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



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3 stars This album is very difficult to describe: the base is again brutal death metal, but this time with classic heavy metal, speed/trash metal, hardcore, classic and folkish influences. Again, for a good look at Therion's classic style, it's not the album to begin with.

"Baal Reginon" is the intro of the album: a short slow-paced death metal track, in the vein of early Anathema. "Dark Princess Naamah" starts with hardcore-like vocals and slow paced music again (the intro is quite nice and melodic), but then the death metal frenzy takes over (too bad, the end of the song has almost clean vocals and a nice melodic outro). "A Black Rose" is really similar to Kreator's "As the world burns"... mid paced riff, speed metal type of vocals. "Symphoni Draconis Inferni" shows clear classic music influences, and the lyrics here (in latin!) are more spoken than sung. "Dawn Of Perishness" starts like a classic heavy metal song - you even almost get the riff from Trust's "Antisocial" here - with the hardcore voice again. Really sounds like a cross between Guns & Roses and Trust with Kreator influences again, but sung by a death metal vocalist with occasional death metal style of fast riffing. "The Eye Of Eclipse" starts again smoothly with mid paced tempo and classical influences, but the rhythm changes quickly to brutal death metal. "The Ritualdance Of The Yezidis" starts with a metal riff and spoken words, but at mid song it changes to persian music! "Powerdance": nothing much to say... fast and brutal. "Procreation Of Eternity" is again pure death metal, but it includes some rhythm changes. The last song "Ho Drakon Ho Megas" (mostly instrumental) shows again more classic influences, and it is probably the best transition to the following albums.

Rating: 50/100

Report this review (#66576)
Posted Tuesday, January 24, 2006 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#86108)
Posted Monday, August 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Symphony Masses is one of my absolute favourite Therion albums. Admittedly, it's no Theli, but it's excellent in its own right. The original artwork looks great, and the music sounds just as great. Christofer Johnsson has later stated that he "As the old members had left the band I tried all the weird ideas I had in my mind that the earlier members never would have accepted. Perhaps the most experimental album Therion ever did." Keep that in mind. It truly is an experimental album, and just as every other such experiment you either love it or you hate it.

It was an experiment in so many ways, and in a way an in-between album. The death metal-isms from Of Darkness and Beyond Sanctorum are still here, but the keyboard parts have been expanded, and elements have been collected from symphonic rock and heavy metal. All this makes Ho Drakon Ho Megas a very odd listen at first; sounding somewhat like experimental symphonic doom would do now, fifteen years later.

All the uncomercialisms and oddities made Symphony Masses flop, and led Therion to plan a split-up after Lepaca Kliffoth. People just didn't understand this piece of art. Perhaps bass solos aren't common enough to sell, I don't know. In truth, the bass on this album is special. Andreas Wahl gives us some solos, uncommon lines and is much higher in the mix than what's usual. It certainly adds to the character of this album.

More on, Therion became rather unfaithful to the death metal scene they used to dominate. There are signs of the things to come - Dark Princess Naamah is the first, but not the only song incorporating some very Therion-esque keyboard tones - especially in the intro. Still the death metal influences are apparent with grunted vocals, distortion and blastbeats.

The following description is bound to sound contradictive, but hey, if The Ritualdance of the Yezidis provides enough psychedelic oddities for an entire album, then you can barely imagine the full picture. Deep down (in some songs at least, A Black Rose for example) there's a tone of classical metal underneath a more modern, brutal exterior which is once again flavoured with exquisite keyboard tones. Basically they were changing inside out, and this resulted in quite a dynamic album where the classic Theli keyboards first surfaced - listen to Ho Drakon Ho Megas and tell me I'm wrong!

I might be one of the few persons liking every part of this album, from the bass solo which starts the slow, bass-marked Baal Reginon, to the mother of the pulsating keyboards to be heard in Therion's best song ever, Cults of the Shadow, Ho Drakon Ho Megas. If you only liked Therion for their pure, true death metal material, then this is probably not your cup of tea. If you're a fan of Deggial and have little taste in extreme metal at all, well then you shouldn't even touch the biscuit. If you appreciate Lepaca Kliffoth though, then you wouldn't want to miss this one.

Absolutely *****

Report this review (#202259)
Posted Tuesday, February 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
2 stars Dragon on and on

Two years after the release of "Beyond Sanctorum", Therion returned with their third album. Do not be fooled by the "Symphony" reference in the title, the band are not yet ready to make the career defining change which will find them embracing their trademark operatic sounds; this album remains rooted in the death metal of their previous efforts. The title "Ho Drakon Ho Megas" comes from the Greek for The great dragon, a pointer towards the mysticism hidden within the lyrics.

The line up is almost completely different this time around, with only band founder and leader Christofer Johnsson remaining. The band becomes a quartet with Magnus Barthelson coming in on lead guitar and a new drummer and bassist. Johnsson once again tackles keyboards in addition to his vocal and guitar duties. He describes the album as the bands "most experimental", but I would suggest this is a simply a way of saying "diverse". Little real progress is made here though, the songs being a succession of riff driven growl fests.

On "Symphoni drakonis inferni" there are hints of something a little different, with quasi- symphonic overtones and brief choral keyboard vocals. The intro to "Dawn of Perishness" has a Black Sabbath feel to it, the crowd cheers apparently being a studio addition. The song itself is a bit of a mess though, saved only by some infectious riffing.

"The Eye of Eclipse" has the band's most inventive intro to date. It is all a bit contrived, and inevitably leads to more riffs and growls, but it does hint at something more interesting. "Powerdance" is the most diverse of the tracks being a brief "Zorba's dance" like instrumental to lighten the mood. The final two part title track includes some decent lead guitar soloing but ends all too soon.

In all, an album which is very much an acquired taste. Even those who appreciate the death metal style may find there is a little too much diversity here while those with only a passing interest may feel they have heard it all before.

Report this review (#250778)
Posted Sunday, November 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars As the title Symphony Masses suggests, right here is where Therion started experimenting with incorporating overtly symphonic sounds into their death metal format, resulting in a progressive death metal style which may sound rudimentary compared to works such as Theli, but if approached from a death metal perspective clearly finds Therion carving out a distinctive niche and sound for themselves. Never again would they be quite as pure as they were on prior releases, and their sound would only be the richer for it, and this album's dramatic sound is a solid listen in its own right as well as laying the foundation for what would follow.
Report this review (#1164453)
Posted Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
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.

Report this review (#2314031)
Posted Saturday, February 8, 2020 | Review Permalink

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