Therion – Leviathan III Review

When a band has long since proven itself to be one of the best, most influential bands in their field, it can sometimes become difficult for them to live...

Released By: Napalm Records

Release Date: December 15th, 2023

Genre: Symphonic Metal

Links: https://www.therion.se/

 

Line Up:

Thomas Vikström – Vocals
Lori Lewis – Vocals

Christofer Johnsson – Guitars, Keyboards

Christian Vidal – Guitars

Nalle “Grizzly” Påhlsson – Bass
Sami Karppinen – Drums

 

Tracklist:

1. Ninkigal

2. Ruler of Tamag

3. An Unsung Lament

4. Maleficium

5. Ayahuasca

6. Baccanale

7. Midsommarblot

8. What Was Lost Shall Be Lost No More

9. Duende

10. Nummo

11. Twilight of the Gods

 

When a band has long since proven itself to be one of the best, most influential bands in their field, it can sometimes become difficult for them to live up to their legacy or find ways to improve with later releases. One such case is the Swedish symphonic metal band Therion, arguably one of the very first symphonic metal bands to ever exist. The band initially started out in the late ’80s as a death metal band, but they slowly started incorporating symphonic elements beginning in 1993 with their third album, Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas. Shortly after, they would go on to release two widely beloved genre classics, “Theli” and “Vovin,” which cemented their status as one of the earliest and best symphonic metal bands in the world.

Over the years, the band has released some of my all-time favorite albums, such as “Secret of the Runes,” “Gothic Kabbalah,” and “Sitra Ahra.” While nothing they’ve done since the latter’s release in 2010 has blown me away as much as their earlier works, they still continue to be a consistently enjoyable band, with epic arrangements, huge vocals, and ambitious songwriting. Following a rather unsuccessful attempt at a three-hour rock opera in 2018 with “Beloved Antichrist,” the band returned to making more traditional symphonic metal in 2021 with “Leviathan,” the beginning of a new three-part set, with the final part just releasing this past week. The first two parts were both highly entertaining, if a bit safe and formulaic by their standards, while “Leviathan III” offers some more epic and ambitious songwriting and is probably my favorite of the three.

Photo Credit: Mina Karadzic

Not much has changed with Therion over the years, and “Leviathan III” is no different. As always, fans can expect very epic, classically influenced symphonic metal, with huge operatic vocals, including some excellent choir vocals, as well as some huge symphonic arrangements, along with some nice keyboards and bursts of heavy guitar work here and there. The symphonic elements are quite clearly the main focus, and the music often has a very classical feel to it, both in the music itself and in the vocals. While lead vocalists Lori Lewis and Thomas Vikström both do an excellent job on their own, there are also plenty of guest vocalists, as always, and of course, the choir vocals are one of the highlights of the album and are used a ton. Most symphonic bands tend to use female vocals for clean and operatic vocals and mostly use male vocals for growls and more aggressive vocals, but Therion has always been a bit different, using equal amounts of male and female operatic vocals, and that is very much still the case on this album, with each track offering a nice mix of vocal approaches. Pretty much all vocals on the entire album are excellent, with longtime collaborator Mats Leven, in particular, really stealing the show on the closing track “Twilight of the Gods.”

Vocals and symphonic arrangements are clearly the highlights of the album, but from a musical and songwriting perspective, the album also delivers quite nicely. There are quite a few heavy parts throughout, with flashes of power metal, melodic death metal, and even a little bit of thrash on one track. The band isn’t afraid to throw in some twists and turns on many of the tracks, and where the first two parts of “Leviathan” were fairly safe and predictable much of the time, part III offers a wide variety of sounds throughout and has some of the band’s most epic and complex songs since “Sitra Ahra,” to go along with some of their shortest, most immediately engaging tracks in quite some time. There are a few tracks towards the end that don’t leave as strong an impression, but overall the songwriting is quite excellent throughout, and there’s nothing less than enjoyable on the entire album. Performances and songwriting are excellent across the board, but one area where I find the album slightly disappointing is the production. There’s nothing horribly wrong with it, but for some reason, I find it sounds a bit flat at points, with the heavier parts, in particular, lacking the impact they should have. Vocals are, of course, mixed perfectly, though, and are quite clearly given the highest priority at all times.

Like its predecessors, “Leviathan III” wastes no time whatsoever, kicking off in high gear with “Ninkigal,” one of the heaviest, most explosive tracks on the album. There are some heavy riffs right away, mixed in with some epic choral vocals and a very rare case of modern Therion using growls. The verses move along at a fairly quick pace, carried by some nice vocals from Lori Lewis, while the chorus is simple but quite catchy. The middle of the track features an explosive instrumental section with strong power metal influences, and it’s by far the highlight of the track. Overall, it’s a short but very sweet opening track, and one of my personal favorites. Next is “Ruler of Tamag,” a more typical Therion song, opening up with an extended acoustic section, featuring some very light and beautiful female vocals, before the guitars kick in and the track becomes just a touch heavier. It’s a pretty light and melodic track overall, with a major focus on huge vocal melodies, alternating nicely between female lead vocals and male choirs. There’s no real chorus, but instead, there’s plenty of extended vocal sections, none of which are particularly catchy, but everything is very beautiful and melodic. Overall, it’s a very nice track with a nice feel to it. The instrumental section towards the end is likewise quite subdued but very effective.

