Review 2006 : Therion – Leviathan III – English

The Leviathan trilogy comes to an end for Therion.

Begun in 2021 by the mythical Swedish band composed of Christofer Johnsson (guitar/keyboards, Luciferian Light Orchestra, ex-Carbonized, ex-Messiah), Sami Karppinen (drums, Curse), Nalle « Grizzly » Påhlsson (bass, The Experiment No. Q, Vindictiv), Thomas Vikström (tenor vocals, ex-Candlemass), Christian Vidal (guitar) and Lori Lewis (soprano vocals), ending in 2023 with Leviathan III, released by Napalm Records.

This album also features vocals from Mats Levén (Krux, Vandenberg, ex-Candlemass…) and drums from Snowy Shaw (ex-Mercyful Fate, ex-Notre Dame, ex-Dream Evil…). 

The album gets off to a flying start with the energetic Ninkigal, where howls and majestic choruses quickly mingle, followed by calmer, more melodious parts, which let the vocalist work in between some heavy influences. Saturated vocals reappear before the final, which gives way to Ruler Of Tamag and its gentle sounds, interspersed with solid, catchy passages and heady orchestrations that eventually take control of the track. The band takes a more upbeat approach on An Unsung Lament, a long but accessible track that mixes its majestic base with Pop patterns that slow down and darken, letting the different voices intermingle. The mysterious tones resurface on Maleficium, a composition with complex but perfectly mastered sonorities, whether it is on the Old School rhythmic, the keyboards or the different voices complementing each other, but the track is quite short, and it lets Ayahuasca take over, inviting Piotr Wawrzeniuk, the band’s former drummer/singer, to join the vocalists. The track passes through several more or less motivating phases before reaching a soaring majestic final where bass lays down its melodies before giving way to Baccanale and its aggressive guitars, complemented by energetic drumming and mostly haunting vocals, creating a contrast that the backing vocals manage to tie together naturally. Midsommarblot quickly takes over, adding its dose of catchy riffs under the various layers of vocals that take turns, still leaving plenty of room for leads. What Was Lost Shall Be Lost No More once again returns to the ominous sounds carrying the composition through the soft parts where the female singer leads the dance, but also to the more intense passages led by her male counterpart, while an acoustic guitar appears to introduce Duende, offering a Flamenco interlude before letting a jerky saturation resurface. The track keeps the festive approach grafted onto the instruments and Spanish vocal parts, then Nummo picks up the pace with blasts and complex riffs for just over two minutes of madness. The album draws to a close with Twilight Of The Gods, which once again brings to life the band’s dark and gloomy elements, which take on a whole new dimension with the vocalists’ theatrical interventions, but which also fit in well with the little bursts of energy before the impressive final.

Therion has thought big with its trilogy, but it’s definitely a success. Leviathan III brings this titanic project to a close, while offering more diversified compositions that don’t hesitate to reveal surprising influences. 


Version Française ?

Few questions to Christofer Johnsson, guitarist and creator of the band Therion.

Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Therion without using the usual musical labels?
Christofer Johnsson (guitar): I formed the band in 1987 when I was 15 years old and had played my instrument for only 3 months. It was my first band. From that day and until now, it has been my vessel for realising my musical dreams.

How do you personally link the name Therion to the band’s music identity?
Christofer: It’s just a name. I was a die hard Celtic Frost fan and took the name from their album To Mega Therion when we changed name from Blitzkrieg to Therion in 1988. I guess it really made sense back in the days when CF was our main influence.

The band’s new album, Leviathan III, is nearly out. How do you feel about it? How is the feedback?
Christofer: Mostly relieved. It’s been one hell of a mega project to do these 3 albums back to back in 3 years. We wrote and made demos of over 40 tracks and recorded 39 tracks. It’s difficult to get feedback on an album that isn’t released yet, don’t you think?

How would you sum Leviathan III’s identity up in only three words?
Christofer: Experimental, adventurous and safe.

How did the creation process happen for Leviathan III? Did you notice some changes, compared to the previous records, and especially the trilogy’s previous records?
Christofer: All the songs for the trilogy were recorded during the same writing sessions and drums, bass and guitars were also recorded all together. So it’s essentially a triple album that we just decided to release as separate discs with some time in between.

What about the artwork, what were the guidelines and how do they fit with the music you created?
Christofer: It’s difficult to make artwork for 3 albums with the same name without making them look too similar. So for the third one we decided to use the symbol called Leviathan cross, to get away from beasts and waters. I don’t think the cover has to fit with the music, it’s just a wrapping around it. You are usually more focused on making it correspond with the title.

Therion’s work has always been infused with mysticism and magical elements, how do you find the right balance to include them to your musical basis?
Christofer: I’m not sure I understand what you mean. ”Right balance”? We just write lyrics on topics that interest me personally. I have no idea what the right balance would be and I don’t care.

I personally think that this album is the most diversified of the three Leviathan albums. Do you think the same?
Christofer: That was the intention. To take the more adventurous and experimental material for the third one and the more obvious hit songs for the first two.

Leviathan III is the last album of the Leviathan trilogy, how do you feel about ending this chapter of Therion?
Christofer: Like I said, relieved. It’s been quite a piece of work.

Do you have a favorite song on this album? Or maybe the hardest one to achieve for the album?
Christofer: I guess An Unsung Lament. The hardest one was Twilight of the Gods. I worked on details until the last minute before recording it. More simple songs are sometimes the hardest ones to get right. Each detail is so much in your face. 

Where do you find your inspiration to create music?
Christofer: Too many to mention, but they all have in common that they are from 1960-80’s.

Do you think you improved yourself as a musician and songwriter with this new record?
Christofer: As a musician no. As a songwriter the Leviathan Trilogy writing sessions have definitely pushed me to improve.

I had the opportunity to see Therion on stage at Hellfest 2022, what comes to your mind from this show? Do you enjoy playing festivals, or do you prefer smaller indoor stages?
Christofer: That show was totally shit for me, as I had drop out in my in-ear monitor all the time and barely heard anything me or the other guys played. It’s all the smart phones with their wifi that interferes. After that show I bought a 6500 EUR system for in ear monitoring, it was either that or stop touring. I prefer headline shows with proper sound checks. But festivals are fun too, because you get exposed to a lot of people who are not fans and get the chance to win over a few people. It’s not as easy to get a good response at a festival and I always loved a challenge.

Are there any musicians or artists you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, or maybe more.
Christofer: I’d love to have Brian Johnsson from AC/DC sing on a cool Rock’n’Roll song I wrote. But I think the chances are slim.

If you had to organize a concert for Leviathan III’s release show, which bands would you love to play with? I let you create a poster with Therion and three other bands!
Christofer: A festival with Voivod + Accept reunited with Udo, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and AC/DC. All playing after Therion of course, so I can have drinks while watching them. 

Last and funny question : which dish would you compare Therion’s music with?
Christofer: Meze or a buffet. It’s not a dish, it’s a variety of dishes served all at once.

That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Christofer: Thank you. See you on tour hopefully.

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