In a surprise turn of events, Symphonic Metal pioneers Therion are about to unleash a double covers album with a difference. This two disc extravaganza includes a first disc comprising mainly covers of classic rock and Metal bands by Therion themselves, along with two very special covers of Therion tracks by the enigmatic artist Ivanubis Hollanda. The second disc consists entirely of covers of older Therion songs by a range of relatively unknown bands. Most of the bands on the second disc could fairly be said not to have the recognition they currently deserve, so one can hope they get noticed as part of this very interesting release.
Given the variety of songs covered, and bands appearing on the album, the quality of the experience is variable – but is mostly on the positive side for sure. The first disc opens with Therion’s cover of Metallica’s classic Fight Fire with Fire. The docile string introduction builds into crushingly heavy riffing that easily outdoes the original. Thomas Vikstrom’s vocals have a more urgent feel to them than James Hetfield’s, though he does emulate Hetfield’s attitude very well, with the addition of some darker growls. By comparison with the Metallica version, the solos are more accomplished, as well as standing out more in the mix.
The tone changes significantly with the cover of Accept’s The King, which is led by the gorgeous vocals of Lori Lewis, accompanied by mournful, introspective piano. The guitars and drums are kept to a minimum through this downbeat track, with even the more stirring chorus expressed mainly through the piano. In terms of the covers performed by Therion, this is arguably the strongest on the album.
Next up for the Therion treatment is Thin Lizzy’s Southbound. Lewis continues to be front and centre, with her lovely vocals interplaying well with the 70s rock ‘n’ roll riffs. The use of modern guitar tone with the 40-year old riffs is quite interesting, and the song comes across as slower than might be expected.
Venom’s Witching Hour naturally requires a heavier approach, with deep, guttural vocals and plenty of double-kick. Nalle “Grizzly” Påhlsson’s bass is very prominent in the mix, with fast-paced guitars and drums underneath. Christofer Johnsson and Christian Vidal deliver intense guitars, though they reach the point of almost becoming confused and cacophonic towards the end of the track.
Therion get back to straight-up 80s riffing with Judas Priest’s Green Manalishi, delivering a clean, solo-laden, stadium rock sound. Naturally, Vikstrom shows off his amazing vocal range with mind-bendingly high notes, as well as artfully delivering Rob Halford’s punk-inspired attitude.
The next few covers are live recordings, with the first two in particular being fairly fuzzy when it comes to quality. The first is a very faithful cover of Iron Maiden’s Revelations, with the crowd going absolutely crazy throughout. This is followed by a cover of Mercyful Fate’s iconic Black Funeral, with Vikstrom tackling King Diamond’s high notes while the lower parts and growls are covered by Messiah Marcolin of Candlemass. The song is a little chaotic in the beginning, but pulls together very well, with the later solos handled exceptionally by Johnsson and Vidal.
Another very faithful cover is that delivered of Motorhead’s Iron Fist, with Vikstrom performing a surprisingly accurate tribute to Lemmy Kilmister. This recording is better than the previous two, a great presentation for the fast and bass-driven song.
The live tracks are followed by the only two covers of Therion on the first disc, performed by the spellbinding Ivanubis Hollanda. The first of these is Perennial Sophia, filled with classical guitars and other beautiful string arrangements. Hollanda’s vocals are incredibly smooth, and he handles Johnsson’s operatic parts with aplomb. Overall, this track and the following one, Ravens of Dispersion, could quite conceivably be heard in a mediaeval court. Ravens of Dispersion introduces deep, monastic vocals, and in some parts of the song becomes a touch unsettling in its psychedelic spirituality. There are still plenty of beguiling beautiful parts to the song however, and it’s quite worth purchasing this album just for this duo of covers by Hollanda.
The second disc consists of covers of classic Therion songs by 16 different bands. The first of these is Ghost Warfare, a self-styled Occult Metal band from Bulgaria who perform a deeply compelling version of An Arrow from the Sun. The track is led by the high operatic vocals of Ganiela Ganeva, with deep backing vocals from Dimitar Naydev and Georgy Latev. The verses on the other hand are performed by a choir, providing a very interesting effect. The track provides a wonderful combination of fascinating vocals, riff-driven heaviness, and beautiful piano.
The classic Asgard is covered by Leipzig’s Antyra, who present the song with pounding drums and an overwhelmingly dense guitar attack. The operatic vocals are tackled appreciably, along with backing by a choir to provide great interplay between clean vocals and underlying growls.
