Sweden has been the womb for ABBA
, The Hives
, knäckebröd, you name it. No wonder some bands start mutating into something new if they eat enough meatballs.
were a fairly ordinary death metal band when they formed in the late 80s, but they progressed with each album, adding keyboards and symphony until they had built enough to reach what is often considered the high point of their career.
Take the symphonies and keyboard arrangments of your previous albums to a next level, create the illusion of a classical work with neat Latin expressions such as Preludium
and Postludium (Grand finale
). Hire two operatic choirs and a bunch of clasically trained musicians. Keep the harshness and power of your metal roots and ancient and occult lyrics. Result: a symphonic and esoteric metal gem.
Majestic trumpets, piano and synthesisers are the omen that introduce the album in Preludium
. The following seems like an explosion of distortion after the calm intro. That explosion being, To Mega Therion
, a nod to Celtic Frost
. Galloping guitar riffs and pounding drums, with high female operatic vocals taking the lead in the supporting choirs. At first a very estranging experience and written down it seems to make no sense whatsoever. This was one of the biggest fears Therion
had upon releasing this album. Somehow, though, it manages to sound good once you can get past the absurdity of the innovation that Therion
have made. Furthermore, the album went on to be success, selling much better than Therion's older albums, despite of a mix-up occurring in which Theli was released containing only German Christmas carols.
The choirs provide a superb form of melody, either singing or just chanting, accompanying the power metal influenced lead guitars. Often, the operatic vocals are given a short rest in favour of vocals by the actual Therion
members, which is a welcome variation to the not always so accessible opera singings.
Melody is what makes this album so enjoyable and that is not only established by the aforementioned vocals, but also by the vast collection of instruments (the wonder of synthesizers, for a big part). Most of the songs are fairly long, because Therion
hasn't been stingy with guitar solos, for example. To Mega Therion
has a keyboard and lead guitar duet and Cults of the Shadow
has an infectious flute melody that will keep you whistling all day. Bass interludes, instruments reminiscing ancient Egypt and symphonies, draped expansively over the entire album. Put distorted guitars under that and fit in a heavier guitar riff here and there to retain an acceptable cheese level and there you have it. A thick, complex and colourful web of sounds, masterfully spun.
The album melts together perfectly as a whole and hence there are no songs that are entirely different from the others (the quiet Siren of the Woods
coming closest to that status), but the intricate and highly memorable melodies, the unique sound Therion
created and the originality of the album at the time forces me to rate it as (almost) classic.
To Mega Therion
Cults of the Shadow
Nightside of Eden