THERION

Symphonic Metal / Death Metal • Sweden
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Therion, formerly known as Blitzkrieg (1987-1988) and Megatherion (1988), is a symphonic metal band founded by Christofer Johnsson in Upplands Väsby, Sweden in 1987. In April 2008, Christofer stated that the musicians are parting in their own ways, however the band has not officially disbanded, Christofer is currently looking for new band members to continue the musical work.

Therion was initially a death metal band, however starting with 1995’s Lepaca Kliffoth, Therion began to gradually incorporate symphonic elements into their metal music. The band has seen many changes in line-up and style throughout its history. Only Christofer Johnsson, Kristian Niemann (guitars), Johan Niemann (bass), and Petter Karlsson (drums) were considered the constant members. All others, including vocalists like Sarah Jezebel Deva, Piotr Wawrzenuk, and Mats Levén, are session members.

Beginning as a death metal band, they later turned to combining orchestral elements with their metal music, employing heavy use of
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THERION Discography

THERION albums / top albums

THERION Of Darkness... album cover 2.76 | 12 ratings
Of Darkness...
Death Metal 1991
THERION Beyond Sanctorum album cover 3.50 | 16 ratings
Beyond Sanctorum
Death Metal 1992
THERION Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas album cover 3.74 | 16 ratings
Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas
Death Metal 1993
THERION Lepaca Kliffoth album cover 3.60 | 18 ratings
Lepaca Kliffoth
Death Metal 1995
THERION Theli album cover 4.31 | 40 ratings
Theli
Symphonic Metal 1996
THERION A'arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming album cover 3.44 | 8 ratings
A'arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming
Symphonic Metal 1997
THERION Vovin album cover 4.14 | 39 ratings
Vovin
Symphonic Metal 1998
THERION Crowning of Atlantis album cover 3.13 | 14 ratings
Crowning of Atlantis
Symphonic Metal 1999
THERION Deggial album cover 3.50 | 23 ratings
Deggial
Symphonic Metal 2000
THERION Secret of the Runes album cover 3.84 | 29 ratings
Secret of the Runes
Symphonic Metal 2001
THERION Lemuria album cover 3.65 | 26 ratings
Lemuria
Symphonic Metal 2004
THERION Sirius B album cover 3.88 | 30 ratings
Sirius B
Symphonic Metal 2004
THERION Gothic Kabbalah album cover 3.67 | 28 ratings
Gothic Kabbalah
Symphonic Metal 2007
THERION Sitra Ahra album cover 3.75 | 23 ratings
Sitra Ahra
Symphonic Metal 2010
THERION Les Fleurs Du Mal album cover 3.28 | 13 ratings
Les Fleurs Du Mal
Symphonic Metal 2012
THERION Beloved Antichrist album cover 2.65 | 6 ratings
Beloved Antichrist
Symphonic Metal 2018
THERION Leviathan album cover 3.50 | 4 ratings
Leviathan
Symphonic Metal 2021

THERION EPs & splits

THERION Time Shall Tell album cover 3.00 | 1 ratings
Time Shall Tell
Death Metal 1990
THERION Les Épaves album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Les Épaves
Symphonic Metal 2016

THERION live albums

THERION Live in Midgård album cover 4.00 | 2 ratings
Live in Midgård
Symphonic Metal 2002
THERION Celebrators of Becoming album cover 4.17 | 3 ratings
Celebrators of Becoming
Symphonic Metal 2006
THERION Live in Mexico album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Live in Mexico
Symphonic Metal 2006
THERION Live Gothic album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Live Gothic
Symphonic Metal 2008
THERION The Miskolc Experience album cover 1.64 | 5 ratings
The Miskolc Experience
Symphonic Metal 2009

THERION demos, promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs)

THERION Paroxysmal Holocaust album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Paroxysmal Holocaust
Death Metal 1989
THERION Beyond the Darkest Veils of Inner Wickedness album cover 2.50 | 1 ratings
Beyond the Darkest Veils of Inner Wickedness
Death Metal 1989
THERION Rehearsal album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Rehearsal
Death Metal 1990

