Therion - Sitra Ahra
Nuclear Blast
Symphonic Metal
11 songs (1:01:11)
Release year: 2010
Therion, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

After two double albums in Lemuria/Sirius B and Gothic Kabbalah, Therion clearly felt it was time to cut back a little, and so Sitra Ahra, their twelfth full-length, has a relatively paltry running time of just over an hour. It’s hard not to feel a little disappointed at Sitra Ahra, coming as it does after those significant albums for the band, and depressingly the more I listen, the more I feel that musically and stylistically this is a big step-down. Where past Therion albums were gigantic spectacles and truly epic experiences, Sitra Ahra is competent but lacks that spark of transcendental genius that usually shines brightly. So, fans, prepare to manage those expectations somewhat, but don’t give up on the band altogether, because there is enough contained in these sixty-one minutes to make it an enjoyable listen.

The only full member left over from Gothic Kabbalah here is Christopher Johnsson. Apparently there was some dispute over the band’s direction; as things are, the band is made up of Thomas Vikström (Candlemass, Mehida) on lead vocals, Christian Vidal on guitar, Nalle Påhlsson on bass and Johan Koleberg on drums, with the usual array of guests including Snowy Shaw and Lori Lewis. Notably lacking in instantaneous catchiness, the songs are complex and need repeated listens. How good are they? Well, this is where the forum arguments will come, because I was quite unimpressed with them as a whole. To my ears the opening title track alone is a real disappointment, verging on the boring compared to what the band are capable of. Linnéa Vikström’s operatic vocals are spectacular, but it lacks energy and is rather too straightforward, feeling like something too weak to fit on Gothic Kabbalah.

Fortunately, the following Kings Of Edom makes up for it somewhat with nearly nine minutes of fun. Strident male vocals hit you immediately, a nicely epic atmosphere heading towards prog territory with the frequent changes and female vocals, getting more metal until it launches into outright speed metal riffing, buried beneath male and female choirs. The track as a whole is aural bliss with enough catchiness to keep you listening and seeming only half its length. It’s probably the best track on the album, really, the only track I found especially memorable – other tracks are fun whilst they last but don’t really stay with you. The only other true highlight for me was Land Of Canaan, 10 minutes of everything from post-punk rhythms to harmonica. It’s interesting but pretty wacky even for Therion, and might cause some raised eyebrows. Unguentum Sabbathi has an infectious male/female vocal trade-off, 2012’s slightly hammy ominous feel is fun, and Cu Chulain’s Celtic approach works well. Little touches here and there like organ melodies and unusual instrumentation are effective, and help give the sensation of variety throughout.

Otherwise, the likes of Hellequin are solid but hardly original for the band. Kali Yuga III is good but over a little quickly, and Din’s harsh vocals and more-or-less blastbeats are welcome but again, at just over two minutes in length the track could have been more. Finale After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone is decent, the children’s choir a nice touch. Overall, it’s a dull, safe, predictable album for Therion. I’ve heard most of their discography but not all of it, so won’t comment as to whether it’s their worst, but it’s certainly the least interesting or exciting of the albums I have heard. Listening to Gothic Kabbalah afterwards, I was struck by how much better it was – the best tracks here are only just good enough to fit on it, without a doubt. Comparing Sitra Ahra to other albums makes it look a lot worse, and I fear many fans will be disappointed with this, a passable addition to the Therion catalogue at best. It’s good, but not good enough.

Killing Songs :
Kings Of Edom, Land Of Canaan, After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone
Goat quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Therion that we have reviewed:
Therion - Vovin reviewed by Jared and quoted CLASSIC
Therion - Les Fleurs du Mal reviewed by Olivier and quoted no quote
Therion - Of Darkness.... reviewed by Goat and quoted 79 / 100
Therion - Gothic Kabbalah reviewed by Adam and quoted 93 / 100
Therion - Sirius B reviewed by Jason and quoted 94 / 100
To see all 9 reviews click here
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