Artem Grasm1k

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THERION - LEVIATHAN III Symphonic Metal | review permalink

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1 Symphonic Metal 1 5.00

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Album · 2023 · Symphonic Metal
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Review on Leviathan III by Artem "Metalman" Grasmik

"We totally go bananas on the third Leviathan". Probably the best description by Thomas Vikström himself that album can get. Craziest experience. The diversity of the songs just impress as was promised by Christofer Johnsson. In many aspects this album is groundbreaking, it's rare nowadays, when almost everything in music is said and done. Or is it...? This album gives such a question to the listeners and offers wide range of musical encounters. Metal flamenco? Check. Death metal choir? Check. Spiritual musical journey to another dimension? Check. Old Swedish lullaby in metal shell? Punkish bacchanalia? Four counterpoints by choirs at the same time? And much, much more there are on Leviathan III. To understand and to appreciate such complex, not trivial, tricky work you have to listen to it dozens of times. Of course it's a format not for everyone, though I would hardly recommend people who usually don't dive deep into the music to give it a try. Because in our non-stop always fussy world with so much fast food in all areas of life it's like a breath of fresh air, pure art. But it is also like an old treasure chest, that needs to be explored thoroughly and individually because some of the songs can't be be described fully and properly in words, but nonetheless I'll try my best to share my impressions with you.

Out of three parts this one is the most adventurous and heavy. There are some strongest hits here, but not all of the songs on it can be labelled as hits. It just can't be so due to the conception of the album. For hits go check first part of the trilogy. Interesting though, that the album build on extremes between cold and hot in atmosphere. For example there are songs which give you warm vibe (like Turkish Ruler Of Tamag, Amazonian Ayahuasca, Greek An Unsung Lament, Spanish Duende) and cold vibe (Maleficium with choir in Latin singing about eternal frost or Swedish Midsommarblot and Scandinavian Twilight Of The Gods). This contrast I suppose was depicted on the album cover in colours of sandy cliffs and night starry sky.

The album kicks off with heavy banger Ninkigal, which can scare some of the listeners with harshness already at the door (but don't worry, the next song is probably for you). But it also can please some of the old Therion's followers. To be honest I'm not a fan of death metal and it's elements in 98% of cases. Ninkigal is that kind of exception. Remember mentioned death metal choir? It's here and very powerful to say so. And though firstly I perceived it alienated, when understanding of how this song works came, it started to sound very natural. Roughness of death metal choir and really heavy guitar riffing balanced with gentle vocal performance of Lori Lewis and delicate sounds of keyboards. On top of that you get Snowy Shaw's intensive drumming and another epic female choir. Personally to me this song gave a special gift. I usually don't associate songs with colours, more with feelings, moods, images. But this time two colours came to my mind on the first listening: green and red. I asked myself what does it mean? What do I associate it with? A forest and a blood. A forest drenched in blood and soaked in it? Don't know why it dawned on me, but that's cool.

Ninkigal is like a bullet, a deadly one and flies extremely fast to the second song Ruler of Tamag, which is totally opposite to the opener. Very hit-oriented, very interesting, extremely beautiful. The masterpiece. I fell in love with that song (so did my girlfriend, she adores this song). Taida Nazraić with her gentle, beautiful and innocent voice did a great vocal job here conveying emotions. Turkish choir sounds mighty on this one. Who could have ever thought that it can sound so majestic and enchanting. And gratitude goes to Therion for bringing different languages and cultures to the table. In this song I especially love that first verse is played on acoustic guitars given that warm atmosphere, the second one is played on electric clean guitar and the third one's epic orchestral piece bringing that grandiose feeling - the difference between them is so enchanting. The special moment of Ruler Of Tamag for me is the final part, the crescendo, when Big Choir consisted of many Therion's vocalists sings and Rosalia Sairem doing some lead vocals in a manner of Linnea Vikström as a cherry on top (totally agree on that with Christofer Johnsson). I've forgotten to say, song contains some interesting percussion sounds and it is a very beautiful story from Tengrism religion delivered by Per Albinsson.