THERION re-issues & compilations

THERION The Early Chapters Of Revelation album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
The Early Chapters Of Revelation
Death Metal 2000
THERION Bells of Doom album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Bells of Doom
Death Metal 2001
THERION Atlantis Lucid Dreaming album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Atlantis Lucid Dreaming
Symphonic Metal 2005

THERION singles (4)

.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Beauty in Black
Symphonic Metal 1995
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Siren of the Woods
Symphonic Metal 1996
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Wand of Abaris
Symphonic Metal 2006
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Les sucettes
Symphonic Metal 2013

THERION movies (DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS)

.. Album Cover
3.83 | 3 ratings
Celebrators of Becoming
Symphonic Metal 2006
.. Album Cover
0.00 | 0 ratings
Adulruna Rediviva and Beyond
Symphonic Metal 2014

THERION Reviews

THERION Leviathan

Album · 2021 · Symphonic Metal
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It’s hard to believe that THERION began as a somewhat generic sounding old school death metal band when it was founded by Christofer Johnsson all the way back in 1987 but after a sluggish beginning which step by step morphed into full-blown symphonic metal by the time the 1996 album “Theli” wooed the critics and hi brow metalheads into the cult, THERION had done the unthinkable and crafted a brilliant new metal sound that took metal music further into the world of Western classical and opera than ever attempted. The results were riveting and brilliant and catapulted the band to international fame.

THERION kept this momentum going all throughout the 2000s with one excellent album after another that slightly reinvented the overall recipe laid down on “Theli” however beginning with “Sitra Ahra,” Johnsson was obviously getting bored with the band’s signature sound and started experimenting and while the albums thought the 2010’s were interesting, they lacked the focus and enthralling hybridization effect that album’s like “Secret Of The Runes” and “Gothic Kabbalah” had so perfectly captured. This all led up to the band’s most ambitious effort yet, 2018’s triple album “Beloved Antichrist” which tamped down the symphonic metal a few notches and instead delivered a whopping 3-hour rock opera.

While the project sounded like a good idea in writing, the results were very lackluster as the album lacked any sort of cohesive gratification despite exhibiting brilliant performances in bits and pieces. The album was a huge flop and fans were wondering if perhaps THERION should call it a day and go start a philharmonic orchestra somewhere in an undisclosed location in the Swedish countryside. The fiasco that was “Beloved Antichrist” pretty much kept fans wondering what THERION’s next move was going to be and finally in 2021 we have a new album that makes it all so clear just what that next move is. In short THERION has proposed another ambitious project only this time it will disperse its grandiose visions in a three album set that will be released by the following LEVIATHAN sequels in 2022 and 2023.

This is basically what we call damage control as Johnsson is obviously not going to disband the profitable cash cow called THERION which has an international following and dedicated fanbase. LEVIATHAN (bad album title considering the mega-popular Mastodon album) pretty much backpedals to the band’s style around the turn of the millennium and could easily fit anywhere in between “Vovin” and “Sirus B.” What is presented here is a tried and true and very well performed collection of eleven tracks with an impressive lineup of various vocalists, both male and female sopranos delivering divine operatic performances accompanied by sizzling metal guitar, bass and drum backing. As always at this point in THERION’s career, this is a big budget production with a great number of guest musicians and extra instrumentation that includes hammond organ, violin and lots of drumming diversity.

As far as a THERION album goes, LEVIATHAN is indeed a return to form and pretends that the whole “Beloved Antichrist” backlash was just a bad dream however at the same time these grounds have already been covered and no matter how well these tracks are performed (and they are perfectly executed), it just feels like THERION has gotten stuck in a certain moment in its career that it will never escape from due to the fact that the band is popular and therefore obligated to kowtow to the fanbase. Despite these apprehensions to continue down a more experimental path, as a true THERION fan myself, i’d prefer to have the band release experimental flops like “Beloved Antichrist” than to retread that which has already been accomplished two decades ago. THERION will always be a band i have a soft spot for so i can never rate an album this beautifully performed very low but it certainly doesn’t get any extra love for creative growth. This is about as THERION by the books as it gets still though LEVIATHAN is quite an enjoyable album.

