Review Summary: Therion at their earliest and most extreme. While Stockholm death metal in structure Therion reinvent the death metal wheel with a highly melodic and experimental edge.
Unbeknownst to many Therion the massive, powerhouse of a metal band we’ve all come to know and mostly love started off at a completely different point compared to where they are now. In the past decade or so Therion has excelled at utilizing full choirs and orchestras with a progressive strain of heavy metal to an impressive degree. Constantly morphing their brand of extreme metal with numerous guest classical musicians and through concepts, Therion have grown to be a massive commercial success at no expense of creativity. But before these Swedes turned on the classical nightlight Therion was a full fledged death metal band embracing the same Stockholm aesthetic that fellow second wavers Unleashed and Dismember proudly wore emblazoned on their flannel shirts.
Beyond Sanctorum, the bands second official release (1992) utilized the same basic formula that old school greats Nihilist employed. Buzz saw power chord riffing, muffled growling, a driving rhythm section, and the simplistic yet super effective hooks that would go on and influence Dismember are proudly executed here. But it’s the profound experimentation displayed by Therion that would go on and signify Beyond Sanctorum as one of the most significant death metal releases to come out of the Swedish death metal scene period. Whether it be the incorporation of keyboards and clean male/female vocals found on “Symphony’s O The Dead” and “Paths” or the otherwise protruding melodic guitar lines that seemed to grow more apparent as the album begun to swing in full circle, something was in the water and Therion must have sensed a transition in the future. Keyboards? Guitar melodies? And clean vocals in Stockholm flavored death metal that strongly favored primal aggression and simplicity over technicality and drawn out songs? Yes. Therion have managed to do the unthinkable and inject some (debatably) much needed creativity into this stagnant environment without sacrificing the youthful misanthropy that originally built this foundation.
As a primary founding member and ultimately the driving force throughout Therion’s 20 year reign, Christofer Johnnson displays at an early age of twenty one that Therion were to become a force in the metal world. Playing the guitar Christofer plays the standard down tempo chugging that’s become affiliated with Stockholm death metal at this time yet has much, much more to offer. A new found sense of melody is brought to fruition greatly strengthening the album’s ten offerings without the standard Gothenburg overkill. Solos are tightly executed and meld exceptionally well with the blasting instrumental chug sections serving as a perfect moment for headbanging and horn raising. Also serving as the vocalist and bassist Christofer fails to disappoint in these aspects. The bass tone is crunchy and grooving with ease perfectly in synch with the drums and guitars. Going out on a limb here I’ll go out and say that Beyond Sanctorum falls under 60% instrumental and 40% vocal. His growls albeit nothing you haven’t heard before from any Dismember record contains all the bite and traditional misanthropic fury one would expect from a Dismember record. The one difference being H.P Lovecraft and the mighty Cthulhu reigning as the choice lyrical content for Therion. Rhythm guitar and keyboardist Peter Hansson supplies an efficient counter attack to Christofer’s aggro assault. The synthesizers are integrated minimally bursting at the seems in certain points to contrast the aggression with darkened bombast. The eleven minute epic “The Way” is easily the highlight of the record with rumbling bass and guitar riffing complementing the textural dynamics of middle eastern flavored melodies both keyboard and guitars. Drumming is raw and mid tempo with the cymbals splashing loudly and the double bass pacing sneakily in the background.
The strength of the songwriting lies in the band’s willingness to experiment. Clean melodic sections unfolding with solos and punk rock fury to the stunning beauty and the beast theatrics of Paths are justa few of the nooks and crannies that I care to exploit. Production is quite fitting for Beyond sanctorum although this has been re-mastered in recent times. The riffs pop out, the drums kick loudly, the bass drones effectively and the vocals roar with excitement I don’t really find any flaws with this record other than the fact that I only discovered this album in 2009 whereas I discovered Therion in 2007. Simply and shortly, Beyond Sanctorum is an incredible death metal record showing the experimental edge that has always been absent from the genre. Unless you happen to be one of those pompous underappreciated in real life ***s(sputnik music elitists) who probably don’t play an instrument themselves yet still like to criticize other bands for their lack of ‘trueness” or pussification I don’t see why you shouldn‘t check this out. Therion’s second full length album remains to be one of Swedish death metal’s most intriguing creations over the past twenty year span, I urge you to go forth and acquire this with an open mind.