Vera : A new Therion album always demands a profound investigation; by ingenious composer Cristofer Johnsson as well as by me, before writing down my impressions. The music of the Swedish symphonic metal band appears to be multilayered and the baroque melodies demand your ultimate concentration. Only then, it seems that they have an ingenious catchiness after a few spins. When more and more parts become familiar, a bond with the new music is about to be created. That's what happened with 'Sitra Ahra' once again!
It always made me wonder how Cristofer Johnsson manages to classify his new born compositions in a slightly mathematic order and put them on a shelf for a certain album. With this album we have arrived at the fourth and last album of a quadralogy and most of these songs have been written during the sessions for 'Sirius B' and 'Lemuria'. A direct link is the song 'Kali Yuga III'. However, do not see these songs as leftovers, these are proper Therion songs that had to mature like vintage wine. The first encounter with 'Sitra Ahra' is impressive, that's what I want to put first.
Many words have been written about the new musicians, helping Cristofer out on this musical adventure. In brief: Thomas Vikström (once known from Candlemass) is recruited as new permanent vocalist and besides a fine rock singer, he appears to be a classical trained tenor. Snowy Shaw has also decided to stay. A new Swedish rhythm section has been invigorated by the Argentinean guitarist Christian Vidal who recorded guitar solos for this album, while Waldemar Sorychta contributed with preproduction and most of the rhythm guitars. On the upcoming tour, he will be the live session bassist. The album is recorded in a new home studio, but it was mixed by Lennart Östlund at the infamous Polar Studios (Led Zeppelin, Abba).
The title track invites us with high-shrieked opera chants and smooth rocking symphonic rock. This album brims with massive choirs: male, female and even a child's choir in the last track. Most of the songs have a solid guitar base, now and then some melodic solos pop up, but classical music and a kind of progressiveness prevail. That's what we learn in the nine minutes long 'Kings Of Edom' with its gentle acoustic guitar interludes. 'Unguentum Sabbati' has an infectious downwards crescendo that reminds me of 'Echoes' from Pink Floyd. It is the main melody of this doom-like song. A magnificent highlight is the ten minutes long epic 'Land Of Canaan'. So much is happening here, words cannot describe this opulence of ideas. What can we think of a sober beginning with percussion and harpsichord, while later on harmonica and flutes are featured and again later an accordion regales those typical Therion sounds. But also vocal-wise, this epos pulls out all the stops: choirs or solo spots; it is a real adventure to listen to.
A cello opens 'Hellequin', but an acceleration with pithy choirs leaps more to the eye. Catchy guitar chords feature '2012', in the symphonic part violins appear in the front, but the guitar solo is beautiful too. The choir has a very catchy - and familiar sounding - melody in 'Cu Chulain'. In 'The Shells Are Open', the musical backbone is again very open and accessible, but voluminous choirs add a solemn tinge. The short and fast 'Din' has any blackened influences (raucous vocals), even if we hear any high-pitched shrieks à la Halford as well. To occlude we have the calm, contemplative 'After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone' which persists a gentle timbre with flute, acoustic guitars and childlike choirs. It remains rather slow and has a progressive touch. Now and then we hear vintage organ on this record and the spirit of the seventies surely rules, yet in that typical Therion way. The execution of this new bundle of ideas of Cristofer Johnsson is a musical journey that will fascinate many people for hours (the album itself is more than one hour long). Top notch quality!