A much heavier presentation comes from Athens-based Death Metal band Revolted Masses, who perform Baal Reginon. The track switches between the dualistic traditional Death Metal approaches of unrelenting speed and deep, pounding, ominous heaviness. The roots of Thrash Metal within Death Metal are clearly apparent in this track.
Mexico’s Remains contribute their cover of Genocidal Raids with the traditionally under-produced sound of traditional, “true kvlt” Black Metal. For some reason, this seems to include an odd lack of bass in the mix amidst the crunchy guitars and rapid-fire drums. As with Revolted Masses’ work, the Thrash Metal influence on some of Metal’s heavier subgenres is clear here, along the lines of Bathory. Overall however, this is one of the weakest tracks on the album.
Day 40, based in London, take on the task of covering the Invocation of Naamah, producing a dark and ominous track with Death Metal-style guitars over choral backing. While Dilian Arnaudov is capable of very aggressive vocals, his operatic vocals are far more impressive. His vocal range becomes even more apparent as he even introduces stirring Power Metal elements. Den Dimitrov and Venelin Andreev’s melodic Death solos are just right for the song, without going over the top.
The mediaeval atmosphere returns with deep Pagan undertones in Dark Letter’s cover of Kali Yuga Part I. The horror-infused Metal of this Polish band includes an interesting interplay of piano, synths and guitars, with powerful female vocals that cut through the density of the track to create a very cohesive, symphonic performance.
Hailing from the Valencian community in Spain, Whirlwind Storm provide a piano and operatic female vocal-led interpretation of Liusalvheim, with gorgeous harmonies courtesy of Lucía Candela and the slow, understated guitars of David Casanova and Jonatan Pérez.
Russia’s own frostbitten Black Metallers Theosophy bring a cover of Pandemonic Outbreak, with plenty of symphonic elements alongside their dramatic heaviness. The seismic bass of Phantom, also lead vocalist, is particularly noteworthy.
The atmospheric, stirring and declaratory Black Metal continues with Belgium’s Theudho and their cover of Schwarzalbenheim. Things change dramatically however with the Industrial Steampunk stylings of The Experiment no. Q from Italy, who present Seven Secrets of the Sphinx with a faithful rendition of the Middle Eastern flavour of the guitars, and a deep male choir.
One of the absolute standouts however is Moscow’s Imperial Age, Symphonic masters with a dramatic choir and pumping guitars. The shifts between Aor’s harsh and clean vocals are magnificently executed, while the female parts also shift between grungy aggression and beguiling siren wails courtesy of Jane Odintsova and Anna Kiara. The chorus of To Mega Therion comes together with stirring guitars and orchestral parts in absolute exultation, with the song ringing clear, melodic and powerful even in its densest moments.
King Diamond’s influence is clear in the vocals of Sweden’s Elimi, who bring a Thrash-inspired Death Metal approach to The Blood of Kingu. Meanwhile, Bruce Dickinson’s presence is felt in the amazingly powerful vocal stylings of Serbian Numenor’s Despot Marko Miranovic, who leads their cover of The Riders of Theli. However, Miranovic’s vocals do have an edge comparable to the darker side of Power Metal, vis a vis Iced Earth and Jag Panzer. There’s also some absolutely wonderful emotion behind the guitar work of Srdjan Brankovic.
Russian atmospheric Doom Metallers Mare Infinitum deliver a slow, ominous rendition of The Wand of Arabis with hypnotic guitar work. By contrast, the female vocals are light and lilting, while deep growls in the triumphant chorus underscore the harmonies of clean male and female vocals. The instrumental sections are deeply haunting, filled with both hope and melancholy in this diverse and stirring cover.
Russian Metal continues to make its presence felt through Moscow’s Frozen Ocean, presenting possibly the heaviest cover on the album with The Wings of the Hydra. In true atmospheric Metal form, the “band” consists of one man, Vaarwel, who provides incredibly deep growled vocals, heavy guitars and blistering drums. The man has diverse talents however, as he also provides shades of classical guitar and haunting clean vocals.
The second disc draws to a close with the Ukrainian Majesty of Revival and their stirring cover of Wisdom and the Cage. The female vocals are particularly emotive, though the aggressive and tormented male leads ae not to be underestimated. Meanwhile, the synth contributions are somewhat reminiscent of Ayreon.
Majesty Of Revival
Overall, the second disc provides a fascinating excursion through the deep reaches of European Metal, and listeners are sure to find more than a few hidden gems among the artists. Moreover, the compilation reveals the depth and breadth of Therion’s music, and the multiplicity of interpretations it allows. An absolute must for Therion and Symphonic Metal fans alike.
THERION’S ‘BLOOD OF THE DRAGON’ WILL BE RELEASED MARCH 15th!