THERION Leviathan

Album · 2021 · Symphonic Metal
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In my experience, when an artist advertises their new work with the words “We have decided to give the people what they kept asking for”, that normally does not bode terribly well. However, if the man saying those words is Therion’s mastermind Christofer Johnsson, whose latest two controversial and fan-challenging releases are an album of French pop covers and a 3-hour, 46-track, narcolepsy-inducing triple-album, well, then we better listen carefully. Therion’s new album, Leviathan, does exactly what it says on the tin: deliver 45 minutes of “classic Therion” music, packed with memorable, instantly-likeable songs. A "commercial" sellout, you say? I disagree, I don’t really feel I can blame a band that has been pushing boundaries for 34 years of career for wanting to take it easy for once. Regardless of how genuine you feel this new artistic endeavour might be, one thing is for certain: one has to try really hard not to like at least some of the eleven songs on Leviathan.

The album is packed with everything we have come to love about the exquisite blend of symphonic/operatic metal that has defined Therion’s music since the mid-90s. Classic heavy metal riffs form the basis for epic and bombastic orchestral arrangements, striking a great balance between the sophistication of classical music and heavy metal grit. Tasteful folk influences seeps in on tracks like “Die Wellen der Zeit”, the Middle Eastern influenced “Aži Dahāka” and “Eye of Algol”, and “Ten Courts of Diyu” where we even find some Far Eastern music themes. Elsewhere, the album veers towards European power metal territories (“Great Marquis of Hell”; “El Primer Sol”), while gothic-tinged passages emerge as well throughout the record. Leviathan also literally brims with fantastic melodies and an impressive array of vocal styles, ranging from straight heavy metal belting, to melancholic female vocals, to majestic operatic singing.

The list of interpreters is no less exciting. Regular band members Thomas Vikström (tenor) and Lori Lewis (soprano) are joined by some great guest singers, including Marco Hietala (ex-Nightwish), Mats Levén (ex-Candlemass, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen), Noa Gruman (Scardust), Taida Nazraić (The Loudest Silence), Chiara Malvestiti (Crysalys) and Rosalía Sairem. Meanwhile, Israel’s Hellscore Choir directed by Noa Gruman provides lush and expansive backing vocals. The use of such a diverse and varied list of singers, who are often employed together in the same song, is one of the most remarkable features of the album that brings to mind the best work of rock-opera maestro Arjen Anthony Lucassen (Ayreon). On the instrumental side, Snowy Shaw and Björn Höglund share duties behind the drum kit, while the rest of the line-up is the same one that recorded the last few Therion albums (Christofer Johnsson on guitar/keyboards, Christian Vidal on lead guitar, and Nalle Påhlsson on bass).

If you are worried that Johnsson’s deliberate attempt at writing “hit songs” may have compromised the earnestness of the songwriting, that’s not the case: the music feels fresh, inspired, and fun. Sure, there’s nothing really revolutionary or experimental here, the album treads similar waters to Therion’s 90s/00s work (and after all that was the whole point of the record). But the eleven songs included on Leviathan are by no means just a rehashed, half-baked version of tracks one can find on Vovin or Secret of the Runes. These are songs that can hold up well to any previous output of the band, which, after 17 albums in a 34-year career, is no mean feat.

There isn’t a single bad song on the album: Leviathan is one of those records that you can put on and smoothly enjoy from the first to the last note. Nevertheless, a few tracks stand out for me. “Tuonela” is one of those, partly for Marco Hietala’s compelling vocal performance, partly for the beautifully constructed chorus that masterfully combines three melodic lines played by Hietala, the Hellscore chorus and two violins. “Die Wellen der Zeit” is a surprisingly simple ballad carried by the lush voice of Serbian singer Taida Nazraić, one of the most shining new talents enlisted on this record. “Nocturnal Light” is the other ballad and is another great track, more majestic and operatic, which gives me strong Vovin vibes. Meanwhile, the “Eye of Algol” is a multi-part Middle-Eastern-tinged beast that contains a really cool riff on the chorus, while “Ten Courts of Diyu” is a beautiful atmospheric piece that closes the album in style with a spine-tingling vocal performance by Noa Gruman and a nice guitar solo by Christian Vidal (if there’s one thing that I perhaps miss on this album is more spots for instrumental solos).

