The dark and melancholic monster: Review of Therion’s new album “Leviathan II”

Author Julia Suloinen - 17.11.2022

Metamorphoses that Therion‘s music has experienced throughout the years are one of the most drastic and notable in metal industry. Therefore, when Therion‘s mastermind Christofer Johnsson announced the idea of creating an album trilogy where all 50 shades of Therion‘s music would be represented, it didn’t sound as pretentious as it was supposed to for me, vice versa – it did sound like something natural. So, the quintessence of Therion in three acts was given its name after a gigantic mythological monster Leviathan, being the courtesy to occultism as the band’s musical journey leitmotif in more than 30 years of their existence. Each “monster” was burdened with the glorious purpose of representing a certain facet of Therion‘s music. The predecessor of the current album, “Leviathan I” was all about blasting hits and catchiness. The new “Leviathan II” is designed to deliver us back to the darkest, gloomiest, and most melancholic era of Therion. So, let`s take a look!

The ultimate sources of inspiration for “Leviathan II” were, obviously, late 90`s-early 00`s albums, starting “Vovin”(1988). The first energetic-tempo story about the Egyptian goddess of justice, “Aeon of Maat”, in less than 3 minutes manages to throw at us everything we know and love Therion for – moody solemness of the choir, shrillness of the lead voices, piercing guitar solo, the general presence of something mysteriously grandiose. Even though the song ends all of a sudden, the mysterious grandioseness doesn’t fade away and is poured on us in even bigger volume in the next one, Satan appreciation song “Litany Of the Fallen”, where tension escalates in the best tradition of classical “Carmina Burana” cantata. 

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The promised lullaby-ish melancholy feels like arguing with catchy proggy rhythm in “Alchemy Of The Soul”, where a touching violin consistently tries to break through the guitar riffs. “Lunar Coloured Fields” is a soft ballad that starts like “Dance of Sugar Plum Fairy” by Tchaikovsky and then spiritually goes on like Mozart’s “Lacrimosa”, thanks to the doleful choir parts, while the highest soprano octaves try to reach out right to your soul and make it dissolve in this lunar light. Fast-tempo of “Lucifuge Rofocale” will make you feel like someone is chasing you, aggressive male vocals will hint that the intentions are not good at all, and the mesmerizing repetitiveness of a male choir will reveal that you end up witnessing some dark mass. And the icing on the cake here is a badass guitar solo. Gotta say I truly liked how all available palette of Therion voices is used here. And I, generally, like how vivid the music is on “Leviathan II”, as the images you have in your head while listening come so effortlessly. The same goes for the next song, “Marijin Min Nar”, where the diversity of voices together with the symphonic orchestration vortex in the oriental fusion, and, you know, I would feel that this story was about djinns even without seeing the title and even if the voices were just hitting these harmoinies lyriclessly

“Hades and Elysium” is a ballad where 70s-infused guitars together with a very estranged choir and high-octave solo soprano tell a beautifully dark story about the ancient afterlife kingdom. The brutally sorrowful “Midnight Star” is marked by a whole verse of Russian language lyrics in the song, which is very brave in nowadays realities, when Russian culture is being canceled. In “Cavern Cold As Ice”, despite the great unpredictableness of the song that marvelously interlaces doom slowness with the ABBA-like vocal melodies and gentle flute with the powerful guitar riffs, one thing drew my attention and brought to the insight. This song, disregarding some objective pluses, sounds a bit blank and one-dimensional, and it is surely due to the production, which is, let’s say, extremely controversial and makes all songs on the album, frankly speaking, sound like demos.

The opening funeral doom vibe of “Codex Gigas” develops into one of the brightest and epic hits on the album, where choral verse and harsh male leading voice in the chorus produces the expressive tension, underlined by the cluttering guitar rhythm. The closing song for the album, “Pazuzu”, was introduced to the audience as a single before the album release. It is definitely a hit-song as well, with a slight gothic-rock touch, soft symphonic passages and with Eclipse‘s vocalist, Erik Mårtensson, singing the verse lyrics. Be sure that Erik adds some recklessness to the mysterious pathos of the song, and I am glad that the version where Erik sings the whole song, not just the verse, can also be found on the album, as there is “AOR version” of “Pazuzu”.

To sum up, I wanna say that “Leviathan II” perfectly fits into the modern cultural tendency of remakes and sequels. I bet, every one of us has some favorite movie from the 80s-90s which has suddenly gotten a sequel or remake in recent years, and even if it turned out to be not so bad – it was still objectively worse than the original thing, for loads of reasons. Ironically, even if it was made by the same director, who ragefully swore to bring back the original story in its absolute. “Leviathan II” concentrates entirely on the voices, which are responsible for the whole atmosphere, and it is truly a classical Therion atmosphere, we are all used to; a little less it concentrates on orchestral symphonies, while the rest of the music – metal music! – is left far behind. Is it done on purpose to amplify the authenticity and create an “archaic” sound or is it just a poor production – these questions are left rhetorical.

My, unapologetically subjective, opinion would be: “Leviathan II” is still good, but that’s only because I’m a sucker for everything occult and mysterious, and this is, undoubtedly, Therion‘s territory. Yet, if we go back to the movie metaphor – this album is just background music, not even the major theme, and, for sure, not the official soundtrack.