Review: At a time when death metal verging on protest music, Therion brought forth an album that took its listeners on a descent into the dark and primordial world of the subconscious, then built from a sense of mystery within it and concept of existence beyond the obvious physical and numeric manifestations of modern society. It is an album intensely divided, being culled in parts and whole from three demos, and still retains the absurdly straightforward lyrics decrying pollution and negative politics as it merges into the more enchanted territory of psychological symbolism.
In this its guide is the flawed but ambitious Celtic Frost album "Into the Pandemonium," which it resembles aesthetically and musically, although "...Of Darkness" is clearly from a later generation that has already incorporate the essence of rudimentary death metal into its vocabulary. To that raw and guileless genre Therion add a sense of enigmatic majesty in the creation of bassy catacombs of musical pathways that lead to oblique directional shifts, staggering possibilities inside of a major theme of hollowness with mortal weight. At the time of its emergence, this refuted both the functionalist 1980s and the pacifistic, materialistic futurism of the decade that followed. What defines this album as an art work are the hints of mystical union beyond its thunderous heavy metal and death metal mechanics, a sense of expectation and undiscovered potential in the atmospheric sonic gestures -- somnolent basslines silhouetting a chord progression in ambiguous harmony, evaporative lead guitar fomenting chaos and then lapsing into oneiric circular harmonies, unexplained fallings-away into the promise of a partial chord or ambulatory tempo -- that indicate not so much a clear function to sound, but its role as introduction to possibility.
Atmosphere forms like fragments of vapor condensing on a suddenly chilled night to form the forest miasmas that from a distance trap light and appear to have their own luminous glow, and is maintained by our inability to ever approach it as listeners: we are anchored in the unstoppably infectious rhythms of these timeworn songs, combining bounding heavy metal riffs with the fluid columnar riffs and staggered or arpeggiated inverse breakdowns of death metal, and yet from the other side of that solidity something beckons. At first glance, this is a standard death metal band from the era, with deep vocals alternating with hissed shrieks, and detuned guitars thundering in a progression of riffs built around a succession of not as much notes as patterns anchored in certain tonal positions; drums are more like a rock or 1970s heavy metal band than the faster and more fill-intensive work of later metal, and bass doubles chord roots in eights. Yet for all the music of this era, there are few examples that match this mysterious and rewarding album as listening experiences.
Review: Staging within dynamic spatial pattern a sequence of tonal transitions to familiarize the listener with range of tone and shape of motion, the second death metal offering from Therion defines its locations to be manipulated through the ongoing descriptive narration of inter-evolutionary riff progression as motifs variegate with dark power chord riff and its counterpart in melodic and agile lead playing which shows the recent crowd of Göthenberg clones how an open and passionate mind sees the creation of sequence in tone. Its study in metal anchored in recurrently synchronistic cyclic riffing using muffled chords to punctuate sequenced phrases, begetting a technology of pattern logic which allows its narrative strength to reveal in music a cerebrated theory of the dark emotions and their existential relevance.
1. Future Consciousness
2. Pandemonic Outbreak
4. Symphony of the Dead
5. Beyond Sanctorum
6. Enter the Depths of Eternal Darkness
7. Illusions of Life
8. The Way
10. Tyrants of the Damned
Celtic Frost and Obituary allusions exist as interwoven parts of songs encompassing a narration of distinct textures which deliver through tonal and rhythmic convergence on structural narration a satisfying depth to both aural distance and abstract parsing within mental recombinations of the repeated interchanged symbols of this work. In lyrics and concept in sound and symbol, a mystical interpretive facility suggests harmony with the architecture of each song breathing a transfer of fundamental creation between darkness and motion. Its thick but flexible riffing, percussive shading and accentuation hybridized with a tendency for melodic resolution by way of introducing motif alteration, provide a basis for the experimentative layering of melodies that, with similar techniques also in use by Godflesh, became an important technique for black and death metal to come.
