THERION — Sirius B (review)

THERION — Sirius B album cover Album · 2004 · Symphonic Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
The period around the “Secret Of The Runes” album was one of the most prolific for Christofer Johnsson and his symphonic metal project THERION who not only had released a string of successful albums with “Vovin” being the largest seller of the lot but also engaged in a massive tour that would yield a live album called “Live in Midgård.” During this period Johnsson along with the Niemann brothers (Kristian on guitars and Johan on bass) amassed an amazing amount of material to work with. With 55 unreleased songs in the coffers, THERION picked out the strongest which resulted in 21 of them being released at the same time. Instead of simply cranking out a double album per se, it was decided to release two individual albums instead. Both “Lemuria” and its counterpart SIRUS B were released on 24 May 2004 both as single albums as well as a twin-pack with two titles.

Since these two albums were released simultaneously the obvious question of which one comes first in the discography. No chicken and egg scenario here as they were released exactly at the same time so it seems that through the sophisticated occult practices of contacting demons or a scryer or whatever sort of supernatural forces intervened, it was decided that the alphabetical method was the determining factor and therefore “Lemuria” is officially THERION’s 11th studio album and SIRIUS B is officially the 12th album even though they appear as a double album twin-pack as well. SIRIUS B is the longest of the two which squeaks past the 57 minute mark while “Lemuria” is a bit shorter by just floating by the 42 minute mark. Both albums are characterized by their own subtle differences but roughly speaking are in the same camp.

To call these two works ambitious is an understatement. On these two recordings there were a total of 171 musicians involved in one form or another which included the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra as well as a 32-member choir. These two albums found a new lead male vocalist with Mats Levén who had worked with many artists before most notably with Yngwie Malmsteen and a continuing guest appearance of vocalist Piotr Wawrzeniuk. LEMURIA follows in the footsteps of “Secrets Of The Runes” with the heavy metal aspects of the band’s sound in the forefront. But then again any given THERION album from “Theli” on incorporates a massive sound spectrum of classical symphonic elements, choirs. While “Lemuria” refers to a mythological sunken continent, SIRIUS B goes all cosmic on ya and flirts with the notion that the star Sirius actually has a twin called SIRIUS B. Like “Lemuria,” SIRIUS B’s concepts span a wider range of occult themes and mythology.

Musically SIRIUS B is one of the most integrated examples of cross-pollinating the heavy metal bombast and operatic classical symphony with choral grandiosity. In that regard it’s much more like “Secret Of The Runes” but not quite as bombastic for its entirety with an in again out again approach to the metal guitar heft which leaves it much more like “Deggial.” Instrumentally SIRIUS B differs a bit from “Lemuria” with the addition of a church organ and mandolin but does incorporate some of the psychedelic prog rock sounds of a Hammond organ. While SIRIUS B is the typical THERION album with lots of metal guitar, bass and drums it’s the mix of the different elements that takes it on a slightly different journey than the previous albums. Firstly there are bizarre intros to many of the songs along with other electronic processed vocals and guitar riffs which are often in the form of Pantera-esque groove metal busyness

This is also perhaps the release with the fewest number of vocalists but the album comes off more like an Ayreon style of rock opera with the vocalists involved trading off more often rather than amassing a huge polyphonic vocal attack. In addition to the groove metal bombast there is always a lingering atmospheric backdrop of the keyboards and like every THERION album delivers irresistibly catchy melodies that are augmented by the sheer immensity of the massive number of participants. THERION albums are like musical formats of occult and mythological text books and SIRIUS B covers a wide range of topics such as Kingu in “The Blood Of Kingu”, the Sumerian monster, the Pharaoh Akhenaten in “Son Of The Sun,” the controversial Russian sect of Christiany called Khlysti in “The Khlysti Evangelist” as well as topics from Greek mythology, Hinduism, east African folklore, Semitic gods, Armenian mystics and mythology from a group called the yazidis. Whew!

It takes a few spins to differentiate THERION albums as they all pretty much adopt the same basic characteristics but just like different recipes in the kitchen amount to a different mood that results from the changing around of things or the subtraction of this or the addition of that. SIRIUS B indeed sounds like a cosmic type of album that makes me think of what a new age metal opera would sound like if that terminology is even adequate. The album has a liturgical vibe imbued with the classical operatic choirs and the ethnic folk that bows down to the rampage of metal when it enters the scene and some electronica sounds that pop in. The main difference of both SIRIUS B and “Lemuria” sounds to me that the psychedelic organs give this more of an Age of Aquarius type feel that reminds me of the late 60s and early 70s so therefore there are more classic golden era prog sounds to these two releases with SIRIUS B having the edge over “Lemuria” just a smidge. Any way you shake it, this wham bam thank you m’am double release of 2004 is another set of faves in the THERION canon as there are not disappointing tracks although there is nothing here that dramatically stands out either. THERION is all about consistency and delivers again on the 2004 combo pack.
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