Ten Years #29: Therion

Decade of last.fm scrobbling countdown:
39. Therion (1,059 plays)
Top track (81 plays): The Siren of the Woods, from Theli (1997)
Featured track: Vanaheim, from Secret of the Runes (2001)

Therion is an interesting animal in the world of metal. In a lot of ways, Christofer Johnsson’s brainchild derives from forms of music that don’t much suit me. The harsher vocals are firmly rooted in his death metal origins, the guitar riffs and drumming waver between metal and a softer “hard rock” sound, and 80s-inspired over the top solos flourish throughout the discography. Yet all of these typical turn-offs for me shake their negative connotations and merge rather seamlessly with Johnsson’s greater operatic vision. For the majority of Therion’s 26 year history, Johnsson has been forging his own unique path through the world of theatrical rock by infusing fairly typical stylistic norms with outstanding song writing. I can’t help but fear at times that Therion may descend to the quality of another boring Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but they never do. Across 15 studio albums, Johnsson continually manages to find compelling new ways to make the peculiar marriage of rock and opera somehow work.

I’ll admit to not being a huge Therion fan. The vast majority of the 1000+ listens that render them my 29th most-listened-to band of the past decade came in 2003 and 2004, when the individual elements of their sound were still a bit novel to me. I never did get around to picking up Sitra Ahra or Les Fleurs du Mal. But I’ve heard enough to confidently state that Johnsson is one of the finest song-writers to seriously approach the possibilities of combining rock with classical styles. Secret of the Runes is my personal favorite album in his discography. There, I think Johnsson really let the opera be heavy in its own right; it’s frequently more intense and driving than the traditional metal instrumentation accompanying it.