Review Summary: Therion return to their metal sound, albeit with mixed results.
When Therion announced a new album late last year, I can imagine the response was quite mixed. Some understandably expected more of the mundane classical regurgitations of Les Fleurs du Mal
and Beloved Antichrist
, others were expecting a complete U-turn back into symphonic metal territory, and of course there were those who simply did not care. I'm not sure which camp I was a part of, because as of 2021 it's been a good decade since Therion actually did something special with the talents they had. Imagine then, how hyped the release of Leviathan
has been due to a mere few album previews proving that the band have absolutely sought inspiration from their symphonic metal days.
Alas, returning to the heyday of band's career and seeking inspiration doesn't always work, but what it does do is paint a beaming smile on the fans who have salivated for this since day one. Unfortunately, pedestrian main riffs and recycled operatics don't really give us the best this band is clearly capable of. Opener “The Leaf on the Oak of Far” delivers well enough if you're used to early 00s Therion and the title track goes some way to delivering a bombastic symphonic force even if it turns out to be as vanilla as this band can get. Yet “Tuonela” and “Die Wellen der Zeit” aren't exactly inspired, “Tuonela” itself featuring Marco Hietala who does nothing to lift the song's spirit. The former features a relatively sluggish rhythm section and the latter gives off that “let's shoehorn a ballad into a symphonic metal album and hope for the best” impression most bands in this sub-genre can't deviate from. Honestly, as first impressions go, this is Therion serving up a carbon copy of their greatest works, but with much less inspiration.
Thankfully, things take a turn for the better midway. “Azi Dahaka” signals a more epic approach but clearly stands out because of its pacier momentum and suddenly all members of the band seem to be giving 100%. The vocal duets are well-placed and the surrounding instrumentation thunders along with real vigour, something which those first few songs sorely lack. Although it's over in a few minutes, the snappiness and energetic performance clearly shine through. “Eye of Algol” picks up on the momentum here, the guitar work choppy and bold as substantial symphonic melodies are laid down to complete the base of the song. Elsewhere, Lori Lewis' stunning soprano melodies make up for the obvious lack of inspiration in the second half, songs as brooding and morose as “Nocturnal Light” and stand-out closer “Ten Courts of Diyu” lifted out of stagnation instantly. She's even better in these songs mainly because they feature more of a slow-burning performance, which allows room for such aspects to breathe and take charge. It's not quite enough to make for anything more than a slightly above average performance, but for those who enjoy the symphonic side of Therion it should deliver the goods.
honestly seems more like a warm-up than a big step back in the direction of Therion at their most creative. If the band are aiming to get back to those lofty heights albums such as Secret of the Runes
or Gothic Kabbalah
created, it's clear they have work to do. But for now, a new album from Therion with more inspiration than anything else released over the last decade will do. Just don't expect fireworks.