Having successfully navigated their way around the many obstacles and challenges thrust into their path by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, Christofer Johnsson and his Swedish symphonic act Therion return with their seventeenth studio album Leviathan (Nuclear Blast).
At first glance beneath the Amon Amarth style artwork, it might appear Johnsson and co. are taking a more stripped down and focused approach than on 2018’s rather unwieldy Beloved Antichrist (Nuclear Blast). However, on closer inspection, it seems that this latest release is actually the first of another series of three records.
An enjoyable, if relatively standard Therion record, Leviathan explores Celtic, Finnish, Toltec/Aztec, Chinese and old Germanian mythologies, and features a few guest appearances along the way. ‘The Leaf on the Oak of Far’ kicks things off, a basic rock riff which quickly develops into the classic Therion sound incorporating all the usual choral and orchestral elements. Former Nightwish bassist/vocalist Marko Hietala appears on the dramatic and melancholy ‘Tuonela’ while the title track is pleasant enough if a little underwhelming.
‘Die Wellen Der Zeit’ (“The Waves of Time”) is a sweeping ballad so aquatic in nature you can virtually taste the sea spray, while ‘Aži Dahāka’ features a fast-paced gallop riff and superb operatic vocals, and wouldn’t have sounded out of place on either Deggial or Vovin (Nuclear Blast). ‘Eye of Algol’ possesses an insistent and defiant riff, its driving rhythm making this one of the most exciting tracks on the record.
‘Nocturnal Light’ switches between smooth and rough before the powerful surge of ‘Great Marquis of Hell’ takes over, its chorus leaning heavily on Hammerfall‘s ‘Glory to the Brave’. ‘Psalm of Retribution’ and ‘El Primer Sol’ sound like anything from the last few Therion albums without really making an impression, but closer ‘Ten Courts of Diyu’ features a distinct Far Eastern feel and closes the album in style.
Operatic vocalists Lori Lewis and Chiara Malvestiti acquit themselves well, as does former Candlemass and Yngwie Malmsteen singer Mats Levén. In fact, every contribution is nothing short of exemplary. It’s just unfortunate that such an obviously well crafted, orchestrated and performed release fails to live long in the memory and lacks any genuine and prolonged bombast or urgency. Lethargic rather than exhilarating, comfortable rather than challenging, Leviathan might wish to return to different eras of the band’s storied history for inspiration but the band’s self-imposed high standards just prove a little too much this time.