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Therion - Secret Of The Runes CD (album) cover

SECRET OF THE RUNES

Therion

 

Progressive Metal

3.93 | 115 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Nordic legends by Swedish legends

In 2001, in an admirable effort to further their prog credentials, Therion released their first bona-fide concept album. As the title suggests, "Secret of the runes" takes its theme from ancient Nordic legends. The "Runes" are ancient symbols containing secrets (see "Led Zeppelin 4" for Similar Icelandic Runes). One of these secrets relates to a world tree called Yggrasil which is made up of a number of "worlds", each of which is afforded a track.

Before we can explore the worlds however, they have to be created from a black hole, thus we have the opening track or prologue, "Ginnungagap". We are even advised that the land comes from a slain giant's body, and the seas from his blood. The track itself is surprisingly heavy and rock based, with only passing references to the orchestral and chorale side of Therion.

The track dedicated to the first world "(Old) Midgård" opens with a male choir, who provide a sort of narration throughout. The general feel is even more symphonic now than on previous albums, with operatic singing virtually taking over. The song is majestic, played out at a regal pace, but featuring some fine lead guitar towards the end. The following "Asgård (The Bifrost Bridge)" is along very similar lines, with melancholy vocals and instrumentation being the order of the day.

"(Call of) Jotunheim" explores darker themes, including pagan like chanting with fanfare accompaniment. "Schwarzalbenheim" opens with further fanfares before bursting forth into a pounding up tempo number. Here the lyrics appear to be in German, a language which suits the harder nature of the song. The acoustic basis for "Ljusalfheim (The Shining Ones)" sits well with the choir voices. The song tells the tale of pixies and elves (as does much of the album), Ljusalfheim being King of elves. The brief "Muspelheim" continues lyrically in a "Lord of the rings" way while compressing what might have been a 6 minute song into just over 2 minutes. "Nifelheim" takes the choral vocals even further, with chanting and melodic orchestration competing for the middle ground. "Vanaheim" reverts more towards the metal side of the band, while "Helheim" has some quite delightful male vocals. Here the lyrics are Scandinavian, presumably Norwegian.

The album closes with an "Epilogue" which also bears the album's title. This piece is similar to the "Prologue", lead guitar driving a spirited vocal theme forward.

Two "bonus" tracks appear on pretty much all the releases of this album. The first of these, "Crying days" is a cover of a Scorpions song with Piotr Wawrzeniuk returning to provide lead vocal. While the song is a distraction from the overall concept of the album, it does at least feel like a Therion number. The following cover of Abba's "Summer night city", which also has vocals by Piotr Wawrzeniuk, on the hand is a distraction too far. It is certainly an inventive and enjoyable affair, it just does not belong here. (You do have to hear it though!)

In all, a brave attempt by Therion to venture into new fields. The results largely work well, the greater emphasis on the symphonic placing further demands on the quality of the writing. By and large those demands are met, although overall I would place this album just below the best that Therion have made.

This was the first album by Therion to feature an unchanged core line up, and while drummer Sami Karppinen would leave after its release, the rest of the trio remained intact for subsequent albums. Much of the recording of the album took place in Johnsson's newly built studio.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |

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