Therion - Secret Of The Runes review
|Album:||Secret Of The Runes|
01. Ginnungagap (Prologue)
11. Secret Of The Runes (Epilogue)
12. Crying Days [Scorpions cover]
13. Summernight City [ABBA cover]
I knew it! Since I listened to the last Nightwish [Century Child] and didn't enjoy it too much... Something was missing. Now listening to Secret Of The Runes, I have the answer: thrash metal! For those who don't know Therion, I can say that it's the perfect combination of symphonic metal and thrash metal. Therion's frontman and founder, Christofer Johnsson, is a real genius. I understand now that he claims to be the founder of symphonic metal, a long time before Nightwish [In fact, the band has started playing symphonic since the album Theli in 1996]. Honestly, Secret Of The Runes is my first Therion album but I want to do the review because I've just found what I was looking for since the discovery of symphonic metal... Unlike the Finnish band, Therion uses a full choir registry - including tenors, sopranos, altos and baritons - as lead vocalists. Even if I love Tarja's voice, it's clear that the result is different here. One other difference is the fact that Therion uses a 'real' orchestra [violins, violas, cellos, flutes, trumpets, horns, ...] instead of keyboards and flute. These are the differences between Therion and Nightwish on the symphonic aspect of their music but, of course, the main difference is that Therion has also gothic thrash metal backgrounds. Well, I hope you understand that, in my mind, Nightwish and Therion sound very different! But let's talk about Therion now! Concretely, Secret Of The Runes is a concept album about Nordic mythology. That's why it contains songs with such names as 'Asgard' or 'Midgard'.
The opening track 'Ginnugagap' is about the creation of the universe [according to Nordic myths]. It's the best opening track I've ever heard: symphonies are coming from everywhere, huge main melody, loud guitars, perfect opera vocals... This song is the magical door of the album: you enter into another world. The world of perfect marriage of heaven and hell [symphony and metal]. 'Midgard' is about the "world of man" [i.e. mankind]. It starts with an epic and gothic vocal performance, both male and female, and a gorgeous melody is - once again - the main point of this song. Acoustic guitars, string ensemble and flutes comprise the rest. The song concludes with a huge guitar solo. Innovation, perfection. Let me say that if mankind sounds like that, well, that's cool! Here comes 'Asgard' with its magnificent beginning [guitars, alternating female/male lead vocals and female background vocals]. It sounds heavenly and that's logical because 'Asgard' is about the "world of Gods" [i.e. Heaven of course!]. In my mind, one of the best songs on Secret Of The Runes. 'Jotunheim' [the "world of giants"] starts with strange vocals and is obviously bizarre from the beginning to the end. Even the guitar parts are weird here. Still interesting. Now, what's on after the world of giants? The world of dwarves and black elves, of course! 'Schwarzalbenheim' is clearly the most "opera sounding" track. Gothic, dark atmosphere, pure low male vocals, lyrics in German [like "true opera"!]. Unique.
After the underground world, let's travel to the world of elves and fairies: 'Ljusalfheim'. My favorite song of the album. Most pure female vocals ever, acoustic guitars, and to conclude the song: a guitar solo followed by a violin solo followed by another guitar solo... What else is there to say? Pure art, that's what 'Ljusalfheim' is all about. A new theme, a new song 'Muspelheim', the forces of chaos and destruction. Perfectly musically designed in a short track [2:14 minutes of symphonic chaos]. Wonderful, too. Here the lyrics are in Swedish [I think!]. Still in Swedish, 'Nifelheim', the world of ice [logically so...]. Life is slowly coming into existence here due to the fire of Muspel [previous song]. Nice song, lyrically perfect, however, maybe not as interesting as the other tracks on Secret Of The Runes. 'Vanaheim' is about an old cast of Gods [the ones who "bring life to the arable and pasture lands"]. Mesmerizing track: guitars and vocals - as usual - but also drums and bass guitar. There is also a guitar solo a la Sonata Arctica at the end of the song. No doubt, we are in the presence of Gods. After the "good Gods", what's more logical than talking about the evil ones? 'Helheim' is about the goddess of death and fulfillment. Lyrics in Swedish, once again, dark vocals, maybe the best song to hear the bass player of Therion [Johan Niemann]. Some vocal parts almost sound like a Russian opera.
Finally, the eponymous track is about the secret of the runes [sure!]. According to Nordic mythology, "when you learn the secret of the runes your eyes shall open and you will become a god". This ending track has a very special atmosphere, too. From darkness to light. Vocals still amazing, music still dazzling. I love that song. It's kind of an obsessing theme in my head. If you are a lucky metalhead, you can get the limited digipack release of Secret Of The Runes with two bonustracks: 'Crying Days' [Scorpions cover] and 'Summernight City' [ABBA cover!]. These ones have the particularity to be the only songs on the album on which Christofer Johnsson is singing along with the choir. 'Crying Days' is a slow one but a good one too while 'Summernight City' is in the tone of the whole album. Maybe the most powerful song on the record.
Conclusion? This album is a jewel, let me tell you! Symphonic thrash metal rules! Secret Of The Runes is now one of my favorite albums. It has symphonies of classic operas plus thrash metal music. For newcomers, Therion could sound like Iced Earth playing opera with an army of Tarjas and Eric Claytons singing but it's more than that! Secret Of The Runes is musical perfection.
Written on 20.10.2003 by
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