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3.75 | 23 ratings | 4 reviews
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Album · 2010

Filed under Symphonic Metal


1. Introduction/Sitra Ahra (5:24)
2. Kings Of Edom (8:51)
3. Unguentum Sabbati (5:10)
4. Land Of Canaan (10:32)
5. Hellequin (5:18)
6. 2012 (4:16)
7. Cú Chulainn (4:16)
8. Kali Yuga, Pt. 3 (3:41)
9. The Shells Are Open (3:44)
10. Din (2:37)
11. After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone (7:22)

Total Time 61:11


- Christofer Johnsson / Guitars, Keyboards
- Thomas Vikström / Vocals
- Christian Vidal / Guitars
- Nalle "Grizzly" Påhlsson / Bass
- Johan Koleberg / Drums

Guest members:
- Snowy Shaw / Vocals
- Lori Lewis / Vocals
- Linnéa Vikström / Vocals (on "Sitra Ahra", "Kings Of Edom" and "Hellequin")
- Marcus Jupither / Vocals (on "Hellequin")
- Petter Karlsson / Vocals (on "2012")
- Mika "Belphagor" Hakola / Harsh Vocals (on "Din")

About this release

Label: Nuclear Blast
Release date: 17th of September, 2010

All lyrics by Thomas Karlsson.

Recorded between 2009 and 2010 in the Polar Studio, Stockholm. Produced by Christofer Johnsson. Cover art by Thomas Ewerhard.

Thanks to Vehemency for the addition and UMUR for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
With “Gothic Kabbalah,” THERION reinvented its sound once again by adding not only elements of Gothic metal but added some extra servings of progressive rock which made the album stand out amongst its rich canon of opera infused metal madness. The party kids set out for one more tour but then everybody in the band parted and no more THERION as we know it. Instead of calling it quits founder and creative leader Christofer Johnsson opted to start from scratch and create a whole new version of THERION. Gone were the massive choirs, mega symphonies and tributes to fat ladies with horned helmets and instead was a more refined sound of what i would deem a THERION smorgasbord of past ideas however a few tricks up Johnsson’s sleeves remained and this album shows a few new developments.

Amongst the new peeps on board, Snowy Shaw of Mercyful Fate and Dream Evil fame was back as one of the many vocalists along with ex-Candlemass vocalist Thomas Vikström and a few newbies like Christian Vidal on guitar and Lori Lewis as the only female vocalist. In fact there are only eleven musicians and vocalists on the band’s 14th album SITRA AHRA which makes it the most trimmed down of any. Perhaps the logistics of all those massive live shows were the primary impetus for this newer version of THERION to emerge. Whatever the case the title refers to a perceived realm that is the opposite to holiness and is a concept from the Jewish Kabbalah which Johnsson mined for many of his lyrical escapades. In that regard SITRA AHRA is business as usual but this album does sound a lot different than any THERION album that preceded despite lots of ideas being mined from the past.

The main way i see SITRA AHRA is that it’s like a THERION rhapsody of its own past. While the number of musicians and vocalists are fewer, the operatic choir structure still functions as so and many of the heavy metal guitar riffs sound like they were borrowed from albums like “Theli.” Just check out the fast tempos and guitar gallops and solos on “Kings Of Edom” and it’s right off of that album. Once again Middle Eastern melodic touches decorate the song structures and although the keyboard aspects are tamed down the album still generates some atmospheric presence and the occasional psychedelic rock outburst. Piano runs are also presented at various moments to create a contrast effect but not super common. There is also more of an effort to change things up more often so the 11 tracks on SITRA AHRA are more varied than earlier albums.

This is a more progressive album than most with the longest track “Land Of Canaan” lasting over ten minutes and delivers some of the most varying sound on the album. Starting out with some sort of Tibetan bowl sounding instrument, the track breaks into mid-tempo metal but also has elements of groovy 60s surf rock before jumping into progressive metal with eerie wordless vocals from Lori Lewis who makes this album sound a lot like some of earlier Aryeon albums. The track jumps from metal to flute led folk that then jumps into Parisian cafe music which is totally new to THERION and would inspire them to follow up with the album “Fleurs Du Mal” which covers old French pop songs. This song is the perfect example of how weird this album is. It goes from metal to French cabaret and starts to remind me of a more metal version of Cirque du Soleil especially after you see the band photos all dressed up in their attire. Somewhat cool and somewhat cheesy, this track symbolizes both the pros and cons of SITRA AHRA.

The album starts off really strong with a bunch of extraordinarily catchy and well crafted tracks but starts to taper off on the second side. “2012” displays the darker tone with a party metal kinda vibe with all the singers joining in. The violin gives it a melancholic feel. There are many heavier tracks on this one like “Cu Chulain” which starts out menacing but then shifts to a feel good singalong session. Kinda goofy actually. “Din” is the most effective metal track with an incessantly sped up riff and one of the few moments where growly vocals are used on a newer THERION release. “The Shells Are Open” sounds like some sort of psycho-gypsy music but reveals more of the same French cabaret music with operatic singers in unison over a metal groove. The whole thing reminds me of a metal version of the can-can. The closing “After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone” is somewhat of an underwhelming closer. Clocking in over 7 minutes it’s mostly a sleepy space rock song with Pink Floyd styled guitar and bass in concert with the vocalists having a good sing-song affair. It makes me feel like everyone is going to break into singing “It’s A Small World.” Psychedelic organ is cool but it’s kinda corny.

