THERGOTHON — Stream From the Heavens (review)

THERGOTHON — Stream From the Heavens album cover Album · 1994 · Funeral Doom Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Finland’s THERGOTHON was one of the earliest pioneering funeral doom metal bands along with the Russian Вой (Voj) and Swiss Mordor by having released its debut EP “Fhtagn-nagh Yog-Sothoth” as far back as 1991 with the aforementioned two bands. THERGOTHON was formed in Kaarina, Finland in 1990 by by vocalist Niko Sirkiä, drummer Jori Sjöroos and guitarist Mikko Ruotsalainen as a death metal band but quickly switched over to doom metal followed by Sami Kaveri joining as a second guitarist. A demo titled “Dancing In The Realm Of Shades” preceded the EP.

Looking like the band was set to sail, that’s when everything went topsy turvy with Kaveri leaving the band so THERGOTHON decided to focus exclusively on recording music in the studio and not play any live shows. As the band’s doom metal sound began to evolve it grew slower and darker with elements of death metal but went beyond the mere hybridization of death-doom and crafted eerie atmospheres with the inclusion of keyboards. The band had finished recording its one and only album STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS as early as 1992 but due to significant delays but finally found a home on the Italian record label Avantgarde Music.

STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS officially was released on 15 June 1994 and is considered one of the earliest landmark albums of the funeral doom metal subgenre and remains popular in the modern era often appearing on top funeral doom metal album charts. The lineup had been significantly reduced since the band’s inception and on this album has become the mere trio of Niko “Skorpio” Sirkiä on vocals and keyboards, Mikko Ruotsalainen on guitars and Jori Sjöroos on drums and vocals. The album hosts six dirge-like tracks with some such as "Yet the Watchers Guard” and “Elemental” hovering around the nine minute mark thus showcasing a sneak preview of the standards by which funeral doom metal would evolve.

Sirkiä has explained that the music was created to express the existential fear that one experiences at the end of adolescence when one is thrust into a cruel unforgiving world and all the pent up uncertainties that go along with it. While many Scandinavian extreme metal bands were falling into either the black metal route or the death metal routes with increasing speeds, intensity and jarring characteristics, THERGOTHON seemed to exhibit a form of paralysis and went the opposite direction by slowing down tempos to a snail’s pace with doom-laden guitar riffs and a bass and drum rhythm section to follow. While this type of music can easily become boring quite quickly if not infused with an inspiring methodology of keeping things interesting, THERGOTHON added creepy keyboard crafted atmospheres that haunt the background while the thunderous guitar stomps sustain and proceed in their funeral march processions.

There are also moments of homegrown folk music creeping in as well and while the majority of vocals are evil sounding guttural death growls and also sporadic clean vocals in the style of Viking music popularized by bands like Enslaved on later releases. As far as i’m aware this was quite rare at this point in time considering Amorphis is often cited as a pioneer in adding folk elements to their death metal release “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” which also appeared in 1994 so considering STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS was finished as far back as 1992, the addition of Finnish folk elements to extreme metal may actually originate with THERGOTHON. In addition to the growls and clean vocals which include moments of liturgical chants, there are a few spoken word moments which seem to represent a sermon of some sort only not the kind your grandparents would approve of for sure.

Of the three pioneers of funeral doom metal which found THERGOTHON in third place, it’s this band that seems to have gotten the credit as most inspiring innovator of the style probably because they did it in a way that was the most accessible and in the process inspired the entire funeral doom metal subgenre with several bands such as Rigor Sardonicous, Mournful Congregations, Beneath Oblivion and Ea crafting similar sounds to this sole THERGOTHON album. While not as surreal as bands like Esoteric or as hardcore as bands like Skepticism, THERGOTHON gracefully constructed that fine line between glacial doom metal with a dungeon synth accompaniment which was utterly unique at the time and still holds up well some 26 years after its release.
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