Album Review: Therion – Secret of the Runes
I am Mecha Shiva. Give me your Metal!
Therion, if you haven’t heard of them, are an interesting phenomenon in metal; they are a band with an extremely eclectic style of metal that still have found success in the mainstream. I call it eclectic not because no-one’s heard of putting operatic vocals against the backdrop of metal, but rather because Therion don’t use the music as a backdrop to their singers. Rather, the music, vocals and symphonic aspects all blend to create a unique sound unlike anything else in the genre.
Secret of the Runes is, I believe, their best work. The concept of the album is fairly simple: to have each song tackle a different element of Norse mythology, or more specifically, it’s various planes of existence (such as Midgard, Muspleheim, etc.). This works on many levels as it provides more than enough inspiration for each individual song while also retaining a common feel throughout the whole album.
The music itself can only be described as awesome. No? Okay, I’ll try harder. Consider each song then a symphonic suite of its own, moving from subdued to uplifting and then finally to a crushing assault all in the span of a few minutes. The aggressive guitars work in tandem with any given musical instrument you can think of, showing a deep understanding of classical arrangements on the band’s part. This appreciation for the symphonic element is what gives each song its specific character while the outstanding guitar slaying of Kristian Niemann keeps the whole affair firmly rooted in metal territory. The vocals generally comprise of either a choir or four classically trained singers interchanging parts so seamlessly it’s a wonder they could ever perform these songs live (which, this humble weirdo can say, they do so amazingly).
In the hands of a lesser band, this whole album could have been an incoherent sonic catastrophe of competing genres and styles. However, brilliant arrangements and performances make this album stand as a testament to metal perfection. While some songs may be underwhelming compared to others, the overall execution of Secret of the Runes more than forgives these tracks. The deluxe version also includes a badass cover of Summernight City since I guess all Swedish artists have to do an Abba cover at some point. Epic album worthy of five stars in my book (it’s a screaming book, I’d feel bad if I threw it away).
Killer tracks: Ginnungagap, Schwarzalbenheim, Nifelheim, Secret Of The Runes.
Finally, a thanks to my benevolent mistress of the dark arts, Cheryl, for allowing these unworthy and misshapen fingers to type this review on her site.