I’ve always had a very mixed opinion on Therion. While clearly being exemplary musicians, they are on occasion known for writing some absolute toss. Gothic Kabbalah was intended as the final album, but because reunions are the in thing this week, we’re getting a new dose of Swedish oddball…ness.
As with the Therion albums after they began to stray away from death metal, they’ve begun to incorporate vibrant world influences and operatic elements into their sound. Some of it went disastrously wrong, and indeed, the title track opener doesn’t fill me with joy because of one of two cracks in the Therion armour. The first is the vocals; they’re either incredible or a pretty pants, clean vocals are very often the latter and Sitra Ahra is no exception to the more than occasional bollocks-up, to the point it leaves you wondering if they got the growlers to do the male clean just to save a bit of cash. The second of the afore mentioned flaws is that the songwriting team need to show some restraint and not try and shove every influence into every song they write, but as I like songs to stick to their guns, the more lateral thinking listener might enjoy the record because of the meandering variety.
Where Sitra Ahra lacks, it more than makes up in titanic guitar riffs. Hellequin dives straight into classic metal territory as the driving riffs tear across some of the best five minutes on the album. Even the operatic sections sound like they know what they’re doing, something that was horrendously out of place on Sirius B, but Cu Chulain is pure power metal and pomp rolled into one.
Additionally, Land of Canaan sounds like it’s sung by a bunch of pissed Frenchies warbling along to Orphaned Land.
So, there we have Therion, a very marmite band. Sitra Ahra is a very involving listen, and there is a depth to the songs that certainly require multiple listens. A meat and two-veg listener may find it a tad overwhelming, because let’s face it…Therion are fuckin’ weird sometimes.