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Therion - Deggial
Review: To their credit, Therion formulated a vision before its execution, and it took several albums to adapt. After the excellent "Beyond Sanctorum," they deviated into aggro-heavy metal territory (much like continent-mates Sentenced) with "Ho Drakon Ho Megas," and then as if trying to simplify it into the abrasive, simplistic, death-metal influenced rock of the era, boiled down everything they did and added keyboards and choral vocals, producing the excremental "Lepaca Kliffoth."
This however won them a new audience, and the path became clear... their goal was not to become a death metal version of Emperor, but a power metal version of Iron Maiden, much as Iron Maiden inherited the space Led Zeppelin left behind. Steadily they grew toward this goal with increasing musical confidence, and as with all Swedish rock, a profound sense of judgment that unifies the conventions of their music's sound with its inner structure and values, creating several unstable variants before really hitting their stride with "Lemuria" and later works.
Deggial has many impressive aspects, but they are jerkily disunified, as if its many elements - gothic folk rock, stadium rock, thinking person's heavy metal - had not yet come together into a new language, and were different voices carrying on a conversation in which all parties could only marginally follow the topic line.
The result is more like a dinner theatre than a visually- and musically-integrated artistic experience, as we are taken from an exhibit on basic heavy metal riffs to a chorus of melodic folk rock and finally given a rock/jazz lead guitar exposition that, no matter how hesistant, reveals the power of its player in measuring out emotional change over a journey between harmonies. This album is far from the execrable mess that "Lepaca Kliffoth" and roughly contemporaneous works made us suffer, but it's still in a phase of abrupt transitions between unfinished elements, and even the beautiful backing choruses cannot salvage that.
The result is like a soundtrack or techno set in that musical stuff goes on, but there must always be a dominant sound that distracts us from the relative disunity of the composition as a whole. This album is far from terrible, but seems extraneous in contrast to later (or much earlier) Therion. Bonus points for the Orff cover that concludes the album, an interesting take on the music that introduced one of the first proper death metal albums (Sepultura's "Morbid Visions").