• Therion - Deggial (2000) - A little revolution in the symphonic metal genre - 87% (06/03/15)

    Therion - Deggial (2000)

    Therion’s mastermind Christofer Johnsson wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t try out a few new experiments with each record. The first release of the new millennium marks the addition of the Niemann brothers (consisting of guitarist Kristian [Sorcerer] and bassist Johan [Evergrey, Mind’s Eye]) to the line-up of this eclectic project. Both would go on to stay with the band for the next four records in addition to this release, which brought some stability to an ever-changing project. The third new member on Deggial is drummer Sami Karppinen, who would only stay for two full studio records, but remains connected to the project, as he recently played on a tour and helped out with editing and engineering of the last studio album to date. In addition to these three new band members, a total of twenty-three session musicians and singers from all around the world participated on this release. This album follows the style of Theli and Vovin, even though Christofer Johnsson has progressively modified the sound of the band over these three releases.

    Deggial is once again a record where classical music and heavy metal harmoniously collide in nearly equal parts. I would say however that this is the very first time on a Therion album that the classical influences are much more powerful and more important to the song writing than the heavy metal passages. From this point of view, this album is almost a revolution in the symphonic metal genre. Still, there are some important differences between Vovin and Deggial. The guitar play is a little bit more in the foreground on this release. Many tracks come around with appeasing acoustic guitar passages, strong heavy metal inspired riffs, or even psychedelic guitar sounds inspired by classic progressive rock acts. The occasional extreme metal riffs hearkening back to the band’s early days are completely gone. Another difference between this release and its predecessor is that vocal duties are shared by classically trained female and male choirs in equal parts. They either work separately in different passages of a given song or together, mainly in the choruses. Solo singers and more conventional rock and metal vocals only appear in a few exceptional cases on the record. The most interesting exception is Hansi Kürsch’s presence on the powerful “Flesh Of The Gods”. I always liked his unique vocal style, but it rarely works for me in the unnecessarily fast and overloaded tunes of Blind Guardian. In this short and concise mid-tempo track however, his vocals work very well for me. The song doesn’t really fit to the rest of the album but it’s still an amazing track.

    Even though most of the songs on here fail to touch me as much as those on Theli or to impress me musically as those on Vovin, Deggial is a great album with several notable highlights. The title track includes very hypnotizing, numbing, and psychedelic guitar play that builds up a strong atmosphere before the airy and uplifting chorus comes in as a sort of relief from this mysterious feeling with its acoustic guitars and elegant choirs. Even from such an eclectic band as Therion, I have never heard anything similar before or after this record. Another instant classic is the album’s epic closer “Via Nocturna” in two parts, which convinces with sacral organ sounds, melancholic string passages, a few uplifting woodwind instruments, and an excellent combination of male and female choirs. This is nearly a contemporary masterpiece of classical music, and the metal side of this tune is only one element among many others. Many tracks, like the elegiac epic “Eternal Return”, which features some solid riffs reminding me of Iron Maiden’s “Mother Russia”, or the laid-back acoustic guitar and string-driven ballad “Ship Of Luna” are quite calm, slow- to mid-paced, and may take more time to grow on the listener than the songs from the two prior albums. It’s this calmer, more classical, and more elegant tone, however, that makes this record truly unique in Therion’s extensive discography.

    There are many different editions of this record. Most editions include a powerful cover of Carl Orff’s famous “O Fortuna” from his scenic cantata “Carmina Burana” which was maybe the most important work of classical music made in the twentieth century. A 2001 version of the record by Irond Records is probably the most interesting, and includes an additional bonus track – the enjoyable Scorpions cover “Crying Days” (although some sources wrongfully indicate this song as being “Polar Nights”). Personally, I own the 2004 Mexican digipack version by Scarecrow Records, which includes “O Fortuna” as well as three more tracks taken from “Crowning Of Atlantis”: the studio version of “The Crowning Of Atlantis”, the live rendition of “The Wings Of The Hydra”, and the Accept cover “Seawinds”. No matter which version you may get your hands on, I warmly recommend this release to any symphonic metal fan. This album is another highlight in Therion’s streak of impressive regular studio albums.

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