Review: Therion “Leviathan II” [Nuclear Blast]

Review: Therion “Leviathan II” [Nuclear Blast]

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This new set of occult power/symphonic metal songs isn’t as impressive as the first Leviathan from last year, but it still has a lot to offer.

Much like the first part of Leviathan, and like most of Therion’s best songs, the songs here are mostly about different mythologies and magical rituals. For example, we begin with “Aeon of Maat”, a short but efficient song about Egyptian mythology. It’s pretty catchy and offers a nice contrast between Thomas Vikström’s power metal singing, Lori Lewis’s operatic vocals, and some lyrical choirs. It makes a good intro to the album, but with the next track, “Litany of the Fallen”, we get into the more ambitious stuff, with choirs and a big, sweeping symphonic feel, accompanied by lyrics involving some of Therion’s favorite themes like the Qliphoth and the Dragon. That’s how you know Therion mean business and are still doing what they do best.

The choir in “Litany of the Fallen” sounds like a group of wizards performing incantations. We get more incantations in “Lucifuge Rofocale”, with its power metal riff, choirs, low-pitched singing and growling. This one feels like an updated version of something that could have been on the Lepaca Kliffoth or Theli albums. In other tracks, the choir is simply singing, sometimes about magic and spirits like in the beautiful melodies of “Marijin Min Nar” and its hypnotic main riff/main vocal motif. Or about alchemists’ secrets like in “Alchemy of the Soul”, which alternate between a choir, solo female vocals, and sometimes Thomas is joining the choir. He also sings a pretty good power metal chorus on the upbeat “Midnight Star”, where he’s contrasted with a deep-voiced male choir. There is a similar contrast on the big and epic “Codex Gigas”.

There is a similar mix of choir and solo operatic vocals, from Lori Lewis and Taida Nazraić, the vocalist for The Loudest Silence, who contributes both solo and choir performances in Leviathan II, in the melancholic and poetic “Lunar Coloured Fields”, a quieter, beautiful and sad track. Well, it starts quiet but gains a bigger and louder symphonic feel as it progresses. Lori and Taida Nazraić shine once more in the melancholic and mellow “Hades and Elysium”. Rosalía Sairem also shines in “Cavern Cold as Ice”, being Therion’s first female power metal singer, though I think she sounded better in the first Leviathan. Therion tends to hire different singers for each album, and they have a pretty nice selection of them here, but I’m glad they keep a few of them as permanent members, and I’m glad Lori Lewis is one of them. Her powerful, agile and lyrical soprano is what saved the band and has become an integral part of their sound.

After this very good middle, we end things with “Pazuzu”, with its nice interaction between gloomy choirs, powerful power metal singing, and sinister high notes, a rather triumphant ending for the album. Well, it’s the last original track, as the other two are just different versions of “Aeons of Maat” and “Pazuzu”. Not much to say about them… This “Aeons of Maat” now has female operatic vocals and occasional male power metal vocals. The last one is supposed to be an AOR version, of all things, but the main difference is that the solo vocals are still powerful, but with a mellower and less raspy delivery. The last two tracks are not bad, but not really indispensable.

I still need time to decide what I really think of this album. On one hand, it shows a lot of creativity, power and melancholy, nice melodies and riffs, interesting mythology and rituals, and a pretty good set of singers. But that’s what Therion usually does, and I had the feeling it wasn’t as good as some of their previous albums. Not just their beloved classics like Vovin or Sirius B, as I think the first Leviathan was better as well. Its set of singers weren’t as good as previous ones, the songs weren’t as good as well. But in my opinion, this is a good but not great album, rather than an outright bad one. Therion are good enough for their worst material to be forgettable rather than outright bad, and this album was way more than forgettable. It has enough good elements that, even though I didn’t love it immediately, I enjoyed it and I think it’s going to grow on me.

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