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Therion Secret of the Runes album cover
3.93 | 135 ratings | 9 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
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Studio Album, released in 2001

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Ginnungagap (The Black Hole) (prologue) (6:09)
2. (Old) Midgård (5:04)
3. Asgård (The Bifrost Bridge) (4:08)
4. (Call of) Jotunheim (3:43)
5. Schwarzalbenheim (Svartalfheim) (Gold der Unterwelt) (5:18)
6. Ljusalfheim (The Shining Ones) (3:54)
7. Muspelheim (Gudaskymning) (2:15)
8. Nifelheim (Dimmornas Värld) (4:36)
9. Vanaheim (Seed of Ing) (4:04)
10. Helheim (Den Dimhöljda) (3:18)
11. Secret of the Runes (epilogue) (5:30)

Bonus tracks on 2001 SE:
12. Crying Days (remixed) (4:32)
13. Summernight City (remixed) (4:55)

Total Time 57:26

Line-up / Musicians

- Christofer Johnsson / rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion, arranger, co-producer
- Kristian Niemann / lead & rhythm guitars
- Johan Niemann / bass
- Sami Karppinen / drums & percussion

- Marika schonberg / solo soprano voice
- Erika Andersson / solo alto voice
- Carl Rahmqvist / solo baritone voice
- Anna Rodell / solo violin
- Asa Akeberg / cello solo
- Thomas Karlsson / whisper (6)
- Anna Artursson, Joakim Berg, Patrik Forsman, Kristina Hansson, Henrik Holmberg, Anna-Maria Krawe, Carl Rahmqvist, Marika Schonberg / choir

String Ensemble:
- Asa Akeberg / cello
- Jesef Cabrales-Alin / 1st violin
- Monika Jonsson / cello
- Johan Moren / 2nd violin
- Anna Rodell / 1st violin
- Malin Samuelsson / 2nd violin
- Niklas Sjunesson / viola
- Linda Svedrup / viola

Woodwinds Ensemble:
- Henrik Blixt / bassoon, contrabassoon
- Fareidah Hildebrand / flute, alto flute, piccolo
- Erik Rodell / oboe, English horn

Brass Ensemble:
- Ayman Al Fakir / French horn, Wagner tuba
- Rune Bodin / trombone
- Kristina Borg / French horn
- Mikael Sorensen / trumpet, flugelhorn

Releases information

Artwork: Thomas Ewerhard

CD Nuclear Blast ‎- NB 625-2 (2001, Germany)

LP Nuclear Blast ‎- NB 625-1 (2001, Germany)

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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Buy THERION Secret of the Runes Music

THERION Secret of the Runes ratings distribution

(135 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (25%)
Collectors/fans only (10%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

THERION Secret of the Runes reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars At the very beginning of XXI century Therion became an important name in European metal society. Their fantastic combination of melodic scandinavian metal with operatic vocal and often orchestrated arrangements is one of a few great new things invented on the border of metal and progressive music. So, generally I like Therion albums ( I am speaking about their later,operatic metal period).

But there are many differences between separate albums for sure. So, Secret of the Runes is good,but not their best. If operatic voices are great as usual, musical background is very simplistic there. From the very first notes of the album you feel that "viking metal" is all around, but same formula of very repetetivous song construction,and most important - very simple ,let say - primitive - drumming just killing all the Nordic beauty of the compositions.

Situation with guitar sound is almost similar: you wouldn't find complex guitar technigue or interesting sound there. In fact, absolutely great idea of mixing great operatic voice with melodic metal sound works perfectly, but in many moments this metal music sounds more as background for the voice.

As often with Therion, I am absolutely attracted by the formula, but almost any moment you wish to hear more complex and interesting musical sound. It doesn't mean, that the album is bad, no way! Album is really very good, but I just feel at any second of it what should be done just to make this album excellent!

Review by 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.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Runes are individual symbols which are held to have significant power by themselves, and greater power when arranged in a particular pattern. This suitably describes the mildly tweaked musical approach that Therion take on Secret of the Runes, in which (to my ears, at least) they give greater prominence to the musical prowess of individual instrumentalists. The work of guitarist Kristian Niemann had tided me over on Vovin and Deggial, and it feels like it's given more a spotlight this time around - indeed, all the core band members seem to solo a bit more - and this proves somewhat refreshing to their symphonic metal sound, though it's all still a little limp and generic for my tastes.
Review by siLLy puPPy
5 stars The turn of the millennium was a productive time for THERION with several albums released since its international breakthrough with "Theli" in 1996 with each new studio album changing up the band's recipe of hybridizing heavy metal thunder with Wagnerian operatic pomp with symphonic splendor and charismatic choirs. On the band's tenth album led by the indefatigable frontman Christofer Johnsson, SECRET OF THE RUNES continues the swing of the pendulum back to the metal side of the band's equation with grittier guitar hooks that are more in the forefront than any album since the band's death metal days. This is a concept album based on Norse mythology where the songs describe the nine worlds that flank a central tree called the Yggdrasil.

With each album getting ever more ambitious, SECRET OF THE RUNES continues where "Deggial" left off and not only amplifies the guitars a lot more but includes new subgroups of musicians. In addition to the four core members that provide the metal heft, this one has a choir of eight members along with six guests who provide vocals, cello and violin. If that wasn't enough there is a string ensemble of eight musicians, a woodwind ensemble of three and a brass ensemble four. Despite violins, violas, tubas, trumpets, French horns, flutes, bassoon and many many more instruments adding to the immensity of it all, SECRET OF THE RUNES remains a cool cucumber throughout its entire running time by keeping everything in place and only put in use for moments when it is most effective to do so.

