Originally written by Erik Thomas
Therion have always been ambitious and now with the 2 album release (the albums are not available separately) of Lemuria/Sirius B, Christofer Johnsson and Co. have outdone themselves. That’s not to say this is really my thing, as I’m one of the few people that think …Of Darkness is Therion’s best release and really haven’t given their discography since much thought, but for fans of operatic symphonic metal this is probably a no brainer. Over an hour and a half of music, 21 tracks and more orchestration (courtesy of the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra), choirs and pomp than a Royal wedding. Of course those who don’t enjoy large bouts of overbearing operatic metal may get queasy at this vast affair, but it can at least be appreciated as an ambitious artistic venture.
Personally, of the two, Lemuria stands apart as the better of the two efforts with a few more competent, complete tracks. It may be because I listened to Lemuria first and by the time I get half way through Sirius B, I’m pretty drained and had my fill of choirs and operatics, but realistically the songs on Sirius B are slightly less dynamic and to these ears overdrawn and tired.
Right off the bat (if you start with Lemuria), “Typhon” should at least get a brief rise out of classic Therion fans with an initial return to death metal vocals (from Johansson) amid the usual female heavy majesty and power metal structures. “Uthark Runa” is the first appearance of vocalist Mats Leven (Krux, Yngwie Malmsteem), whose power metal voice I found grating, and the fact he appears more on Sirius B may contribute to my lack of joy for that part of this dual effort. Even though not a huge Therion fan, I will admit the duo of “Three Ships of Berik, Pt. 1: Calling to Arms and Fighting the Battle”, and “Three Ships of Berik, Pt. 2: Victory!” is sheer musical bliss and as catchy as orchestrated symphonics can sound, again bolstered by Johansson’s welcome death growl. “Lemuria” is a vocal tour de force as guest singers Piotr Wawrzeniuk (Carbonized, Serpent) and Alto voice Ulrika Skarby show themselves to be the cream of the guest musician crop with their somber vocal interplay. Wawrzeniuk resurfaces to lace the ballad “The Dream of Swedenborg” with his silky voice, but he can’t drag it from sonic lethargy and a flatline emotive aura. When I think “An Arrow From the Sun” is going to bury me in more slow dirges, it kicks out some of the album’s catchiest, haunting material that briefly has me pretty impressed with Therion’s material despite their reliance on overblown theatrics and incomprehensible Sumerian lyrical themes.
The lengthier songs of Sirius B take some patience to wade through, even more so after the mildly impressive Lemuria, but to be honest it’s just another 57 minutes of the same. There’s noticeable lack of variety on Sirius B’s material and it all seems to tread a symphonic rock territory that glosses up mid paced rock power metal with multiple layers of orchestration and choirs, and when those elements are peeled away, there’s not much left in the form of decent music. It’s like that hot babe that takes all her make-up off and is suddenly less appealing than when dressed to the nines. “The Khlysti Evangelist” starts with some beautiful muted opera, but only reverts to the Mats Leven led power rock that I found irritating. Sirius B just seemed to lack the character and actual atmosphere of Lemuria, while obviously loaded with a plethora of instrumentation and orchestration, it seems superficial and piecemeal rather than the stoic grandeur of Lemuria. “Kali Yuga Pt 1” hints at being the second album’s 2 song centerpiece, but instead introduces industrial, mechanized riffing and robotic vocals, a sound that sounds disjointed when compared to the natural, lush sound Therion have perfected and is more prevalent and exploited for “Pt 2”. The meandering “The Wondrous World of Punt” bores rather than engrosses with its flamenco flourish and dreamy pacing while “Melek Taus” is catchy but utterly shallow without the layers of orchestrated splendor. The epic horns of “Call of Dagon” and the pleasing upbeat pace of “Voyage of Gurdjieff (The Fourth Way)” are the album’s only two highlights, but they are too late to save Sirius B from bottoming out with a simple musical lassitude. With Johansson’s gruff vocal reprise on Lemuria, the album had some duality that gave it some oomph amid the pure sonic lavishness, but Sirius B just seems like a tired, excessive display of opulence without depth. I’d much rather buy a Three Tenors album if I were to indulge in classical music, as Sirius B makes no pretensions of being the less metal of the two efforts.
Of course the whole affair is lavishly produced and laden with polish, but often, it only serves to give some rudimentary metal a thick coat of superficial artistry that does mask a lack of musical ideas with overbearing orchestration that while well implemented and superbly rendered, sometimes seems like window dressing.
You have to admire Therion’s sense of scope and ambition, but I think a double album was too much to crank out, and as much as I endure heavily orchestrated music (Green Carnation, Subterranean Masquerade), Therion are just a little too haughty for me and their metal element isn’t as fleshed out as I’d like. Still fans for the band’s prior work should absolutely pick up this double album and drink deep of its profligacy.