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Therion has a long history of writing really fun, mature, and kickass heavy metal. I always worry that maybe their next release might be a flop. Maybe they might pull an In Flames and release something like Nightwish. Or maybe they'll just keep on kicking ass while the guys in Nightwish keep wondering why they can't keep up with Therion's originality.
There is nothing cliché in this album. It is as simple as that. Therion manages to pull of just over 80 minutes of complete originality, and while it is more accessible than some of their other albums, it is still Therion. It is still the operatic mythological metal that Therion continues to invent. And to think, they still haven't released the third album that was to accompany Sirius B / Lemuria. The Perennial Sophia for example, is the best Therion ballad so far. They might release a better one in the future, and I honestly hope they do, but for now this will suffice. It isn't boringly long like Siren of the Woods, but at the same time it isn't way too short. I don't fall asleep during it, even when trying to fall asleep, as the soft break soon ends with Snowy Shaw's voice kicking in with a "Yawwww!" at the beginning of The Wisdom and the Cage.
Kristian Niemann is one of the best guitarists of our time, and he seems extremely comfortable standing with the ranks of Therion. His solos are unlike any I have ever heard. They are intricate, memorable, technical, and they stick on the mind like a tiny magnet onto a giant magnet. Listening to this release not only gets songs stuck in my head, but the entire solo, and I often find myself air-guitaring to them even if something totally different is playing.
Then there are the riffs. These riffs are more uplifting than Dragonforce, without the cheese, and manage to keep their originality. I don't hear very many influences in them, perhaps Iron Maiden and other classic metal bands, but beyond that it seems to me that Therion is the influencer, not influencee. These riffs are fast, catchy, technical, everything that makes a heavy freaking metal album heavy freaking METAL!
Then there are the riffs. Not guitar riffs... Drum riffs. Petter Karlsson's drum riffs to be exact. These provide a heavy metallic backbone to Therion. The drumming is the best Therion drumming to date. From trots, to gallops, to double bass aural assault, they add a whole new dimension to the music. Trul is the highlight of the album's drumwork. Trul on its own is a headbanging masterpiece, but the drumming adds a celtic tribal feel, a folk influence that rockets this song to the status of "Classic".
The bass riffs complement the album like steak sauce on a steak. They provide a bold strength to the guitar riffs, and keep the song moving during the solo. Unlike most metal albums, the bass is actually audible, and is mixed in extremely well considering the massive array of sounds Therion produces.
The symphonic elements, the vast array of orchestral elements mixed in with heavy metal, provides a mythological atmosphere that Therion strives and succeeds in achieving. It boggles my mind that this band can produce so much material that surpasses Howard Shore's work as a modern composer.
The vocals need no introduction, unless you are a Therion newbie. Therion has been combining operatic vocals with heavy metal since 1992 with their classic song Symphony of the Dead. Back then, they didn't dominate the music like they did now. However, another element is added in with the operatic vocals. There is no longer "just" operatic vocals, but a vast array of vocal styles that fully explore the vocal talent of four beautiful voices. Two female and two male, both have their own moments as a lead vocalist as well as a backing operatic voice. In my opinion, the vocals is what makes this album so great, without such powerful voices, The Perennial Sophia would be boring as most beautiful instrumentals are. I couldn't possibly get into many of the songs if there were "just" operatic vocals either. The riffs would still be catchy, but the vocals on this album are so varied and interesting, that there is not a single dull moment throughout the entire eighty point five minutes of this album. They are the driving force of Therion, and I only hope that they continue to utilize this potent combination of operatic vocals with every other vocal style that has revolutionized music in the past sixty years. I hear influences from 1940's era jazz, as well as folk, blues, and genres I can't even name.
Finally there are the lyrics. The meanings behind those beautiful words sung in Perennial Sophia tell stories of legends that span thousands of years ago. Therion is not only influenced by heavy metal legends from the 70's and 80's. Therion is not only influenced by genres from as far back as the 1940's. Therion is influenced by the legends that formed the centerpiece of many cultures 3,000 years ago and beyond. Furthermore, their songs tell stories of treasure hunts and adventure on top of the ancient myths.
I give this a 100. I've only given that to only one other album, Wolfheart by Moonspell, but by comparison that album is a 67. This would get a 200 if allowed, a 100 for each disc. Unless Therion releases another album this year, there is no way another album will come along and top this one. There have been some gemstones too, Dark Tranquillity's Fiction, etc... but this is a dragon's hoard of gemstones.
The highlights of this album are as follows: Der Mitternachtlöwe, Gothic Kabbalah, The Perennial Sophia, Wisdom and the Cage, Son of the Staves of Time, Tuna 1613, Trul, Close up the Streams, The Wand of Abaris, Three Treasures, Path to Arcady, TOF - The Trinity, Chain of Minerva, The Falling Stone, Adulruna Rediviva.......... but if I were to pick from four of those, I'd have to say TOF- The Trinity, The Perennial Sophia, Trul, and The Falling Stone.