"Sitra Ahra"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Once again, Therion proves that nobody does "opera metal" the way they do. In fact, I'm not sure if anybody BUT Therion does "opera metal"! Sure, there are plenty of bands who use classical elements, but only Christofer Johnsson and Therion have so totally integrated classical and metal where neither side prevails over the other.

"Sitra Ahra" is a fine addition to the Therion canon. With just a couple of exceptions, the material here is compact, punchy and catchy. The range of vocal styles is absolutely mind-boggling and organized with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. Whether it's beautiful female soprano, thunderous basso profundo, the more typical "rock" vocals of Thomas Vikstrom, black metal rasps or even a children's choir, each style appears at exactly the right time. Not easy to do! Moreover, those styles play off of each other to perfection, which you can hear right away on the catchy tilte track. The metal component is definitely present and is most noticeable on the thrashing "Din",  the excellent Viking-like "Cu Chulain" and my personal favorite, "Hellequin", which features some of the most amazingly memorable vocal hooks ever heard.

Therion overreaches itself on the ten minute plus "Land of Canaan", where too many styles are blended together including an out of place harmonica and which drags on too long. I also would not have ended the album with the too restrained and mostly acoustic "After The Inquisition: Children of the Stones". But ignoring those mis-steps, there are still plenty of gloriously pompous tunes like "Kali Yuga III" and "2012" to enjoy. The production is crystal clear, allowing you to hear all the instruments and vocals perfectly.

"Sitra Ahra" is a real musical adventure for those not afraid to mix the two most powerful genres of music: metal and classical!