After the crescendo we get An Unsung Lament... Hard to describe that one. A song for inner circle? Oh, it was already said by Mr. Johnsson... It's awkward. Funny though I think the beginning of the song more similar to Judas Priest's Living After Midnight than to something from Kiss, maybe that's just me. The song itself is more like medley or... a solyanka soup, very delicious as well. Though I have to admit, that I considered An Unsung Lament as a overloaded song with unrevealed potential at first. But after a dozen listens to the song - the understanding of "how it works" came and now An Unsung Lament is one of the highlights of the album for me. My favourite parts are the ones with la-la-la-la-la-la chanting and "...the battle of Typhon and Zeus..." verse. Oh, yes, very nice and outstanding performance by Snowy on drums, especially on cymbals (chief of cymbals). Lori leads us to the end of the song and straight to the next one where she shines.

Maleficium. I'm surprised that this song wasn't chosen as a single by the band, though firstly to be honest I didn't get it (just like Thomas). By the way, Thomas is the beast here! So much energy! Sledgehammer performance! His voice age so well, just like fine wine. Nice choir singing in Latin and touching Lori's vocals just captures your soul. Maybe I wanted a little bit more lines by Lori in this song, but all in all great song. This song is one more example of this strange colour thing - here I got gold and black and associations with dawn and darkness. I was very surprised when I read the lyrics. I also understood about what Gothic Kabbalah vibe Christofer Johnsson spoke, and GK probably my favourite Therion album. But for me this vibe was not so obvious (as in Alchemy Of The Soul from Leviathan II for example).

Here comes another one highlight of the album - Ayahuasca. True musical spiritual journey to cosmic domain. Also the Masterpiece. Very catchy and unique song by all means. The second part of the song gives certain relax and chillout feeling. Thomas once again is great here (especially in the meditative vocal part) as is Taida and Rosa. But there is also a very special guest here - Piotr Wawrzeniuk. He gives this song a special flavour. Just like Nalle Påhlsson on bass and Bjorn Höglund on drums. My favourite parts of the composition are "Sing to me of days..." and "Stand amid the waves.../Let the nightingale...". I assume despite all the complexity this song might be played live by the band (especially to their legion of the fans in Latin America). I have to say that I relisten this one more often than any other from Leviathan III. So, I guess that is because Ayahuasca is very unique and sincere musical effort and probably the best depiction of this era of Therion.

Baccanale is probably not among the strongest tracks on the album, but holds some jokers up the sleeve. It starts with heavy riffing double attack and enchanting vocal lines which remind me Arabian Nights by Will Smith from Guy Ritchie's Aladdin 2019 (exactly this version). For me it sets cool oriental tone. But the pure gem here of course guitar battle (Priest like) between Christian Vidal and Kristian Niemann. How I wish it could last longer! They're both brilliant players, their second round is a blast. For me they're equals.

Nordic inspired Midsommarblot is my personal favourite from the album. Some things shouldn't be the best to be loved and held dear. The third and final time when colours came to my mind (Nota Bene: usually I don't associate music with colours at all) it was white and blue - snow and frozen water I thought. Too obvious? Maybe, but I guess Thomas succeeded in writing true nordic song about his homeland. I like this one so much. Thank You, Mr. Johnsson that You make this decision to put it on the album. You definitely made at least one fan happy by that. In my opinion solo in Midsommarblot totally deserves attention. It's super. I also like the decision with the ending, when first comes the silence and then suddenly music appears once again. Well done!

What Was Lost Shall Be Lost No More immediately from the first notes gave me Deggial vibe. Song is a vocal monster, length of the name matches to this vocal madness that's happening here. Thomas once again shines on that one with powerful and astonishing performance. Counterpoints is definitely something Therion do extremely good, maybe even they're the best in that. Hope the band will not abandon such element in their future works. It's useless to try to describe what the magic ciphered in counterpoints. Just listen to it. But I have to say I was surprised when after the solo right at the end came Chiara Malvestiti and put extra logs to the pyre. Brilliant!

