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Therion - Symphony Masses - Ho Drakon Ho Megas CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.33 | 50 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
4 stars After the band's second album "Beyond Sanctorum" was released, THERION started playing live and the process of taking it to the road led to the entire band quitting except for founder Christofer Johnsson who had to start from scratch and create a new band. While the previous album was basically a trio with some guest musicians here and there, on the band's third album SYMPHONY MASSES: HO DRAKON HO MEGAS (Greek for "The Great Dragon"), Magnus Barthelsson was brought in for guitars, Andreas Wallan Wahl for bass and Piotr Wawrzeniuk on drums. In addition to that another label change was in place due to Active Records needing to slim down so the band via another label Megarock ended up on Nuclear Blast where they've remained ever since. This stability factor helped transmogrify THERION from a Swedish death metal band into the powerhouse symphonic metal band that they are known for today.

THERION was formed all the way back in 1987 as a rather run of the mill death metal band straight out of the Stockholm Swedish scene which distinguished itself from the Gothenburg scene by focusing more on raw punk sounds rather than melodic catchiness however on the band's second album "Beyond Sanctorum," Johnsson was getting more experimental with touches of progressiveness finding their way into the mix. By the time THERION got to its third album SYMPHONY MASSES it was time to let loose and it was obvious at this point that existing as a typical "normal" death metal band was definitely not in the cards. This album while still rooted in the same old school death metal style that cranked out all those lightning fast tremolo picked riffs, blastbeats and regurgitated lunch vocals also added large doses of traditional doom metal, gothic rock, progressive rock, jazz and even Persian and Arabic folk. Likewise there were lots of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest traces of classic 80s metal finding their way into the mix. The keyboards had also been given larger tasks beyond merely presenting a spooky atmosphere and the symphonic tendencies were beginning to emerge.

Thematically Johnsson was mining the occult world of a magical order called Dragon Rouge, an occult society which he was a member of hence the title which refers to a chant used at the end of rituals which is intended to conjure up Draconian forces. Oooo spooky! While "Baal Reginon" starts the album off more or less in the vein of the previous death metal albums, "Dark Princess Naamah" starts to deviate from the pattern significantly with slower plodding doom metal chords sustaining however THERION doesn't really get into death-doom per se but rather alternates between slower doomy parts with high tempo death metal outbursts. This one shows a more melodic side of the band shining through and shows some of the first signs of some of the song structures that would find themselves to be the metal underpinnings of the later albums with massive choirs and symphonic elements however on this one it's all about puke monster vocals.

"A Black Rose" has more of a shuffle that mixes the death metal with strange sounding industrial and classic metal with groovy stomps and bizarre processed vocals. "Symphoni Drakonis Inferni" is the first THERION track to use the keyboards as a primary player in the band's sound as it delivers a little showdown with the guitar before the track turns into a gothic doom metal one that alternates between slow and fast tempos. Sounds like a great Halloween song actually! "Dawn Of Perishness" also delivers a stampede of guitar riffs that sound somewhere in between classic metal and death metal with some thrashy elements. The parts with the guitar solo are more in vein of the Iron Maiden gallops which also would be utilized to perfection on later symphonic metal releases. "The Eye Of Eclipse" sounds more like a Celtic Frost sort of tune from the earlier albums with some experimental keyboards thrown in.

"The Ritualdance of the Yezidis" is the most unorthodox track on this one with Satanic vocals that sound like gurgles from the depths of hell. The riffs are more like power metal actually but the death metal feel is maintained. Strange sounds bubble up in the middle of the track as the metal ends abruptly and then all of a sudden it's like rockin' the casbah as Persian traditional music with metal drumming finishes it out. "Powerdance" tries to counter its effect with a groove metal tune with death metal vocals. Sounding something like early 90s Pantera with thrash metal elements, it is a cool track that also adds Iron Maiden gallops and soloing. "Procreation Of Eternity" follows suit. The ending "Ho Dracon Ho Megas" adds an epic soundtrack feel as ti meanders through several styles. It begins with a doomy atmospheric dirge like march with crazed lyrics that sound like a supernatural ritual is being performed. Then it's like a bugle call to action as the metal picks up and the keyboards erupt into a true symphonic metal sounding track and in retrospect paints the picture of the dramatic flair and operatic nature of albums like "Theli" and after.

Despite all the elements on board on SYMPHONY MASSES: HO DRAKON HO MEGAS they are all balanced to perfection and the result is the most appealing early album out of the four pre-"Theli" years at least for my liking. The diversity and experimental nature of this album is quite compelling even though the band has still retained its ties to the early death metal years from whence it spawned. Much of this album does indeed sound like it was inspired by occult ceremonies as it has an epic over the top feel that one would imagine in such scenarios only amplified by the brutal bombast of both slow blood curdling doom metal and the quickened pace of death metal frenzies. This is definitely a mature album even if THERION hadn't quite found its true calling yet. While the band would go on to international success, this album did win over the critics and the underground death metal crowd for its bold and unrelenting refusal to carry about business as usual. This is some highly innovative out of the box thinking that would lead THERION to continually expand its unique sound into more refined arenas.

siLLy puPPy | 4/5 |


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