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For those of you who don't know who Therion are, they are a Swedish metal band whose early stuff was of a death metal nature but have played symphonic and avant-garde metal in more recent years. The band have always had a rather changeable line-up, regularly employing different session musicians on different albums and tours. Personally I prefer their earlier stuff whilst my wife prefers the softer more operatic recent stuff, I bought two tickets to their concert in Warsaw later in the year and thought I should familiarise myself with their latest album Sitra Ahra in time!
The first thing noticeable was that I did not recognise the lead singer from the start, there are actually different lead singers on different tracks but one thing was for sure, it wasn't Therion's trusty Christopher Johnsson singing anymore but instead the instantly recognisable vocals of Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and Dream Evil), he's a singer I'm fond of so I thought that was good news and sharing the vocals with soprano Lori Lewis and Thomas Vikstrom (Candlemass, Stormwind) as well as some singers I wasn't familiar with worked out perfectly. If you include the strings, brass section and choirs, there's probably over 50 musicians involved on this album but new addition on guitar Christian Vidal has to get a special mention because I think his solos are fantastic.
The main reason for this is the complete sound of the band, everything slotting in perfectly to perform epic operatic rock masterpieces and ensuring they use the correct singer at the right time. My favourite track is undoubtedly Land of Canaan mostly because of the damning riffs and overall raw power of the song that is hard to come by on an album that is choc a bloc with complicated orchestration and production, the album is really quite classical in style and fans of late Blind Guardian, Apocalyptica and Nightwish are going to be in their element listening to this album.
It's a million miles away from the band's early work but pretty similar to their last release, there's no way it can be described as a weak album and has to be rated as one of the best releases this year, even if it's not quite what I'd usually listen to.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Sitra Ahra 5:24
2 Kings Of Edom 8:51
3 Unguentum Sabbati 5:10
4 Land Of Canaan 10:32
5 Hellequin 5:18
6 2012 4:16
7 Cu Chulain 4:16
8 Kali Yoga III 3:41
9 The Shells Are Open 3:44
10 Din 2:37
11 After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone 7:21