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Therion - Theli CD (album) cover

THELI

Therion

 

Progressive Metal

4.15 | 131 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Opening night at the opera

Those familiar with Anathema's transition from a niche market death metal band to a marketable outfit making high quality, tasteful albums will understand what I mean when I say this is the album where Therion did the same thing.

Right from the opening "Preludium" we are presented with something far more palatable and easily digested than anything the band have recorded up to now. Choirs, orchestrations and keyboards abound throughout, while operatic vocals and symphonic sounds become the order of the day. In retrospect, band leader Christofer Johnsson says that he had dreamed of making this album for several years, and had kept songs back from previous albums until he had the budget to do them justice.

The music is, as it always has been and always will be, rooted in metal and heavy rock, but from now on that would be the base for the music rather than its raison d'etre. "To mega Therion" (the title referring to the band's previous name), swims in galloping operatic choirs, while Christofer Johnsson throws in his more orthodox semi-shouted vocals. Lead guitar and layered keyboards drift in and out in a wonderful cacophony which sums up the album in 6½ minutes. "Cults of the shadows" moves even further into the operatic metal sounds which Therion would exploit on all later albums, with the following "In the desert of set" maintaining the momentum.

The album is neatly divided into two by the brief "Interludium", where the Mike Sammes singers appear to meet "Abadon's bolero". The later half of "Theli" finds the confidence of the band increasing rapidly. Both the 7½ minute "Nightside of Eden" and the 10 minute "The Siren of the Woods" are statements made by a band who have finally found a unique identity, and one with which they can be comfortable. (We should of course bear in mind that Therion is very much the brainchild of Christofer Johnsson, who remains the prime architect of the development of Therion even today). "Nightside of Eden" manages to combine what would reasonably be considered complete opposites of vocal styles, with Johnsson's developing but raw singing combining perfectly with choral female voices.

The aforementioned "The siren of the woods" is a truly majestic composition. Beginning as a wonderful acoustic passage, as the sound builds, we are led to expect the usual intrusion of heavy riffs. Instead, we are treated to a quite delightful female/male vocal passage full of tastefulness and beauty. Triumphant fanfares join in as Gothic chants take over and the guitar riffs finally appear. It is all quite overwhelming and magnificent. My only complaint: the track fades rather than reaching an appropriate climax.

The album closes with "Grand Finale / Postludium", a swirling, thundering romp to the end. If there is a weaker track on the album, it is "Opus eclipse", which largely reverts to the style of the previous album. Even here though, the difference in terms of arrangement and performance is palpable.

In summary, this really is where to start with Therion. "Theli" is a magical statement of intent from a band who would go on to make many fine albums. Those who find bands such as Rhapsody too cheesy, or the likes of Nightwish and Within Temptation too mainstream, should try this album as an alternative. It may be just what you are looking for.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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