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Therion - Theli  CD (album) cover

THELI

Therion

 

Progressive Metal

4.10 | 131 ratings

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James Lee
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars By all the usual rules of music this should be terrible. Late 80's/ early 90's metal, plus taking themselves too seriously, almost always equals an unlistenable abortion of an album. Not only that, but bands that base their lyrics around a questionable cosmology or ideology generally alienate themselves from listeners unless the music is really fascinating (right, Zeuhl fans?).

So why do I like Therion so much? It's not for the musicianship; while at least competent and occasionally impressive, none of the players are exactly grandmasters of their respective instruments. Song structure, and melodic and rhythmic devices, are generally predictable rather than innovative. If you've had any exposure to symphonic metal, you probably know most of the elements that Therion throw into the mix (power chords, classical embellishments, and the urge to salute or make a sacrifice). If you like the genre already, Therion is probably a foregone conclusion for you; if you don't like the genre, there's probably nothing I could tell you about Therion would be enough to convince you.

I share your (imagined) reluctance; however, Therion is indeed a Very Good Band, and Theli is what I consider to be one of their finest albums, or at the very least the first fine album that features their matured sound. In classic concept album form, it begins with an intro and ends with a conclusion and maintains a thematic and stylistic consistency throughout. There is no extended narrative that truly ties the songs together, but it still manages to take you on a wonderful mystic metallic journey.

Highlights? To Mega Therion is a powerful and energetic song, worthy of being the band's signature; each weapon in their arsenal is used with devastating precision. This includes both male and female vocals, solo and choral, and the trademark roar of Christofer (one of the last songs he actually sings on, for better or worse - in my opinion it's perfect for The world will burn!). In the Desert of Set is also a personal favorite, with faux-Eqyptian metal riffage (a beloved tool of metal bands from Maiden to Nile) and a downright catchy refrain. Invocation of Naamah is an excellent example of the band's style and strengths, alternately pounding and symphonic. And without a doubt, the slight re-working of Siren of the Woods only improves an already haunting and anthemic gem of a song.

Lowlights? Well, Nightside of Eden has its ups and downs. The slightly spoken, growling vocals come as a blow to anyone desperately trying to forget the legion of Marylin Manson soundalikes that cropped up in the 90's, but the song itself is not bad...but nothing really special. The musical bookends are decent, though also nothing special...Interludium is pretty rockin'. And the black magic/ gnostic saturation of the lyrics are not for everyone's taste (and even pagan goths may struggle to love the veritable bucket of Bullfinch...my advice? Listen with at least something like Wikipedia handy).

All in all, I like Theli very much...but can I recommend it? Hard to say. If Symphonic Metal is your thing, there are few bands who are better at it. I'm not usually a fan of the genre, but if all the bands were this good I might re-think my stance. Even if you usually run from metal-plus bands, give Theli (or Lemura/ Sirius B) a listen, and maybe a few more listens to see if it grows on you. I'm personally very glad that I let Therion overcome my many objections. Four stars for metalheads, three for the average progger.

James Lee | 3/5 |

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