The overall feel of SECRET OF THE RUNES is a more bombastic metal album that implements folky musical scales to create a rather ethnic vibe unlike previous albums with the classical and choir effects adding a more epic contrast to the folk metal underpinnings. Each track is divinely crafted to stand out from the pack and the tracks range from high tempo ("Ginnungagap," "Muspelheim") to dreamy vocal choir led rockers that implement the metal guitars as a caustic backrdrop ("Midgård," "Ljusalfheim") and everywhere in between. Generally speaking metal provides the main rhythm section while the classical elements provide divine atmospheres and mood builders that rise from the heavy amplification but every song is really distinct and despite these commonalities all emerge as separate but equal.

By this point THERION had crafted more polyphonic stylistic shifts with complex vocal counterpoints playing out in tandem with metal guitar heft and folky flutes. The recipe seems so simple when experienced but the mind boggling process of how these disparate sounds could play so well together is quite impressive. Any of these tracks would sound right at home as purely metal, completely classical or just simple folk. THERION succeeds on SECRET OF THE RUNES in the layering effect where each element plays off the other while maintaining a basic melodic flow. The uncanny mix of growly death vocals occasionally make a return while lush flutes slowly flutter around. Much of the album seems to rely on a busy percussive groove that's only noticeable when the drums are allowed to shine without the suffocating effects of the plethora of tones, timbres and melodic scales.

Once again in the metal department it seems that classic metal like Iron Maiden and Scorpions type riffing are the most preferred with tracks like "Vanheim" reminding me of Maiden's classic tune "To Tame A Land" in its bouncy metal stomp. However despite the similar riffing style takes on a completely different persona with a massive choir directing the melodic flow in differing directions. This track also has one of the most energetic guitar solos as Kristian Niemann shows off his best shredding skills. "Helheim" is perhaps the scariest as it starts with a hypnotic bass vocal chant with frenetic female operatic divas answering in terror.

SECRET OF THE RUNES is the most successful example of THERION finally blurring the lines between metal and classical opera. While one side or the other seemed to dominate on previous albums except for "Deggial" where the two worked together in tandem but yet favored one or the other in alternation, this album shows the two styles in perfect harmony along with the extra magic of the ethnic folk that one would associate with the classic sounds that would date back to the days when such Norse mythology was being created. The ending title track describes the moment when you learn the SECRET OF THE RUNES and your consciousness becomes a god. This grand finale cranks out the galloping guitar riffs, mix of male and female vocals and lots of celebratory bringing the exciting musical journey to a dramatic and satisfying close. If you're lucky you have the two extra bonus tracks which includes the Scorpions cover of "Crying Days" and Abba's "Summer Night City," the latter of which is performed amazingly well.

THERION are in no doubt the masters of mixing heavy metal music with classical symphonic elements in the absolute perfect way and the fact that Johnsson finds new ways to breathe life into each and every new album is uncanny. SECRET OF THE RUNES is one of the heavier albums in the THERION canon although not always heavy with fast tempos but rather heavy in the rawness and power of the guitar stomps, doom metal sustain or the riffs themselves but there are many uptempo segments that are amongst THERION's heaviest. The ability of the folk and classical instruments to adapt to the domain of the metal is also impressive. While "Theli" was a classic in its own right and the following albums were of high quality as well, personally i find SECRET OF THE RUNES to be the absolute pinnacle of the THERION sound with one well composed track after another. Everything just seems to work on this one as the recipe has reached its apex moment. It goes without saying that for those who do not fancy opera and classical elements in their metal, this album won't change your perspective but if you've already fallen for this unique musical Frankenstein then i can't think of a better example then this particular album.

Latest members reviews

5 stars One of Therion's best albums, "Secret of the Runes" delivers brilliant metal and opera vocals, lots of heavy classical influences, and all the Viking lyrics one could possibly desire. Christofer Johnsson and Thomas Karlsson do all most of the songwriting. A team of three vocalists, a choir, and ... (read more)

Report this review (#2919398) | Posted by Idaho | Sunday, April 23, 2023 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Just one year after releasing a solid but somewhat lacklustre album like Deggial, Therion are back with what many consider the high point of their whole discography: Secret of the Runes. A concept album centred around the nine worlds of Norse mythology, Runes is a massive step-up relative to the ban ... (read more)

Report this review (#2756125) | Posted by lukretio | Monday, May 23, 2022 | Review Permanlink

4 stars For those that don't know Therion is actually a band, with no real lead vocalists, but a revolving door of amazing metal vocalists and operatic singers. This album I wasn't very fond of (I still loved it), because it focused too much on the operatic element rather than find the perfect balance ... (read more)

Report this review (#290154) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Tuesday, July 13, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars For me this is an excellent album, with a perfect blend of metal, orchestra, and operatic vocals: lots of chorus and soprano singing; as a matter of fact straight rock singing is almost unused. And it's a concept album, about Viking Mythology, talking about the nine worlds, plus the initial ... (read more)

Report this review (#278136) | Posted by Dellinger | Thursday, April 15, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars This album is a concept album based on nordic tradition. It consists of a prologue, a description of the nine worlds of Yggrasil and an epilogue. Two covers complete the album. Here the classical parts are really emphasized and the metal parts put in the background - strong Richard Wagner infl ... (read more)

Report this review (#67162) | Posted by zaxx | Saturday, January 28, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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