With practiced musicianship illustrating a deft but non-technically-obsessed sense of timing, melody and endlessly inventive gentle articulations of alterative treatment shadowing metal traditionalism, this offering of epic majesty in the artistic revelations of great journeys in solitude survives time for appreciation of its uniqueness and natural vision of power derivations from creation and its opposite. Of note among musical additions to metal are a wiry sonorous soloing that carefully manages its energy to minimize needless drama, and a deft inventive bass accompaniment. Rough vocals merge with textures of tremolo and abrasive timbral strumming.
As in other albums, the passionate voice of emotional contrast gives rise to an unfettered embrace of the world in light and dark, coming close to Burzum in its seeming desire to stimulate fantasy and thought above any form of polarized action. In romanticist metal combine consistency and narrative intensity asserting the distinctive naturalism of this classic of the Swedish death metal from the early nineth twentieth century decade.
Review: And bringing their country from the void of abysmal rock, Therion save the day with their newest, Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas (Pavement). The demise of fantasy/dungeons and dragons/H.P. Lovecraft in metal lyrics may have been proclaimed some time ago, but Therion refute this powerfully with their third release in this country, a conceptualized album which combines the best of death metal with older traditions of metal, ending up with something normals can listen to as well.
Therion emerged on the Swedish scene with Of Darkness... (Grind Core), a Celtic Frost-influenced album which took the best of current Eurometal and mixed into it a new perspective on song construction, adding unpredictability to their music and influencing a spawning of European bands. Attention never really came from across the big pond, and consequently Therion are almost unknown to American listeners.
Having done the standard-metal thing well and being sort of bored, Therion detoured into epic rock with Beyond Sanctorum (Active), a well-structured album which took metal beyond the cliches of songwriting, riff-making and general aesthetics it had become accustomed to: the songs varied in tempo widely, weren't afraid to slow down, and broke from more extreme styles to more comfortable ones repeatedly to give the listener a conception of a more limitless world. Lyrics changed from environmental/societal to Lovecraftian fantasy, a thread of writing that continues to Symphony Masses.
1. Baal Reginon (2:10)
2. Dark Princess Naamah (4:18)
3. A Black Rose (4:00)
4. Symphoni Drakonis Inferni (2:33)
5. Dawn Of Perishness (5:51)
6. The Eye Of the Eclipse (5:01)
7. The Ritual Dance Of The Yezidis (2:08)
8. Powerdance (3:06)
9. Procreation Of Eternity (4:05)
10. Ho Drakon Ho Megas (4:18)
A lot of hard rock drifts into this album, but it comes more in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal style than an overblown video-rock processed cheese spread feel, toward which certain other (Met-- damn.) bands have migrated. It's well done -- better than well done. I don't believe I exaggerate when I say that Therion may be Europe's most underrated metal band, given the attention they've received around here.
But this album is available at least for the time being at Rhino, and I recommend to anyone who appreciates the style of metal Iron Maiden and others used to write in, and wouldn't mind an update to that with some modern metal touches.
Indeed -- lurking in the passages of this album are hard-rockish riffs alongside inventive death metal powerhouses, obscured by the general fabric of the material. There are also brilliant lead guitar parts, proving Therion to be one of metal's most technically-versed acts at this time. Jazz-fusion guitar intros, prowling lead guitar, and machine-perfect human drumming fill this album, as well as a real surprise -- real bass lines, instead of riff-chasing high-speed runs.
The power of these players combined comes forth in an intricate and concentrated album, intensity without reliance on pure speed or smash appeal. Synthesizers are used here, but not as lead instruments: occasional keyboard riffs protrude oddly, but most the electronically-generated sound comes in background support for expansive riff-structures and other creative blasts. At first the listener may be tempted to group this album with the endless procession of cheesy, heavy blues-rock, pseudo-metallic cheese bands which periodically upset parents, but this is far from that nadir of musical integrity.
Fantastic lyrics and occasional weird chanting appear at appropriate times throughout this album, but if you hadn't realized the inclination of this band to take up metal's oldest lyrical tenet from the title, you can't be much surprised after reading the song names. The title track ("Ho Drakon Ho Megas") is too much chant and synthesizer to really work, but it's unobtrusive, and every other track on this album is solidly excellent -- highest recommendations.