of the Damned and aren’t used to their full extent. I think this album is a lesson for the future, I can feel the chemistry between all parties, and a full album with both would be even better. I like the dual vocalists in the Power Metal genre, it’s not something that is ever-present right now and they really nailed it on this one. ‘’Morgana’’ hits the right spots and delivers something that was sorely missing in the genre. It’s another step in the evolution of the band and gives us hope for the future and beyond.
The added covers at the end of the album are a nice touch. They cover a song from the aforementioned Powerwolf and also a song from Dragonforce (from the ‘’The Power Within’’ album). A Power Metal band covering two of the finest bands of the genre is always a treat. I was impressed by the Dragonforce cover, it’s very true to its source material but the Powerwolf cover was lacking a bit of substance because it’s not easy to cover them. The layers upon layers of instruments, effects, and overall atmosphere are not overly present unfortunately but all in all, they did an honorable job.
They may have taken the reigns of the Battle Metal genre and surpassed Turisas as the kings (pun intended) of the genre. They may have been categorized as Power Metal but they are way more than that. Their ability to pick and choose influences all over the place makes them a band to watch for the next decade. I sincerely believe that a band of this magnitude is better live than on CD and you can truly capture their essence in person. I always thought these types of genres (or sub-genres) have this innate quality of being able to deliver on such a different level when heard live. I think this band is the next evolution of the Battle Metal genre and they are ready to take that next step.
Would have it been better with a full album with those duel vocalists? Probably. But it doesn’t detract from the fact that ‘Morgana’ is a solid effort from the new generation of European Power/Traditional Power Metal bands. Warkings may not be as known as I would like but they are going to make a mark on the Metal map and with Napalm Records behind them, they will have the backing they need to make their presence known and continue on the right path. A nice surprise in an usually quite mundane Metal genre!