• Therion - Beyond Sanctorum (1992) - Rise of extreme progressive metal mastery - 77% (26/08/14)

    Therion - Beyond Sanctorum (1992)

    Therion’s second full length album was recorded and mixed in December of 1991 and released quickly in January of 1992. The band worked as a trio on its sophomore release, and even though this can still be called more or less a death metal record, Therion sounds much more progressive here than on the very straightforward Of Darkness….

    Opener “Future Consciousness” starts with a fast and pitiless mixture of death and thrash metal, but the rhythm section, and in particular the drum play, already sounds much more varied than on the debut. As the opener goes on, it ventures into a heavier mid-tempo section. Toward the end, the track slows even more and becomes almost doomy. A slow, melodic guitar solo and a decent use of keyboard then leads into a surprisingly beautiful finale. The opening track is full of great ideas without denying the band’s roots, and the song writing and production already sound much more consistent and elaborate than just one year earlier.

    The band heads continuously further into experimental territory. “Symphony Of The Dead” features more atmospheric keyboard sounds as well as soprano vocals and classically styled clean male vocals by two guest musicians. The epic, bleak atmosphere and the sophisticated mixture of genres take the place of the typical technical ecstasy of the extreme metal approach. For the very first time, one gets to hear a prototype of the sound that would make Therion famous a few years later. The bleak album closer, “Paths”, uses a very similar approach. Interestingly, at this point in its career, Therion is playing more or less the kind of music that bands like Crematory and Moonspell would become very successful with several years down the road.

    The most outstanding song on this record, and one of the best songs in Therion’s long and varied career, is “The Way”: an atmospheric epic with a running time above eleven minutes. It’s a largely instrumental, mid-tempo track featuring many samples of doom and gothic metal filling its long passages with a smooth flow that never gets boring if you like these genres. In addition to this solid base, the track includes some stunning surprises like short Asian instrument samples from keyboardist and guitarist Peter Hansson, a versatile drumming performance by Oskar Forss, and the surprisingly laid back guitar tone of Christofer Johnsson in the last third of the track. The more I listen to this complex (but not overly complicated) song, the more it impresses and grows on me.

    Beyond Sanctorum was a big step forward for Therion. The band steadily shifted into more experimental doom and gothic metal territory, and had already set out to develop its own avant-garde sound. Extreme metal purists won’t like this progression, but fans of Therion’s future symphonic metal records without too much aversion to the extreme should try this album out. Despite a few fillers here and there, Beyond Sanctorum is an overlooked early milestone of what would become Scandinavian gothic metal, and should definitely be revisited for those who have forgotten it.

    Originally written for Black Wind Metal

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