Therion - Leviathan
Nuclear Blast
Symphonic Metal
11 songs (45:33)
Release year: 2021
Therion, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

If there's a word that you can use to describe Swedish symphonists Therion to sum up the last thirty-plus years of their career, it is 'extra', in whatever meaning of the word you choose to acknowledge. From giving early albums titles such as Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas to following up the Lemuria/Sirius B double-release with an actual double-album in the glorious Gothic Kabbalah, the band try almost too hard. And that's before you take triple-album Beloved Antichrist into account, written to be performed as an actual opera, or various indulgences such as Les Fleurs du Mal, a set of covered 60s French songs! Christofer Johnsson is something of a mad genius whose work is always worth looking forward to experiencing even when it crashes and burns spectacularly (and one has to feel for him, with Covid-19 putting what must surely be the final bullet in the head of his plans to finance and perform Beloved Antichrist as a live spectacle). And that is surely why so many of us still think highly of Therion's musical output; by and large, these experiments work well, and even when they don't the base symphonic metal sound of the band is still interesting enough to hold your attention.

The exception to that rule is, of course, 2018's disastrously dull Beloved Antichrist, and so it's not really a surprise that Leviathan is something of a reset for the band. Sure, it's the first album in a trilogy to be released over the next couple of years, Therion's extra-ness being inescapable. But when viewed alongside its predecessor, one has to admit that the seventeenth full-length from the band is pretty good. It's fun, for one! Therion have stripped things back a little and focused on writing shorter, catchier songs around the usual symphonic bells and whistles. And they're generally good at this, so although Leviathan isn't close in quality or wacky experimentation to past glories such as Gothic Kabbalah, it is good enough to sit alongside the likes of Sitra Ahra as solid if not top rate Therion fare. There's a decent amount of variety in terms of the songs, which are generally grandiose constructions that use the metal elements as a skeleton for hanging symphonic splendour upon, if often more straightforward than before, which made initial listens difficult.

It is a grower, however. Opener The Leaf on the Oak of Far may have a distractingly odd title but it's a genuinely enjoyable Avantasia-esque bit of hard rock/power metal, duelling male/female vocals and plenty of choral splendour to kick the album off energetically. The following Tuonela brings now ex-Nightwish bassist Marco Hietala on for guest vocals alongside the charmingly operatic Taida Nazraić and produces a better song than anything on Human. :||: Nature. as a result. Speaking of Nightwish, Therion here sometimes sound a little too close to the Finns such as on operatic ballad Die Wellen der Zeit, yet it's undeniably beautiful with Taida taking the lead vocals atop very well-done choral backing. As ever, the operatic elements are fantastic, the title track highlighting Italian soprano Chiara Malvestiti alongside usual collaborator Lori Lewis and raising hairs on the back of your reviewer's neck!

And the inter-song variety is enough to keep you listening; Chiara returns on Aži Dahāka in a duet with Thomas Vikström's tenor in a faster, more metallic song, for instance. Then follows Eye of Algol, a groovy rocking piece fronted by Rosalía Sairem with a slight Eastern vibe, then another symphony-drenched ballad in Nocturnal Light. It all makes for a cohesive, enjoyable listen, even without taking late-tracklisting highlights such as Psalm of Retribution, using Mats Levén's raspier vocals in a slightly cheesy but nonetheless good song. Although it's becoming increasingly hard to see the band releasing a late-career classic that can match up to any of their past glories, Leviathan is a light, fun bit of symphonic metal that simply crackles with energy in comparison to Beloved Antichrist if lacking the creativity and compositional magic of better Therion albums. A course correction, then, and hopefully an indicator of even better things to come with the releases next year and in 2023.

Killing Songs :
The Leaf on the Oak of Far, Tuonela, Eye of Algol
Goat quoted 73 / 100
Other albums by Therion that we have reviewed:
Therion - Beloved Antichrist reviewed by Goat and quoted 30 / 100
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 - Sitra Ahra reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
To see all 11 reviews click here
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