This album isn’t bad by any means but it does feel like THERION is one step away from running out of ideas. There’s just enough vim and vigor left to create an album’s worth of material but much of it sounds recycled and although the French music themes and more liberal use of progressive rock are the saving points, it still comes across that THERION’s best days have passed. Perhaps the band would need more time together to gel but despite the great performances some of the material that starts off really strong often devolves into campy goofiness. When all is said and done, this is certainly no throwaway album and worthy of any addition to your collection. The strongest tracks, mostly on the first part of the album are worth the price of admission alone but this is an example of an album that could’ve been trimmed down a bit to make it a more satisfying listen. Perhaps a 45 minute album instead of a 61 minute playing time would’ve been much more interesting. Nevertheless THERION still found a way to stay relevant for a little bit longer.
Therion don't quite sell out with this album, but it is undeniable that Sitra Ahra is vastly more approachable and accessible than the dense double album of Gothic Kabbalah, and they seem less averse to throwing in some entertainingly catchy hooks into their compositions than usual. It's certainly a far cry from the ugly occult symphonic death metal they started out with, but the purists parted way with Therion a good long time ago, and this release focuses on their symphonic strengths whilst simultaneously coming up with enough novel twists to keep things feeling fresh and vibrant and to convince me that maybe Therion still have a bit of gas left in the tank, even if they aren't going on a trip I want to ride on.
"Sitra Ahra" is the 13th full-length studio album by Swedish symphonic metal act Therion. The album was released in September 2010 by Nuclear Blast Records.

The music on the album is vocal dominated symphonic metal. The backbone of the music is mid- to slow paced heavy metal but it´s the operatic and semi-operatic female and male vocals that completely dominate the music. The songs are epic and almost cinematic at times. Sometimes I´m reminded of a grand musical ( broadway) production. The images are the only thing missing. I´m well entertained throughout the playing time of the album as I´m treated to well thought out compositions, excellent musicianship and a professional production. As far as the "metal" part of the album goes, I miss a bit of bite and recognisable riffs, but the intriguing melody lines and vocal performances make up for some of that.

I haven´t listened to much Therion since "Theli (1996)", but I understand they´ve played this style of vocal dominated symphonic metal pretty much since then. With that in mind I can´t put "Sitra Ahra" into a context discography wise, but viewed upon on its own merits this is a really good album to my ears. A 3.5 star rating is fully deserved.

Members reviews

I really like this album. After the brilliant "Lemuria/Sirius B" double album and the still solid "Gothic Kabbalah" which had its lengths and strengths, the band is now back and presents their best album since the innovating "Theli".

But attention, dear metal heads: While "Theli" was an album build on 75% on heavy and death metal and 25% symphonic and classic music, it is now the opposite on "Sitra Ahra". The "Miskolc Experience" and the line-up changes seem to have influenced the band to go even further in their connection of metal and classic. I was already afraid that the line-up changes may destroy the uniqueness of the band and make it go in another direction, but I am very happy to see that those line-up changes have been a fresh rebirth for the band and that Therion continues its journey towards the perfect symbiosis of metal dynamic and power and classical and symphonic intellectual elegance. When you listen to the album, you feel that this band exactly knows what they are doing and where they want to go. And that's why this album isn't a copy of the previous works as "Gothic Kabbalah" already began to repeat the style of "Lemuria/Sirius B", but a really fresh new beginning for the innovating and creative Swedish band.

Only the still brilliant opener "Sitra Ahra" which connects metal and classic equally and the darker, heavier short old school song "Din" remind a lot of the old style of the band.

Medieval, choral-influenced traditional songs as the harmonic "Hellequin", the Celtic and very powerful and happy "Cu Chulainn" or the on Arabian and Persian folklore based epic monster piece "Land Of Canaan" - to just mention two definite 5 out of 5 songs - represent what Therion is today: an open-minded, cultural, historical classic band who plays well developed symphonic mini-operas with some minor metal influences.

The album makes its listener voyage and discover ancient cultures and their folklore and he or she becomes the stunning tourist who admires the amazing sightseeing tour. And after the tour, you have gotten so many interesting insights that you automatically want to voyage again and again and watch the photos of what you have seen over and over again. Once you have listened to the first four songs, you are not able to not finish this album, you get sucked into a maelstrom of exotic impressions, hypnotic melodies and the music creates a lot of images in your head. Therion makes you dream and even if the songs are very complex and elaborated, they have are so light and soft that you don't need more than one try to adore this album, to get into its atmosphere. The album is diversified and progressive without being complex, complicated or mixed-up. It is easy to listen too, but you still discover more and more elements after each hour of pleasure and the album grows more and more on you. Even the "weaker" songs on the album like " Unguentum Sabbati" which has the lack of the famous certain something or "2012" which begins brilliantly but never comes to the punching highlight after its brilliant introduction, fit perfectly with the rest of the album.

This harmonic album is surely nothing for the average metal fan, but Therion has never been a band for that kind of metal head. This album is for the more intellectual people who are not afraid of discovering classical opera and symphony elements, strange languages and exotic cultures and who really take their time to listen to an album as a whole work in peace and harmony. You must listen to it while you are lying on your bed, dreaming, discovering, taking your time, it is surely no music to listen to on your mp3-player on your way to the job in the morning. It is just like an opera: The music creates something visual and wants to tell a story and this album is more than just music, it is a concept, it is a compilation of images and words in perfect harmony, it is a voyage into the past: It is a piece of art and works as a whole. And it is certainly already now the best album done in 2010 to me.

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