THERION — Leviathan

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THERION - Leviathan cover
3.50 | 4 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 2021

Filed under Symphonic Metal
By THERION

Tracklist

1. The Leaf on the Oak of Far (3:38)
2. Tuonela (4:37)
3. Leviathan (4:01)
4. Die Wellen der Zeit (3:46)
5. Aži Dahāka (3:06)
6. Eye of Algol (4:03)
7. Nocturnal Light (5:37)
8. Great Marquis of Hell (2:36)
9. Psalm of Retribution (5:03)
10. El Primer Sol (3:37)
11. Ten Courts of Diyu (5:29)

Total Time 45:33

Line-up/Musicians


- Name / guitars
- Name / drums

About this release

Leviathan [p]
2021 CD Nuclear Blast

Thanks to silly puppy for the addition

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THERION LEVIATHAN reviews

Specialists/collaborators reviews

siLLy puPPy
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.

Members reviews

lukretion
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]

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