After the last couple of releases, Therion’s fans might be wary to approach Leviathan, but there is really no need to. If you are a fan of the band’s output between Theli and Gothic Kabbalah, this album will not disappoint you. Neither will it surprise you, but perhaps Therion’s fans have had enough surprises already in the past decade. Leviathan may be the most linear and accessible album that Therion have released in the past ten years, but there’s a catch: this is just the first installment of a trilogy of albums that Johnsson has already written up and is preparing to release in 2022 and 2023, respectively. The man seems incapable of writing less than 40 songs in one sitting! I don’t know about you, but after having listened to Leviathan, I very much look forward to the rest of the trilogy!

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

THERION Beloved Antichrist

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Metal
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In short, THIS ALBUM IS BORING AF! Read on if you want to know why

THERION has been around forever at this point at least by metal standards having formed all the way back in 1987 and made a name for itself in the early years by climbing the ranks of the Swedish death metal scene by incrementally releasing one slightly more experimental album followed by another. Some say that founder and creative mastermind Christofer Johnsson was seriously smitten after hearing the choral sections on Ozzy Osbourne’s classic 1981 track “Diary Of A Madman.” Randy Rhoads of course was one of the pioneers of the neoclassical sounds and had he not perished prematurely could’ve possibly been the mastermind of a band like THERION but it was Johnsson who saw the higher potentials of mixing classical music with heavy metal and well, the rest is pretty much history with a never-ending supply of metal divas rocking to Orff inspired Wagnerian pomp fortified by Iron Maiden guitar gallops.

The classic years of THERION started with 1996’s “Theli” where the band suddenly dropped all death metal pretenses and went full on symphonic classical mode and in the process took the world by storm by taking the neoclassical shtick to the next logical level by incorporated massive symphonies, choirs and mining the opera catacombs of their wealth to incorporate dramatic vocal grandeur in a heavy metal context. The results sorta made your hair stand up as it was bold, refreshing and utterly unthinkable! The formula remained fresh and vital all the way up to the band’s 13th album “Gothic Kabbalah” which was released in 2007. But then it seems everything started going down the ole crapper. Not only did the entire musical cast part ways leaving Johnsson to reinvent the band once again but the main man himself was suffering from the physical battles scars of the demands of live performances. He suffered intense neck and shoulder pain as well as spine disc herniations. Not only did he temporarily lose his ability to perform but seems all that divine inspiration that made THERION such a fan-damn-tastic band to experience just sorta up and left!

Starting with 2010’s “Sitra Ahra” THERION was a completely new beast but all the vitality of the past had somehow disappeared with the rest of the band and suddenly for the first time it sounded like THERION was just going through the motions with a by-the-numbers generic delivery of been-there-done-that material. Obviously the wells of inspiration had run dry so Johnsson decided to take a stab at recording an album of classic French pop songs adapted to metal on 2012’s “Les Fleurs Du Mal” which was a slightly more interesting albeit divisive endeavor albeit a far cry from the classic THERION years. With inspiration clearly waning Johnsson decided to finally unleash his ultimate end game vision of what THERION could be. While this project has always been about the gleeful fusion party where operatic divas and headbangers unite under one flag, nobody really considered THERION to haver released a true bona fide metal opera with OPERA in all capital letters.

After “Fleurs Du Mal” Johnsson focused on a side project called The Luciferian Light Orchestra which basically created a less metal version of “Gothic Kabbalah” which set the stage for the next project by THERION. Having had the idea to finally take THERION to its logical conclusion with a fully developed metal opera, Johnsson began working on what was meant to be his most ambitious project yet and in 2018 it finally came to light as the triple album set BELOVED ANTICHRIST which consisted of a whopping 46 songs based on “A Short Tale Of The Antichrist” by Vladimir Solviov. Somehow he forgot the “short” part of the tale and expanded the story to include 27 characters played by 15 vocalists and while this may sound a lot like what Arjen Anthony Lucassen has crafted in his project Ayreon, let’s just say that this one doesn’t quite live up to the hype.

