Therion – Leviathan II Review

Once again, I’m encouragedforced to step in and review a band Steel has been following for centuries. This time, it’s the love-’em-or-hate-’em Therion. You can probably figure out how Steely feels about them by now. Therion and I go way back, but not as far back as the Great Ape because he’s as old as the oil that lubricates my engine. Therion has always been the same bizarre operatic, symphonic enigma. I’ve been an enthusiastic fan, from Vovin to Secrets of the Runes to Lemuria/Sirius B. But after the release of Gothic Kabbalah, I begin to lose interest. With the release of Leviathan II, I revisited the band’s entire discog, and while I hate agreeing with Dumb Druhm, he is right.1 Something along the way fell out of Therion’s songwriting and Beloved Antichrist, in particular, took the more-is-more philosophy way too far. While I enjoyed Leviathan a tad more than the Banhammer, it lacks that energy from the band’s good ole days. But, not one to be negative,2 I jumped into this sequel with the highest of hopes.

I know what you’re thinking: ole Grier‘s about to drop the hammer and crush any hopes you might have had after setting you up with that clickbait. Not yet, as there are plenty of good songs on Leviathan II. Some would say many of them are quite restrained compared to Therion’s typical output. Sure, they’re still suffocated by intricate choirs that build, fall, and intermingle like snakes fucking. But, for me, many of the band’s strongest songs of recent years are the ones where Thomas Vikström does what he does best—take the reins and guide the other voices around him. While I’m not against the creativity of the operatic leads, they seem to be overpowering and complicating songs that could otherwise be more straightforward. Balance is key.

Case in point, “Aeon of Maat.” This opener might end awkwardly, but combining vocal styles, neoclassical guitar leads, and bombastic atmospheres works well. It’s short and sweet and gets the point across without building repetitious layers that go nowhere. But that probably explains why it abruptly ends with no conclusion in sight. Unfortunately, “Alchemy of the Soul” suffers from the discussed problem. Building and falling away to build once more, this song goes on forever with absolutely no direction. By the time it finally climaxes two minutes too late, my patience dissipates, and I couldn’t care less how satisfying the conclusion might be. Similar in length, “Hades and Elysium” plays out a beauty-and-the-beast combination that works magnificently. The hard-hitting keystrokes emphasize the vocal deliveries as the song progresses. And progress it does—over and over with no end in sight. Then, it concludes for no apparent reason.

Positives and negatives in hand, the most significant combination of both infects the last three songs like cancer. The positive is that these three songs are the best on the album. The negative is that the last three songs are the best on the album. Sure, “Litany of the Fallen” and “Hades and Elysium” have some great moments, but you must get through the whole album to find what you want. “Cavern Cold as Ice” is fantastically simple, delivering beefy riffs, marching chugs, and a straightforward soprano performance in the vein of Nightwish. “Codex Gigas” provides airy flute to the sinister guitar plod as Vikström’s powerful vocals charge on. The songwriting stays on track, the vocals are solid and memorable, and the song is both epic and heartbreaking. But “Pazuzu” is the album’s epic finale. Its movie-score orchestration and Mormon Tabernacle-like bombasity make for a fitting conclusion. The tough male vocals push it along, supplying the perfect handoff to guitar solos and builds. But the song’s best part comes in the final minute as it unleashes a deep guitar lick made stronger by the eerie vocals atop it.

Like most of the band’s catalog, Leviathan II suffers from too many ideas all at once. As mentioned, the stronger pieces are those held in check, building layers upon the set foundation. I’m not saying the band should restrict their creativity, but some of the more creative elements of Leviathan II stand out like a sore thumb. Like odd Middle Eastern interludes and James Hetfield vocals with a song conclusion that sounds like The Godfather II. Thankfully, there are no complaints when it comes to album production. Every instrument and every voice are as clear as glass. Unfortunately, I don’t enjoy Leviathan II from beginning to end. There’s either too much fluff or too much weirdness to enjoy certain songs. But I like it better than Leviathan, and there’s just enough to enjoy.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 273 kb/s mp3
Label: Atomic Fire Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Prepare for correction. – Smart Steel
  2. Before you say anything, shut up.
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