Artist: Therion (http://www.megatherion.com)
Release Date: May 24, 2004
Label: Nuclear Blast
Recommended tracks: Uthark Runa, An Arrow from the Sun, Abraxas
Note: Lemuria and Sirius B were released simultaneously, but are indeed, two separate albums and will be reviewed separately.
Over the years Therion has evolved from just another death metal band into a musical project that has a scope similar to that of a Peter Jackson film. Upon opening the liner notes, in fact, you will see precisely 64.2% of Middle Earth's population credited with either singing or playing a homemade string instrument on the album. Gimli was credited with numerous growls and in-studio attitude readjustment during the recording of the album, but I digress.
While all of Middle Earth was, unfortunately, unavailable for the recording of Lemuria, the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra were able to find time to lend their voices, violins, violas, cellos, bassons, flutes, and other assorted really fruity and non-metal instruments to the boys in Therion. In fact, Therion is only credited as three people: Christofer Johnsson, Kristian Niemann, and Johan Niemann. Skin work is provided courtesy of the much talented Richard Evensand (Chimaira and ex-Soilwork). Vocals on the album are provided by committee, meaning that somewhere around a dozen people are credited with vocal solos on various tracks. Anyone familiar with Ayreon's The Human Equation will be familiar with the idea of using multiple vocalists. Unlike Arjen Lucassen's project, however, the different vocalists do not play character roles, as far as I can tell. Unlike past Therion albums such as Secret of the Runes, however, not every song title ends with the letters "heim". Unfortunately for we Americans, however, they are still far too obsessed with consonants for us to be able to pronounce these song titles and not make complete asses of ourselves. Someone has a sadistic sense of humor indeed. That being said, maybe that's why Therion has never toured the US: they're afraid of WREKage DJs kicking their asses for making us pronounce these damn song titles...hmmm...
Enough about the logistics of the album, on to the music. Fans of Therion will not be disappointed. Fans of Anal Cunt, on the other hand, might disagree on the "metalness" of Therion's latest offering. Unlike many metal bands today, Therion has opted to leave their guitars in standard tuning. In addition, the guitar tones have been left cleaner than in even past Therion offerings. While the guitars are still heavy, you do not hear the raw distortion that you hear on more brutal recordings from bands such as Decapitated or Vehemence. Of course, those guys don't play with entire orchestras either. Few of the songs on Lemuria fit into one particular category of types of metal. Much like an Opeth song, these songs may start out with a galloping guitar riff and transition seamlessly into a chorus filled with horns and female vocals. Yet, unlike Opeth, these songs do not suffer or benefit (depending on your opinion on Opeth) from the technical complexity that has been Opeth's trademark. Yet, a comparison with Opeth is necessary, because Therion is not music that will inspire large amounts of adrenalin. Therion is music to be enjoyed in a relaxing atmosphere. At times, you might even feel like you should be wearing a tux, enjoying a night out at the opera. A metal opera of course.
I should clarify though, that this is still very much a metal album. In comparison to past Therion, however, I must say that Lemuria provides a more refined and elegant sound. Unlike Secret of the Runes, growling vocals are found on a few tracks, especially the intro track "Typhon". The contrast of operatic vocals and growling can be a tricky task. Done poorly, the contrast can sound just plain ridiculous and as cheesy as The Darkness. Instead, Therion have managed to tastefully combine a full orchestra, distorted guitars, double-bass drumming, and death metal vocals on a single album and remain interesting. The lack of complexity that I mentioned before, is actually the album's salvation. The strength of Lemuria is that it takes simple musical textures from many instruments and combines them. If guitars were the only instruments on this album, it would be and exceptionally boring and bland metal album. Instead, the many musical textures present provide a musical atmosphere that is soothing and enjoyable without requiring work on the part of the listener to experience the album.
If you are a fan of more brutal styles of metal, Therion may not, in fact, be your flavor of rotting flesh. Blasting Therion on your car stereo certainly won't scare any old people or young children. If your CD collection consists solely of albums of bands that have either (1) eaten brain stew, (2) killed someone, or (3) burned down a church, you might want to hide your Therion album in shame. On second thought, if Quorthon was brave enough to sing, maybe there is room in this world of brutal metal for a little melody. If you think you're ready to expand your musical horizons as a metalhead, Therion is a good place to start. Today Therion, tomorrow, Beethoven? Ok, maybe we'll set some realistic goals and just hope you don't burn down any churches.
- Fn Dan
Artist: Therion (http://www.megatherion.com)