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




Progressive Metal

3.33 | 50 ratings

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3 stars Unlike many a Swedish Death Metal band in the early 90's, Therion chose not to follow Entombed down the Left Hand Path, opting instead to bringing innovative and challenging elements to the genre, shrouding their compositions in mystical darkness similar to fellow Swedes Tiamat. And while Therion's first two efforts, ...Of Darkness and Beyond Sanctorum, were more or less unique takes on traditional Swedish Death, Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas is the album where the band became something much more.

Delving deeper into themes of occult mysticism and mythology, there is a thick, ceremonial darkness that hovers above and lies underneath these songs. Opener "Baal Reginon" brings Clouds-era Tiamat to mind, possessing a similar doomy atmosphere, a mystifying aura that pervades the great majority of this album. But it is important to cite that this aura is portrayed through a wide range of ideas, each song offering something interestingly unique and noteworthy. This keeps the album from becoming stale, while the listener is kept alert and attentive to what leas ahead. A quick glance at the unique aspects of each track reveals the level of maturity and songcraft Therion reach with their third release. Strangely beautiful is "Dark Princess Naamah", due mainly to keyboard flourishes and some emotional lead playing, creating an exquisite soundpicture. "A Black Rose" runs along at a groovy, death rock pace not unlike a darker Entombed with distorted vocals. "Dawn Of Perishness" is carried by a simple-yet- effective traditional metal riff the likes of which would be more expected on a Savatage album, while "The Eye Of The Eclipse" is an all out exercise in progressive symphonic Death, with tempo and complexion changes at every turn. Some very classy lead guitar work can be found on "Procreation Of Eternity" (mainly towards the end) and "Powerdance", which, in my opinion, is the all around most impressive track on the album, weaving in and out of driving riffs and rythyms and melodic, atmospheric moments. The symphonic, ritualistic elements that would eventually go on to define Therion's future endeavors are featured here in full force within "Symphoni Drakonis Inferni" and "Ho Drakon Ho Megas", both works of dark drama and ceremonial orchestration, while "The Ritual Dance Of The Yezidis" serves as a brief instrumental with oriental/middle eastern overtones.

With a musical vision that comes close to rivaling Celtic Frost's masterwork, Into The Pandemonium, Symphony Masses was a big step up in all aspects for Therion. My only complaint is the forced-sounding and sometimes downright goofy harsh vocal approach. I applaud Christofer Johnson for his ambition and instrumental accomplishments (he also handles guitar and keyboard), but the fact is his vocals leave a bit to be desired. During the more involved compositions ("Powerdance", "The Eye Of The Eclipse"), his approach is not nearly as irritating, yet during the more spacious moments of songs like "Dark Princess Namah", it causes the musical achievements to suffer for it, losing a bit of its impact. That said, this was definitely an awakening into new horizons for Therion, who would go on to even further realize their uniqueness, becoming one of the Metal scenes most innovative and ambitious artists.

bleak | 3/5 |


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