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Therion - Sitra Ahra CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.32 | 75 ratings

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Easy Livin
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars Back to doing what he does best

For me, Therion's 2007 album "Gothic Kabbalah" saw Christofer Johnsson throwing the baby out with the bathwater by ditching the orchestra and everything which distinguished Therion from their peers. What was left was little more than just another Gothic metal album.

When it was announced in late 2009 that the next album would see those essential parts of the band's make up returning, the omens were good for a return to form. Released in late 2010, "Sitra Ahra" may not live up to those expectations in full, but it is certainly a major step back in the right direction. Following the release of "Gothic Kabbalah", the line up supporting Johnsson disbanded and a new group of musicians was brought in to support him. Perhaps most significant among these is vocalist Thomas Vikström (the son of a noted Swedish opera singer), the first time the band have had an official lead vocalist other than Johnsson himself (and even he has "retired" from singing).

The opening "Introduction: Sitra Ahra" is certainly full of promise. Operatic female vocals, trained male voices, massed choirs and a heavy guitar riff all blend seamlessly to offer a wonderfully reassuring burst of classic Therion. Thomas Vikström's fine voice is apparent throughout the album, his duet with Linnea Vikström (presumably a relation!) being an early highlight. The track also boasts a fine chorale and some tasteful lead guitar. The arrangement on this 9 minute track is one of the most progressive ever attempted by Johnsson, and one of the most successful. "Unguentum Sabbati" is the third part of the opening quartet which for me form the best part of the album. The track includes brief references to "Phantom of the opera", and harder vocals than have been the case up to now.

The final part of that quartet is the longest track on the album, "Land Of Canaan" running to some 10½ minutes. Once again, the piece features a complex arrangement, but this time there is much more in the way of purely instrumental passages than usual. When the vocals do come in, they have something of a seafaring/Romany atmosphere (for want of a better description).

For no apparent reason, things take a bit of a dip thereafter, the tracks becoming a lot shorter while also generally resorting to a much less sophisticated style. The operatics, chorales, etc., still drift in and out, but they seem less at ease with the rock/metal foundations on which they are laid. "2012" bucks the trend to some extent, "Kashmir" like sounds blending well with chorale vocals and some fine lead guitar. "Cu Chulain" contains the almost obligatory growling, but it is cocooned well in the overall mix.

The closing "After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone" is rather different, mainly because it features a lighter melody and a children's choir. It may sound concerning, and I suspect many will find it not to their taste, but for me the track works well, offering a new dimension for the band while remaining within their natural boundaries. The ending is rather stage show like!

In all, a vastly superior album from Therion to their (or his) last. While not up to the standard of the classic Therion albums, those who enjoy this unique musical style will find much here to appreciate.

Easy Livin | 4/5 |


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