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Therion - "Sitra Ahra" (CD)

Therion - "Sitra Ahra" CD cover image

"Sitra Ahra" track listing:

1. Introduction/Sitra Ahra (5:24)
2. Kings Of Edom (8:51)
3. Unguentum Sabbati (5:10)
4. Land Of Canaan (10:32)
5. Hellequin (5:18)
6. 2012 (4:16)
7. Cú Chulainn (4:16)
8. Kali Yuga, Pt. 3 (3:41)
9. The Shells Are Open (3:44)
10. Din (2:37)
11. After The Inquisition: Children Of The Stone (7:22)

Reviewed by on October 18, 2010

"Therion’s latest album shows a great deal of musical proficiency, but it unfortunately falls short of providing the magic that made the band’s earlier works such standout examples of how melody can be blended with metal."

The name Therion has been synonymous with symphonic metal for more than a decade, combining orchestra and choir with power metal over a slight base of death metal. Over time the death metal aspects have declined, and the band has gone a much more Gothic route. “Sitra Ahra” isn’t quite as over the top as its predecessor, essentially splitting the difference between the bombastic “Gothic Kabbalah” and the slightly more grounded “Lemuria/Sirius B.”

In the general tradition of “Gothic Kaballah,” the album is filled to the brim with clean, operatic vocals of both the male and female variety. Diverging from earlier albums in the band’s discography, the singing isn’t as consistently epic, using several different styles that provide a more straightforward delivery. On the whole, it seems like Therion has lost that spark of something special that was prevalent in the days of “Theli,” “Vovin,” and even “Deggial.” Therion fans who adored “Gothic Kaballah” may love the album, but anyone who longs for the consistent symphonic nature of previous albums or more cohesion between songs will be let down.

Consistency is the biggest problem to be found here. The intro to the title track uses the occult feel and epic backing drum beat that brings to mind some of Therion’s best offerings, and a guitar riff keeps that feeling going. It’s not long, however, before the album becomes plagued by an overabundance of ideas that don’t all necessarily match each other.

The second track “Kings of Edom” has some interesting guitar play, but overall shows where the band is floundering. The song is repetitive and a little uninspired, using basic mid-paced beats and male vocals that don’t hold up for the whole length. Topping it off, the female vocals are frankly rather boring and lifeless.

“Land of Canaan” is where the album stops any semblance of coherent song structure and just decides to try out modern art. It’s essentially the musical equivalent of splashing different cans of paint on a canvas and hoping to get a masterpiece. There’s psychedelic aspects, Eastern influences, harmonicas, segments that sound like they belong in a musical movie, and a host of weirdly upbeat sections. It’s trying very hard to be progressive, which is the exact opposite of what a progressive song should do. “Hellequin” falls prey to the same problem, throwing in ‘70s prog rock style pipe organs for no other reason than to try to mesh together different styles. While individual portions of the album are stellar, and single songs on their own can be great listens, the album as a whole just doesn’t work together.

To really understand what’s happened to Therion’s sound, listen to “Sitra Ahra” and then listen to “Theli” and “Vovin.” Even though those albums aren’t as well produced and don’t have as many elements, they are still far better at evoking an emotional response from an audience and holding a listener’s attention for their entire run times. Therion’s latest album shows a great deal of musical proficiency, but it unfortunately falls short of providing the magic that made the band’s earlier works such standout examples of how melody can be blended with metal.

Highs: Less over the top than the last album, has a few moments that really bring to mind the earlier epic albums.

Lows: Entirely inconsistent, and tries too hard to mesh different styles that don't flow together.

Bottom line: Fans of the "Gothic Kabbalah" album will probalby enjoy this, but it's entirely too inconsistent to be a standout Therion release.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)