Therion – Leviathan III (Napalm Records)

Friday, 15th December 2023
Rating: 8 / 10

Ambitious is an apt word that would describe Therion mastermind Christofer Johnsson when it comes to the depth of his work for this act. 35 years under his belt, many musicians have shuffled through, but the strong combination of heavy metal with symphonic, gothic, and orchestral elements continues in this final album of the latest trilogy Leviathan III. Jumping over to Napalm Records can be a bold move when the previous installments over the past two years came out under the Nuclear Blast fold – but those who have always had a hankering for the broad, theatrical nature to the performances and compositions will be very appeased through these songs.

The female / male duality of vocals from soprano singer Lori Lewis and renowned ex-Candlemass vocalist Thomas Vikström keeps the kaleidoscope of options free solely based on the atmosphere or direction of each arrangement. When needing a broader, far-reaching or animated form of expression, you get the versatility present on “Ruler of Tamag”, only to follow with a more traditional, Judas Priest meets Ozzy-like riff framework in the guitar department from Christian Vidal and Johnsson for the vibrant “An Unsung Lament”, where the supplementary left to right choir action plus stunted tempo transition allures in hypnotic splendor. Previous members Piotr Wawrzeniuk and Mats Levén make vocal appearances as supplementary spices to the mix, but the overall nature of the record aligns more to the expected symphonic, operatic metal with large orchestration/choir motions front of house – the songwriting filled with excitement, tension, drama yet never too over the top to lose the plot hook-wise. The diversity of epic material such as the Egyptian-flavored “Ayahuasca” next to quicker, more energetic numbers like “Baccanale” or the classical, acoustic to electric piece “Duende” should ensure maximum front to back playback without any sense of ear fatigue. The finale “Twilight of the Gods” possesses a bit of a Tony Martin-esque Black Sabbath flavor musically, while the operatic choir parts extend the throwback nature – hundreds of years of influences all converging as one.

For this scribe, Therion were at their best during the Theli through Secret of the Runes studio album period – since then, certain releases have been as strong while others a bit weaker. Leviathan III sits more in that former category, an album that will appeal to their wide reaching global fanbase while hopefully gaining some new followers to the flock.

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