The opera is described as a theatrical presentation in which a dramatic performance is set to music and originated at the end of the 16th century in Italy with many historians claiming Jacopo Peri’s “Dafne” being the first example of 1598. That means there have been over 500 years of opera in existence. Some of the most popular examples are Monteverdi’s “L’Orfeo,” Purcell’s “Dido And Aeneas,” Handel’s “Julius Caesar” and Gluck’s “Orfeo Ed Euridice.” Having dropped most of the metal characteristics of yore like an impotent headbanger who lost his viagra, this can only be considered a metal OPERA by the most fertile of imaginations but if you’re looking for some juicy guitar riffs or anything resembling the band’s past glory, your expectations will fall flatter than silicon boob job gone horribly wrong. This is an opera album through and through and not a very good one at that. Never have i heard 46 consecutive songs sound so mind numbingly bland in all my life. To be fair there is metal to be heard but it’s so dreadfully dull and mostly absent with only a few tracks thrown here and there.

Needless to say THERION does nothing to add to the opera legacy not even by the tiniest despite limp noodle metal music being inserted into its format. This is basically a traditional opera in every conceivable way with only some rock and metal music being snuck in for the sake of calling this a metal opera. In reality this 3 album set is a chore to sit through but as a THERION fan i felt it was my duty to listen to the entire thing all the way through although with an initial sense of trepidation having a keen sense of what to expect. There are no metal vocal styles, only the traditional clean sung opera variations. The three albums are woefully paced with no rhyme or reason or any sense of dramatically buildups to some climax. Badly paced and woefully lacking any sort of interesting musical hooks, all THERION can do is retread past glories by piling on extra layers of fluff to create a false sense of achievement. Flatulent guitar riffs, incessant Pavarotti worship tenors and divas sounding like they need bowel movements endlessly persist for a staggering ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY THREE MINUTES :o

What we have here is an impressive piece of work but on paper only. Everything about this is impressive. Hell, just the fact that it exists is one for the history books but when all is said and done BELOVED ANTICHRIST is a three hour blackhole that sucks three hours out of your life never to be retrieved. If that isn’t the ultimate act of evil, i don’t know what is! In summary, the only thing that comes to mind when i struggled through this one is that the once mighty THERION has finally gone off the deep end. I could think of a million ways to make this boring dross more entertaining but it is literally the epitome of an opera set on autoplay with no end in sight. Despite all the talent and efforts that went into this one, it is utterly devoid of soul and the whole thing feels forced for the sake of its mere existence. I’ve never been a huge opera fan but at least when i do occasionally experience some of the classics i can feel the passion behind the creative process that went into them. In this case i only feel a band that has lost its way and gotten a distorted sense of grandeur that is attempted but woefully lost. Please, Christofer! Let it go! THERION needs to rest now. Hint hint. No! Mommy! Make it stop! AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!

Did i mention that THIS ALBUM IS BORING AF?

THERION Sitra Ahra

Album · 2010 · Symphonic Metal
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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 Gothic Kabbalah

Album · 2007 · Symphonic Metal
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With the 2004 double album releases “Lemuria” and “Sirius B” immediately followed by a two year tour that found THERIOIN putting on 106 shows around the world including the ProgPower Festival in the UK on March 21, 2006, it would seem that THERION would not have the time to craft more material for another album but band founder and leader Christofer Johnsson was insanely prolific and a song writing machine along with the Nieman brothers and not only crafted enough material for the next album but enough to make it a double one. After several albums since “Theli” which launched THERION into the big leagues with its new brand of symphonic metal that added massive symphonies and choirs, the time was ripe for a change and that’s exactly what the fans got with the 13th album GOTHIC KABBALAH.

