2013-02-07

Henrik lectures in... Therion

In this section I will do the exact same, but also the complete opposite as I do in the "Tries to understand"-section. Confusing? Not really. Here I will choose one of my favorite bands and pick one song off of each of their albums and lecture all you less fortunate beings who haven't yet understood the greatness of the band in question. Get it? Good.

I have to admit that this "Lectures in..." part was mainly constructed due to the overwhelming negative response my (quite) negative review of Therion's latest album "Les Fleurs Du Mal" got. With this part, I really wanted to show people that I actually did enjoyed and almost loved the band once upon a time. FFS - I even have the band's logo (the Kliffoth-star shown to the left here) tattooed on my right arm. Yes, I have to admit that this is a band that  has dipped in quality quite a lot since I first started to listen to them, but also, my personal taste in music have changed a lot. This has, in my opinion, given me a position where I can judge the band's man's work during the years in a quite non-biased way.

It was the autumn of 1996 when a friend of mine played me an album that was to change me life forever. At the time, I almost solely listened to Swedish "trallpunk" and that was what I enjoyed. Period. He had tried to get me into "weird metal" at other times before, and I'd always smiled politely and forgot about the bands. But this time, it was different. The incredibly atmospheric and haunting intro known as "Preludium" really made the over-dramatic teen in me get a hard-on. And when it abruptly shifted into the band's (nowadays) classic song "To Mega Therion" - I didn't know what to do with myself. I absolutely worshiped the music that came out of his speakers and alongside with Moonspell, Tiamat and My Dying Bride - Therion, and especially "Theli" had a huge part in shaping me into the man I am today. But enough reminiscing - let's dissect this fucker right now!

Therion's first album was a quite standard run-of-the-mill Sunlight-produced slab of classic Swedish death metal, but one could already hear small parts of the band's progressive ideas.
The song "Dark Eternity" might not be the best song on the album, but I feel that it's quite representative on the whole. It has a good groove and I really love that Christoffer's voice, which really sticks out in the ocean of Swedish death-metal vocalists. Although the band already was sort of unique here, I still prefer Dismember or Entombed when it comes to this kind of music. Thankfully, Therion the man quickly realized that death metal wasn't really the thing...

Only one year later (that's 1992 mind you) the band gives us "Beyond Sanctorum" which differs quite a lot from the debut album.
Sure, the vocals are still very much death metal, but we're also introduced to some cringe-worthy clean vocals for added effect. But the main thing here is obviously the keyboards which, along with those spacey guitars, manages to add so much more depth to the song. "Symphony of the Dead" is a good example of the experimental lust - probably taken from the album the band got it's name from. For all of you non-brains out there - that's obviously "To Mega Therion" with Celtic Frost.

Another year then (1993) and the band released the extremely uneven and experimental album "Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas". This experimental-lust and progressiveness really is what Therion is all about according to me.
The opener "Baal Reginon", along with "A Black Rose", "Dawn of Perishness" and "Procreation of Eternity" are the highlights on this album. But none of these can measure themselves with the creeping evilness of "Dark Princess Naamah". Here we are greeted with a small glimpse of the band's dark and ghoulish lyrics that they are so renowned for today. But also, I love the weird tempo-change in the song. It almost sounds like the song has been cut in half (halfway through the song ironically) and then that wonderful bass does it's thing and then the choirs come and then... Hell, I could go on forever but I choose to stop when I'm still sane. Great fucking song indeed.

Two years down the road and Therion released, what in my opinion still is their best album to this day. Here they have left behind most of the classic death-metal sounds and ventured further into classic heavy/thrash metal, combined with clean vocals, choirs and keyboards. The result is a most unorthodox mix of music that I haven't heard previous or after.
If I had a hard time choosing a song for the previous album, here I had to choose between the bass-driven groove metal-monster "Melez", the semi-classic symphonic metal-opera "The Beauty in Black", the Celtic Frost-homage "Sorrows of the Moon" and a few other magnificent songs. But I had to choose my own personal favorite and that is "Evocation of Vovin". In this song, we can hear most aspects of Therion; from the gothic intro, to the thrashing metal and the deathly vocals to the epicness and symphonic choirs; the weird song-structures on this one is actually what makes the song so god damn good. Just listen and dream away!

You all know the story by now. This became the most expensive album that the label Nuclear Blast had released up until then and the boss Marcus Staiger had to sell his car to afford the recording. The result is history and "Theli" is most certainly the mother of all things considered symphonic/opera metal.
Sure, "To Mega Therion" is the über-hit above all and the band will forever be connected to that song in particular. "Cults of the Shadow", along with "In the Desert of Set", are the two follow-ups that aren't as highly regarded, but the variation in the songwriting has rendered them more memorable in 2013 than the classic hit-song. This is of course common in any type of music, but I cannot understate the huge impact that the song above had on me as a late teenager.

Ok, so now we have arrived at the year when I actually started to follow what Therion did and bought each and every one of their albums as soon as it was released. I haven't included "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" (1997) here since it's not an actual album, but I really recommend it anyway, no matter how underrated it is. 1998 is the year when "Vovin" was released and my god, is this an uneven album or what!
Again, I had a hard time to choose which song I wanted to represent this album. I had to choose between the 5 first songs, but eventually "Wine of Aluqah" got my choice since it's has a quite fast tempo, combined with those deep, dark male vocals and female choirs. It is a song that is alright, but compared to the two previous albums, "Vovin" hasn't got shit. The actual facts are that only the first 5 songs are worthwhile. I haven't listened to the remaining 6 songs since this album was released, just because they're that bad. The first 5 contains epicness, calm moments, aggressiveness, choirs, power metal and other stuff. The remaining 6 are just boring prog-shite. End of story.

