Therion emerged on the Swedish scene with "Of Darkness..." (Grind Core), a Celtic Frost-influenced album which took the best of current Eurometal and mixed into it a new perspective on song construction, adding unpredictability to their music and influencing a spawning of European bands. The Therion sound is distinctly European (particular to Northern Europe) consequently this band are almost unknown to North American listeners.
Their earliest works were standard death metal with bad growling singing. Bored, Therion, led by Christofer Johnsson (who handles both guitars and keys), re-invented themselves. They ventured into the arena of Symphonic, Operatic Metal and Johnnson did a film score which partly was included in their magnificent 1996 CD "Arab zaraq lucid dreaming". Johnnson had found his calling in a more melodic driven form of power metal. The songs became more complex and vocals were taken over by choirs. Lyrics changed from environmental/societal to Lovecraftian fantasy. Therion peaked with "Vovin", an absolute masterpiece of symphonic hard rock. Orchestration was added to the music but did not impact on the metal roots of the songs.
"The Crowning of Atlantis" line up is: Christofer Johnsson (guitars, keyboard), Tommy Eriksson (lead and rhythm guitar), Ian Kazda (bass, acoustic guitar), Wolf Simon (drums). This album, released this year, now takes Therion a half step back to their power metal roots. Three live songs are included at the end of the CD, and though the group recreates their dense sound amazingly well live, complete with choir and elaborate keys, these songs are more of the straight ahead thrash variety than the complex melodic material of Vovin.
The CD begins with "The Crowning of Atlantis" (4:58), which picks up where Vovin left off. Metal riffs with thick choir, vibrant strings, and even a touch of Spanish guitar. This segues nicely into "Mark of Caine" (5:01) which begins as a straight rocker with excellent riffs. The song gradually transforms into symphonic lushness, then sharply returns to the power riffs.
"Clavicula Nox" (8:51) has the length to let the band explore. It begins with beautiful, understated piano. The rhythm section crashes in and the song slowly builds to a symphonic masterpiece. This is one of the best pieces Therion or any prog metal band has ever done. Song 4, "Crazy Nights" (3:42) is more an ode to 80’s Scorpions, with Ralf Scheepers on vocals. It’s reasonably good straight ahead metal but not worthy of Therion’s talents.
Fortunately, less than four minutes later, the band’s brilliance is rekindled with "From the Dionysian Days" (3:16), complete with full choir and orchestration. The arrangements are sharp and minimalistic, reminiscent of Phillip Glass and Michael Nyman. There is no other band that makes this type of music.
Track 6, "Thor" (4:47) takes the group back into power riffs and epic metal. The chord structure is unique and very effective and all that is good about Therion is evident in this track. A powerhouse chorus adds dimension to the song. The studio tracks climax with an absolutely beautiful ballad, "Seawinds" (4:23). Though it’s much shorter, Seawinds challenges "Clavicula Nox" as the best song of the CD. For an ex-thrash metal band, Therion writes exquisitely languid melodies.
The last three tracks, "To Mega Therion", "The Wings of the Hydra" and "Black Sun" are vintage Therion from the early nineties, but with the added dimension of choir and key embellishment. But the songs do not compare with the quality of the studio tracks. The most interesting is "Hydra" with a middle eastern influence, but the chorus is a little too grungy and spoils the exotic flavour of the song.
In conclusion, "The Crowning of Atlantis" cannot match the excellence of "Vovin" because the live tracks makes their progression as a musical force seem obsolete. Also, after five or six excellent studio tracks, they are an anti-climatic conclusion to the CD. But in all, "The Crowning of Atlantis" is a worthy addition to the Therion repertoire.