Therion- Sitra Ahra Review
Keep in mind this is using previous Therion albums as a measuring stick. So I'm being fairly tough on it, so I'll preface the review by saying this is another amazing album and well worth buying. I did this review over the course of a week, due to the complexity of the songs its very long and was rather a pain to write. I hope its helpful!
Sitra Ahra-The title track starts of with Lori's soprano and heavy ominous orchestration before kicking into a slick undulating riff that will weave in and out through the whole song. Reminscent of Adulruna Redivia. Lori and the new female vocalist trade lines here, not a huge fan of the voice of the new girl but Lori is awesome as always. Thomas great tenor takes us into a fantastic chorus backed by some heavy riffing. Interesting progressive break before we go back into the verses. The chorus by the way features Snowy fairly heavily which is one of my main problems with this disc. I'll get into that later. A big break here leading into a interesting guitar solo counterpointed by some choral work. So thats the first track. As usual with Therion its extremely complex. Its got a couple of things that drag it down which is mostly some of the vocal performances. Musically its fantastic. 8/10
Kings of Edom-This is my favorite track on the cd I think. Starts off with a lovely piano intro accompanied by some flute before Thomas and the guitars kick in. We go into a acoustic picking pattern with Lori before Thomas and Lori come back together this time. There is no real chorus in this song btw. It goes into a rather nifty solo before we go into a heavy guitar riff section with a full on choir backing. More terrific melody lead guitar take us back into the acoustic picking pattern this time backed by the full choir. Thomas and Lori together take us into the second half of the song where it changes and kicks into a ultra fast thrash riff backed by the full choir. Fans of Therion's heavier cuts should really dig this second half of the song. A intense thrash riff section follows before we go into a latin inspired acoustic section. Then some fantastic melody lead guitar follows before the thrash riff returns with the choir. Then we go into a breakdown section with a very sitar like riff that is counterpointed by more lead guitar and a fantastic solo (the new lead guitarist is acquitting himself very well). Now we return back to the main riff from the first section of the song with Thomas and Lori taking us out to the conclusion of the song which takes out on an extended lead guitar part. One of the best songs I have heard this year. 10/10
Unguetum Sabbati-This is a very heavy song. A dark epic choir part starts this out before the heavy riffing kicks in. Snowy takes the lead on this one and while he's not quite growling its pretty close. The riff here is extremely catchy. Lori joins Snowy for the chorus where it mellows out for a few seconds. Horns feature prominently in this song which kind of lends to the overall dark atmosphere of this one. About halfway through we have a guitar and horn section which is different and very cool. The staccato choir and guitar section of the beginning returns and takes us into the second half of the song where we get some absolutely killer thrash riffing here before we go back into the next verse. My biggest issue with this song is that I am just not a fan of Snowy's singing 90% of the time. Its got this wierd metallica quality that bugs the shit out of me. Either he or Lori hits this ridiculous sustained high note in the last minute of this song that is quite amazing. And you have some cool keyboard and guitar melody going on underneath it before the keyboard take us out of the song. A great track but I kinda wish they had Thomas sing this one with Snowy doing only the harsher parts. 8/10
Land of Canaan-I think this is the "epic" of the cd clocking in at just over 10 minutes. It starts with some bells, sitar, and sparse atmospheric drumming. The main riff here is augmented by keyboards and the verse is completely devoid of guitar with just bass, drums, and Lori's soprano to start. After a bit the guitars kick in with a constant lead that seems to wind in and out in and out. They even come out with a double stop guitar bit thats reminscent of Rush's "YYZ". This one is very progressive. A very cool snaking guitar riff appears about 2 minutes in before being taken over by a harmonica and pan flute (no I'm serious). A lazy guitar lead follows before we go into the next part of the song. Here Snowy takes the lead but his voice her sounds more like Mats Leven so I actually dig this. The guitar lead here is incredibly catchy. Then we go into the full choir before coming to another section that sounds like it could be an accordion? Wierd. Thomas and Lori take over this section backed mostly by the accordion with some sparse clean electric picking patterns. Gorgeous singing here by both. A rather peppy keyboard section follows with just Thomas singing over top of it. Eventually Snowy takes over and his voice really doesn't work with that section. Its mercifully short. Then we go into another break down with dark ominous lazy riffs before going back to the peppy keyboard and Thomas. Again Snowy comes back in but this time the ominous dark breakdown is augmented by the full choir. The choir takes us into a variation of the peppy section before but this time its only base and flute but no keyboard. Lori takes over instead of Thomas. Now we go into a very odd section indeed with just drums and the choir humming (yes I'm serious). Then we head into the finale with a fantastic counterpoint section with Lori, the choir and Snowy all weaving in and out and the full band playing a epic melody I can't begin to describe. Fantastic finish. The song goes on a bit long but its hard not to love the effort they put into this incredibly rich song. 9/10
