Arguably the most single-minded eccentric in the heavy metal world, Therion’s Christofer Johnnson has, over the course of eight albums, guided his entourage from gothic-minded death metal to something far more compelling and unique, a mostly instrumental juggernaut utilizing keyboards, choirs and orchestras that has stood unparalleled ever since. Whereas most of his contemporaries find influence/inspiration in Black Sabbath, Mayhem or early Death, Johnnson finds his in Richard Wagner and his uber-symphonies — triumphant, epic, elegant, downright oppressive . And no other adjectives could more accurately describe Johnnson’s Therion, especially since the dawn of his classical-metal opuses, Lepaca Kliffoth and Theli , and their more-focused follow-ups, A’arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming and Vovin .
After last year’s spotty Crowning of Atlantis (a collection of covers, live tracks and new ones), Johnnson returns with the monolithic, hour-long Deggial . The thing is, Deggial is just as monolithic, almost to a fault, as the aforementioned albums; a bit more dynamic, maybe, but the only difference is his vocals — a fairly legitimate, but powerful just the same, approximation of Ronnie James Dio’s — infrequently enter into the picture (most notable exception: “Flesh of the Gods”). No less cryptic, Johnnson continues his predilection (or drawback, depending on your perspective) of locking onto a riff and endlessly rolling with it, allowing the instrumental passages do the same, filling out the proceedings with ominous valkyrie choirs. A heady and heavy-handed death-march on any account, Therion at least keeps their standards up to par on Deggial .
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