As the name of the album implies, GOTHIC KABBALAH takes THERION’s symphonic metal sound more into the world of Gothic metal as if Type O Negative joined the crew and this was the result. In 2006 Christofer Johnsson announced that he was retiring from singing duties therefore Mats Levén of Yngwie Malmsteen fame who performed on the “Lemuria / Sirius B” albums took the role of ghoul in chief with his dracula inspired vocal style at the forefront. A second singer was recruited with Snowy Shaw of Mercyful Fate and Dream Evil along with three female singers, Katarina Lilja, Anna Nyhlin and Hannah Holgersson. GOTHIC KABBALAH also found the number of musicians involved trimmed down considerably although in addition to the four main members of THERION there are still eleven guests involved.

This is the least symphonic of THERION’s output since the pre-“Theli” years although there are still elements of the choirs and a few classical instrument sounds but overall GOTHIC KABBALAH is much more in the Gothic metal camp with the symphonic elements set to simmer. Thematically this album is dedicated to the Swedish mystic Johannes Bureus who invented a philosophy called GOTHIC KABBALAH which mixed the alchemy, astrology and magic of the 17th century with the ancient runes and Norse gods. The lyrics of the album narrate in great detail the themes of the texts written by Bureus. Another notable musician on this one is Ken Hensley of Uriah Heep who plays keyboards. The trimmed down symphonic, orchestral and vocal domination of previous albums ramped up with a more aggressive guitar sound and an overall darker atmospheric presence makes GOTHIC KABBALAH one of the most unique sounding albums in the THERION canon.

One of the most noticeable differences in this double album is that the tracks are some of the most progressive that THERION had done at this point. While each album was fairly unique in certain ways, each retained the basic characteristics of 80s styled heavy metal mixed with classical symphonies and operatic choirs along with the extra accoutrements of ethnic folk music and other minor elements. On GOTHIC KABBALAH the metal parts are much more progressive and for the first time the companions are more labyrinthine and graced with more time signature deviations. While gothic metal is clearly part of the mix it’s not as much so as true goth bands and although dominant not ubiquitious. Often the vocalists are simply trading off parts more like an Ayreon styled rock opera album. Occasionally creeping through are touches of various folk melodies, both Western and Middle Eastern. The album is quite diverse with many different songs taking on different roles and therefore one of the most unusual of THERION’s career.

True that this one could have been trimmed down a bit. I think that if this would’ve been released as a single disc it would’ve been a much stronger album but this one is a grower nonetheless. Personally i find the second disc to be the stronger of the two with the first one engaging in too many long-winded even whiny tracks such as “The Perennial Sophia.” Unfortunately the weaker tracks are in the forefront which may drive off many from hearing the album out in its entirety but IMHO it all picks up big time with “The Wand Of Abaris” as the tracks become more cleverly crafted with interested dynamic shifts that find bombastic metal in interplay with the toned-down symphonic touches and more adrenalized vocalists. The folk melodies add a sense of timelessness and the eerie atmospheric touches give this one a mysterious vibe that fits perfectly into the world of the occult. The closing “Adulruna Rediva” is probably the most classical sounding and reminds you how much Johnsson was inspired by the sounds of Karl Orff especially works like “Carmina Burana” only with a sense of Wagnerian pomp.

Admittedly GOTHIC KABBALAH was a little put offing for me in the beginning but one that has grown on me and although i find this double disker to be a little lopsided with the cream of the crop appearing on the second half, it’s overall a compelling listen that stands out in the THERION canon for its unique mix of styles and the more progressive touches. This would also pretty much be the end of the line for the classic THERION lineup. In 2008 after the massive touring schedule the band announced that its core group of musicians were going their separate ways. Johnsson continued the THERION brand name but none of the albums that followed would ever have the same magnificence that the run from “Theli” to GOTHIC KABBALAH captured. Some of THERION’s best works on this one and although not all tracks are created equal none are horrible either but an editing process that culled a few would’ve made this an even better album as a single album. After all at 83:37, the track list simply could’ve been trimmed of a couple of the weaker tracks and made a single album. Still though, i love this one for the most part despite its flaws.

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siLLy puPPy wrote:
6 days ago
Good catch. I'll change it.
alexius108 wrote:
6 days ago
The 2021 album is LeviathAn, not *LeviathOn as you have it written.

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