Hellequin- The main melody of this song welcomes us in a orchestra format. Before Thomas and Lori take us into the song proper with the full band. In an unusual move we start with the chorus and go into the verse. Thomas sings this one with some occasional black metal screams by Snowy that I think suit this one much better. This song is pretty straight forward. There is some cool bass singing in this track which is rare to hear anymore. The overall melody of this track while basic and repetative is very good and catchy. The song slows down at the halfway point going into an airy atmospheric section featuring a cool lead guitar part and Lori and the choir at counterpoint. Then we get a very Emerson Lake and Palmer style keyboard break before going into a heavier riff with the choir and the bass (I take it he is playing the "role" of Hellequin). Thomas takes us out to the end break of the song which is an awesome acappela rendition of the chorus. A great song but compared to the rest of the disc its a little bland. 7/10
2012- One of the shorter cuts on the disc. Starts with the guitar. And whats cool here is we get to hear Peter Karlsson (from Diablo Swing Orchestra and ex Therion Drummer) Its not Mats Leven but he's quite good. That makes up the bulk of the verse after which we go into a odd little breakdown before heading into the choir backed chorus. The solo here is very very good and we head into the choir backed chorus to finish out the track. Simple and straight forward but a good song. 7/10
Chu Chulain-Another shorter cut. This one starts out with Snowy alternating between growls and occasional black metal screams. The riff doing the verse is quite heavy but it comes down to a epic choir backed chorus. This to me is more reminscent of early Therion and its cool to hear them revisiting that. At about the halfway point a very Van Halenesque riff takes us into another killer guitar solo by the new guy. Then we go into a full acappella version of the chorus before the band comes back in. Lori weaves in and out here and we finish with a little bass bit. 8/10
Kal Yuga III-The third (conclusion?) to the trilogy started on Sirius B. Absolutely sick riff kicks this one off. This one will stick in your head for days. Thomas starts things off here augmented by the choir. Then it breaks down and we get Lori's fantastic soprano accompanied by the choir before we go into the chorus. Which features an awesome spiraling riff. Thomas kicks things up a notch here doing his best attempt at a power metal vocal and doing a pretty nice job. Then we get a really odd Manheim Steamroller like break that is probably the only bad thing about the song but its only a couple seconds before we go back into the choir and staccato piano finishes this one off. Short but complicated and amazing. Fantastic. 10/10
The Shells Are Open-This odd little track is short. Starts with some sort of polka esque accordion, bass and drum action. Full choir comes in and finally the guitar comes in and we get a rather ominous full choir bit that while cool is also a little boring. Then we get a bass/baritone section with drums and flute thats extremely reminscent of something from Secret of the Runes. Then the choir comes back in with a sparse arrangement that sounds like it could be just drums and maybe harp. Then the ominous chorus returns and the bit reminscent of Secret of the Runes returns and repeats twice to take us out of the song. A bit of an oddball and not one of the best tracks. 6/10
Din-My other favorite track off the album. Snowy sings this one and its sung almost entirely in black metal style for the chorus. The music here is almost identical to what Christoffer did with Demonoid which means its insanely thrashy and fucking heavy as hell. The pre chorus is sung by Snowy doing his best King Diamond impression and its badass. Then we go into a full death metal mode (complete with blast beats) for the chorus. The choir sticks around singing underneath Snowy's black metal screams for the next verse. This continues and the riffing here is just absolutely insane. More King Diamondesque vocals and the death metal riff returns and takes us out to an abrupt and ass kicking finish. Absolutely fucking awesome. 10/10
After the Inquisition: Children of the Stone- Another odd ball track except this one is longer. We start with a somewhat wild west acoustic bit. A serene choir starts this one off then we have a children's choir singing the verse backed by organ and keyboard. The male choir takes over and the drum and flute take over the music side of things. We get some lovely string action in the middle before going back into a third repetition of the chorus/verse setup. This is a lovely track but its very boring and repetative. At about the 2 and a half minute mark things change up into a more upbeat choir exchange between the male and children's choirs. We get an extended bit of flute and string. Then we have the children's choir and the flute with sparse drums take us out of the song. The finale is epic and incredible but its a bit to little to late. This one just goes on to long and doesn't have enough going on. Its uplifting and gorgeous ending doesn't really save it. 6/10.
Overall score: 89/110 which is like just above 8 out of 10. Is it as good as Gothic Kaballah? No. Is it better than Lemuria/Sirius B? Yes. Its also one of the best albums put out this year. Go get it. Especially if you like something different and challenging.
Don't go to Heaven, Cause its really only HELL!- "Don't Talk to Strangers" by Ronnie James Dio
We miss you Ronnie...