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It ain't over till the fat lady sings - 95%

chaxster, May 24th, 2008

Not all supergroups deliver, this much we've seen. I mean, you'd think getting a bunch of hugely talented musicians and throwing them into a room together would result in some fantastic output (or at least some great punch-ups), but it often turns out that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

This one isn't like that. It's a chore trying to summarise Therion for those who aren't familiar with them yet – starting out as a death metal band with some progressive elements, they've now morphed into a full-blown symphonic metal opera outfit. And don't even go into their lineup – judging by all the ins and outs that keep happening, it looks more like some open-source project than an actual band. All you need to know is that there are enough people contributing here to have their own football team, substitutes and all.

Full-strength squad or disguised unemployment, then? Well, when you're doing the kind of stuff these guys do, it's a big thing that you commit to the cause. It'd be easier to go halfway and then start taking the piss, being all “Hey, it was tongue in cheek, you know? We're cooler than that, come on!”. Anyway, cool or not, these guys come across like they fully believe in what they're doing, and at the end of the day, that sells it.

This shit sounds grand. It's the kind of thing Metallica desperately hoped S&M would end up sounding like. And it's not just some 'orchestra theme + voiceovers – cut to metal riff' hack formula. Everything interacts organically with everything else, savage guitars clawing for space, brass sections pushing back, string sections nimbly claiming the remaining room while the drums hammer down the groove and vocals soar over and rumble below the din. Despite this description sounding like a cacophonous mess, it's anything but. It's actually an intricately orchestrated drama with everyone chiming in when their parts are on, but it's handled so masterfully that you get sucked in all the way, appreciating every little detail of the tapestry it creates.

Of the two CDs, the first is the more piss and vinegar, using Mats Levens' steel-lunged delivery and Snowy Shaw's gravelly rumble, juxtaposing them with operatic sopranos and tenors for full effect. The second reins back the tempo to create a more laidback atmosphere but, in the middle, throws all that out of the window to unleash the pure fury of TOF: Trinity on everyone. It's a long haul going through both, but unsurprisingly you don't really feel that. If you like your metal sincere, ballsy and willing to take risks, this should go down extremely well.