Therion – Beyond Sanctorum (1992)
So over the last few years, I have had much to say about Therion, and how they went from being a death metal band to being a symphonic power metal band (or something) over the course of a a few years, as well as being the greatest recruiting tool Dragon Rouge could ever hope for. It’s hard not to like them, even with such massive stylistic changes, and my appraisal of the band has become ever more positive as I listen to more of their albums.
“Beyond Sanctorum” was the 4th album by the band that I listened to (after Theli, Symphony Masses, and Vovin), and probably the one that has brought me the greatest amount of enjoyment so far. Mostly, it sticks to death metal – much has been made of the brief operatic vocals on “Symphony of the Dead”, but it’s only two lines. The outro, “Paths” relies more heavily on them, but don’t dwell on it. Lepaca Kliffoth is where the style of singing actually became a significant part of the band’s aesthetic, as opposed to here. Other deviations from death metal are more prominent – we see some keyboards, but more importantly, there are several sections of songs (like the latter third of “Future Consciousness”) that indulge heavily in melodic riffing, reduced tempos, etc, creating a spacious effect.
Speaking of aesthetics, this album has an excellent production – even in their early days, the band always managed to sound excellent, with strong, abrasive guitar tone, clear bass (more notable on the next few albums, where it was more ambitious). The riffs aren’t very technical, but they are powerful, varied, all good things. The solos are intentionally simplistic, and avoid shredding like the plague – in many cases, it’s like having another riff playing over the base one, and this approach is responsible for the overall melodic sound of the album. The songwriting here is ambitious, and at times, it strains the abilities of the songwriters – “Future Consciousness” is one of the band’s older songs, for instance, and it’s the messiest thing on here, having relatively weak transitions between riffs, before the melodic ending. “The Way” is 11 minutes long, and probably could be cut down by a minute or two, but it does keep the interest level up by putting out a massive number of riffs, exploring all sorts of ideas. It took them until 2007 to write something longer (“Adulruna Rediviva” on Gothic Kabblah), and on an album level, they’ve definitely gone beyond this, but to have this much ambition so early in your career, and to do a relatively good job of achieving it is probably a good sign. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to listen to the band’s later output and see if they succeeded or not.
Highlights: “Cthulu”, “Symphony of the Dead”, “Enter the Depths of Eternal Darkness”, “The Way”