Now it's time to talk about something very special. Sometimes magical moments come through the most unexpected things. Duende? Flamenco? In metal??? "Sure" - said Thomas. His true achievement, very deserved. Crazy experiment, undeniably successful (whether you like it or not). And this intro on acoustic traditional guitar composed by Vidal? It's gorgeous! Very soulful. I have to say on Leviathan III Christian Vidal is shining through on the entire album. Applause, Master. On Duende there is another brightest star - Rosalia. She wrote Spanish lyrics of the song and performed so well. My soul was aflamed by her performance. That is something flamenco should do. Very appropriate to use trombone and trumpet on this one. Special credits also go to Snowy for putting such a hard knocks in this song creating nice rhythm. This song (as is An Unsung Lament) especially appreciated by my friend of elder generation, she just loves it! I think the song is definitely the highlight of the album and destined to become fan favourite.

Close to the end another stomper approach - Nummo. This time with Thomas, Chiara, choir and Snowy on drums. Amazing rhythm, as I said real stomper. I like the song from the first listening, very accessible song, very hit-oriented (guess that is why it was chosen as a single). Interesting return to African cultural topic and to Sirius topic.

But everything comes to an end. Now I'm getting serious. I truly believe that Twilight Of The Gods is the best song on Leviathan III and in all Leviathan trilogy. For me it's one of the best Therion's songs in their entire catalogue. Perfect fit for what I call "The Therion" compilation. And what a great way to end such magnificent album as Leviathan III. Mats Leven is a beast and he did extremely well on Twilight Of The Gods. I suppose it is his more Candlemass manner of singing, but it fit so well to this composition. All his trademark sighs and raw energy in the voice empowered this song. So did Chiara's vocals here. She is gorgeous here! I think it is her pinnacle in Therion for the time being. But my personal favourite moment in this song is the part, where Thomas sings "As all returned into Ginnungagap" and till the end. It's a true final crescendo. This song is an example of when all involved members are doing their best for the sake of overall picture. And everyone endeavors to improve the final result as much as possible. Every instrument and voice woven between each other and in overall picture. Orchestra, drums, guitars, keyboards, just everything. Perfect. The true Masterpiece. Hope that Therion will play it live on their Leviathan tour in 2024. I also want to mention that my father, who actually doesn't like symphonic and operatic metal music and doesn't listen Therion was stunned by Twilight Of The Gods when I present it to him (as was I when the single came). I also hope that the band will continue to collaborate with Mats Leven on appropriate songs in the future, because his voice is a very good match to the music of Therion in my opinion. Mr. Johnsson would probably say that I'm a bit nostalgic, but I'm not. I don't believe that the grass was greener, the light was brighter back in the days. But I believe that some old friends of Therion can still give something new, something unique to the band and enrich band's music if given a chance.

It was a long musical journey and I'm very grateful to the band for such experience. Some might say I'm too much praise this album, but it really deserves it. Where is the criticism? Well, considering that I'm not a fan, who always loves earlier stuff more, but the one who likes band's efforts to create something new and always evolve, I don't need to necessarily have criticism in my review. And about such a high mark to the album: it was given not only to the great songs themselves, but first of all to creativity and new approaches, innovations in music presented on Leviathan III in general.

By the way I want to say that Leviathan III has excellent sound, best in years that Therion had. Detailed sound. All the frequencies are audible. All instruments (and there are many of them and many layers on the record) are also audible. Very splendid work by Eric Mårtensson. Except maybe for one thing only (consider it my little criticism), sometime the voices are too deep in the mix, drown in it and not shine on in all their greatness. I know a thing with different equipment and headphones and I tried different, I have a good collection. Of course in some of them situation is better, in some worse. But in most of them it is noticeable. And especially suffered Lori's parts and Merve Çakar's (Ruler Of Tamag soprano) vocals. Well, all in all it's still one of the best mixes in modern era productions.

Thank You so much, Therion, Christofer Johnsson, Thomas Vikström, Lori Lewis, Rosalia Sairem, Chiara Malvestiti, Christian Vidal, Nalle Påhlsson, Björn Höglund, Snowy Shaw, Piotr Wawrzeniuk, Kristian Niemann, Taida Nazraić, Catalina Popa, Fabio Amurri, Merve Çakar, Per Albinsson, Eric Mårtensson, the choirs and all other wonderful musicians who put so much efforts into that opus for us to enjoy! You're the best!

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Bosh66 wrote:
3 months ago
Thanks for the review. This is on my list of releases to get to. Sounds like one worth listening to ;-)


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