One of the longest, most complex tracks on the album is “An Unsung Lament,” which opens up on a rather upbeat note, with a bit of a classic rock feel to it. The first minute or so is quite upbeat and fun, with some rather offbeat drums, energetic guitars, and nice dueling male and female vocals. After a while, the track slows down a bit with a very theatrical vocal section, and from there it alternates several times between slow and upbeat sections, with many twists and turns throughout. The more atmospheric vocal sections towards the middle are my favorite parts, with a very atmospheric, slightly sinister feel to them, but the more upbeat parts are also a ton of fun, and overall, it’s an excellent track, which flies by despite its near 7-minute running time. The pace picks up again with “Maleficium,” another heavier, more guitar-driven track, with a very dark and sinister feel to it. The verses are fast-paced and energetic, with some intense rock vocals from Vikstrom, while the chorus is slower-paced and more atmospheric, with some beautiful operatic vocals from Lewis. The contrast between the soft and heavy parts is quite effective, and overall it’s another great track.

The longest track on the album is “Ayahuasca”, a much more laidback and relaxed track compared to the previous couple. There’s a slightly bouncy feel to the keyboards, as well as hints of psychedelic rock at points, and overall it’s a very chill and relaxing track, with slight bursts of heaviness, largely carried by the symphonic elements and vocals, with an excellent, theatrical sounding male vocalist accompanied by a very light sounding female vocalist, with a very pleasant voice. The chorus is quite catchy, and the instrumental portions are very nice. The track has a strong classic Therion feel to it, and while it’s not one of my favorites, it’s a very nice track overall, with the soft vocal section towards the end being the highlight of the track. Once again, the band changes things up completely with “Baccanale”, by far the heaviest, most intense track on the album. It moves at a frantic pace throughout, with hints of thrash in the guitars, while the drums are fast and furious throughout, with the light operatic choral vocals serving as a nice contrast to the intensity of the music. This is a rare track where the instrumental sections are the clear highlight, just for how shockingly heavy it gets at points, but the vocals are still great as always, with the chorus in particular being very fun and catchy.

Things calm down for a while with the next three tracks all being lighter, more melodic and more vocal driven. First is “Midsommarblot”, which has a slightly upbeat tempo, with rather light guitar work accompanied by epic symphonic arrangements and some very nice choral vocals, as usual. The chorus is very nice, and there’s a very beautiful guitar solo in the middle. Overall, it’s a nice track which doesn’t really standout. Next is “What Was Lost Shall Be Lost No More”, a much more classical sounding track, with light guitar work, hugee choir vocals and some excellent lead male vocals, especially during one epic section towards the middle, which is easily the highlight of the track. Lastly, we have “Duende”, a track with a very distinct flavor to it, both in the instrumental work and the lead female vocals. It’s hard to describe what makes it unique, but the acoustic sections have a unique flavor to them, while the lead vocals in particular are quite theatrical and epic. Once the guitars and male vocals kick in, it turns into more of a standard Therion track, not quite falling into ballad territory but coming quite close. The soft verses are my favorite parts, while the chorus took some time to grow on me, but it’s certainly interesting and different.

The last heavier track is “Nummo”, the shortest on the album, clocking in at just 2 and a half minutes. It’s another speedy track, with frantic drums, and while it’s not as heavy as “Baccanale”, it still has a slight bite to it, though it’s largely carried by the operatic male and female vocals, which are excellent throughout, especially during the speedy yet super melodic and catchy chorus. Closing out the album is “Twilight of the Gods”, a very dark and atmospheric track, with a strong doom/gothic metal vibe. The guitar work has a thick, dark tone, with even the female vocals having a rather sinister, yet beautiful sound to them, while the lead male vocals are performed by Mats Leven, whose deep, somewhat creepy and menacing voice proves to be a perfect fit for the track. The verses are enjoyable enough, but the chorus is definitely the highlight, with Leven really getting to shine, and the more upbeat instrumental section towards the middle is also excellent, as is the female vocal section that follows. Overall, though, Leven is clearly the star of the track, and hearing him on a Therion track is always an absolute treat, with this being no exception.

Overall, Leviathan III delivers more of what Therion fans have come to expect from the band, with a huge focus on symphonic arrangements and some huge, epic operatic vocals and choir vocals. There’s bits of heaviness which are at times quite impressive, and the songwriting is more diverse and at times more complex than anything on the first two parts of this set. It still doesn’t quite match the heights the band has reached in the past, but I’d say it’s probably the best of the set by a slight margin, and longtime fans should be pleased with it, while newcomers looking for some epic symphonic metal with a ton of classical influence would do well to give this album a shot. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what the band does next, now that the trilogy is complete.

 

Ratings: 8/10

Written by: Travis Green

My Global Mind – Staff Writer

Travis Green is a Canadian based writer for My Global Mind, with a particular passion for power metal, as well as an interest metal in all its forms.

 

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