As the case was with the release in 1997, "The Crowning of Atlantis" (1999) isn't really an official album either. The titletrack, the Manowar- and the Scorpions-covers are fucking ace! So be sure to listen to it instead of "Deggial" (2000) which might just be the most boring Therion-album of all.
Yes, this album is actually boring as fuck. The opener "Seven Secrets of the Sphinx" basically takes the worst parts from "Theli" and "Vovin" and tries to be "heavy". The result is actually almost laughable. Apart from what easily is the best track here - "The Invincible", there are only two more tracks that are bearable. Namely the titletrack and the second folkish part of "Via Nocturna". The rest is utter shit, not even boring. Just plain shit.

Just one year later, Therion apparently decided to make the best album since "Lepaca Kliffoth". Sure, there aren't any death-metal grunts present here, but there's variation and the prog-worship is even interesting (unlike those on "Vovin"). And of course, this is a concept album of the worlds in the Nordic mythology. Therion sings in Swedish for the first time in their existence and fuck me, how good it is!
Out of the 11 (original) songs here I could haven chose like 8 or 9, because this album is THAT good. Some songs ("Ginnungagap", "Asgård", "Schwarzalbenheim" and "Muspelheim") here became classic live-tracks and very much rightfully so. My favorite is "Helheim" - and I think that it is mostly due to the fact that it is solely sung in Swedish and I am Swede who actually enjoys metal sung in Swedish. We are very, very few mind you (and no, I don't count those who like Sabaton). This song does the impossible; at the same time as it gives me emotions of yore, it also makes me want to dance and headbang at the same time. I don't think I know another song in any genre that does the same thing. So in my opinion; easily the best song that Therion has ever done.

Fast forward three years and Therion released a double-album, which also was released as separate albums, so I'll review them as such too. "Lemuria" is easily the most impressive, while this one - "Sirius B" - hasn't got the same edge to it.
Yes, this a slow and quite boring song in it's entirety. At least if you compare it to more up-tempo songs on the same album such as "Blood of Kingu" (where Mats Levén really shines). But "Call of Dagon" has a certain feeling to it that the majority of the rest of the album actually lacks. I don't know why, but that's just how it is. I guess it sounds the most old-school Therion and that's why I like it so much.

As I mentioned, the sibling-album "Lemuria" is far superior with songs such as the gothic power-metal song "Three Ships of Berik, Part 1", the suggestive title-track, the emotionally haunting "An Arrow From the Sun" and the Rammstein-worshipper "Feuer Overture/Prometheus Entfesselt".
But I naturally chose the groove-ish "The Dreams of Swedenborg" where the much missed Piotr Wawrzeniuk makes a return with his inferior, though emotional, vocals. The entire track feels like a homage to the "Lepaca Kliffoth"-days and I guess that's why I like so damn much. It's not a classic symphonic-metal Therion-track, but it's got that special something.

Fast forward another three years (2007) and this is in my opinion where things really started to go astray for the band. One can feel that there's so much things missing and the band-chemistry has gone out the window. I cannot say that I am the hugest fan of Snowy Shaw either...
The track I've chosen is for the same reasons as the one above. If "The Dreams of Swedenborg" could have fitted onto "Lepaca Kliffoth", "The Path of Arcady" could've easily been a B-single from "Theli" or something like that. I really don't have much else to say other than the rest of the album is boring as fuck.

Earlier, I've said that "Deggial" is Therion's most boring album to date, but then I really didn't think of "Sitra Ahra" (2010). Honestly, I'd forgotten about this album when I wrote that, and so should you. "Deggial" is fucking superior to this crap-fest.
The intro alone sounds like a rip-off from the golden days of Therion and it really makes me want to vomit. Everything from the dreadful Thomas Vikström to the incredibly boring songwriting is wrong on this album. And I have to admit that I chose "Kali Yuga, Part III" only because I've seen that awful video more times than is considered healthy. Not because I like it - quite the contrary actually. Just look at those animated birds and try not to laugh. But the song itself actually have a few redeeming qualities. And that is mostly due to the fact that some parts sound like they could've been from "Vovin".

And thus, we have come to the latest atrocity, "Les Fleurs Du Mal" which is so elaborately wrote about earlier. And yes, the first video-track is obviously still the best one.
The problem still remains; you can easily hear that this is originally a pop-song (nothing wrong with that) that has been Therionized. But why not use more dynamics instead of doing it the easy way? Why not incorporate more (I never thought I'd write this) progressive elements and a larger variety of vocal-styles? I have listened to the rest of the songs on this album a couple of more times and every time I listen to it, I hear a band a man who's so damn tired and bored of his child, that is Therion, that it's really sad.

Still, I will continue to buy this band's albums (I'm that stupid) because I am always curious to what it is that Christoffer will do next. Also, I haven't completely lost hope of his band. The ultimate thing would obviously be if Therion did something that was sort of a mix of "Lepaca Kliffoth" and "Secret of the Runes", but I know that won't happen.

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