ALBUM REVIEW: Therion – Leviathan III


Symphonic Metal master Christofer Johnsson assembles and commands the latest Therion line-up for Leviathan III (Napalm Records), another epic, bombastic concept album that will have fans of this kind of thing rocking in the aisles, or whatever it is opera fans tend to do in similar circumstances (frocking in the aisles?!). 

 Non-aficionados will admire the abundant technical excellence but might find themselves worn down by the too sweet, lightweight method and approach, the continuous faux-classical bombardment and the sometimes awkward melding of scatter-gun references and influences (not least in the lyrics).

 The strategic mix of the metal and the classic, throughout history, can often be problematic, even jarring. But the long-running Therion, following up directly here on Leviathan I and II (2021 and 2022, respectively), succeed in a more-or-less comfortable marriage of the bright fairytale lights and the darker doom, the beauty and the beast. 

Much of the musical glue that holds it all together comes from Johnsson’s keyboards, but it’s the guitars (Christian Vidal) and the main man’s ambition in composition that really shine through.

Vocals range from Viking-style war chants to soaring female operatics (Lori Lewis), with geetar sounds veering from acoustic filigrees (“Ruler Of Tamag”) to electric chugalongs, melodic lead breaks and energetic riff riots (see “An Unsung Lament” and “Ayahuasca”, for example). 

 There’s also pop among the pomp, singalong and chantalong bits with strong hooks as Swede Johnsson sprinkles in echoes of the spectacularly successful, smooth and satisfying Abba-metal of countrymen Ghost as well as more straight-ahead power metal and melodic prog. 

But despite moments of genuine doom and some death growling, Leviathan III can, at times, be too mild and mellow, saccharine and schmaltzy, tunes fit for backing Disney animation rather than proper Wagnerian guts, glory and apocalyptic passion (the images in my head of Elmer Fudd squalling “Kill the wabbit!” in Chuck Jones’ Warner cartoon classic What’s Opera Doc? are surely not what Johnsson had in mind).

 The accompanying lyrics are something of a classical, mythological and religious ragbag, referring to generic chaos, the abyss, Babylon, “children of both wrath and all revenge of the deep”, not to mention brother killing brother, Latin warblings, Bacchus, Freja, Thor and Odin, spiritual revelations and a “nightingale in the shadow of your mind”. Profound or what? 

 The vocals (Thomas Vikström is the lead male singer) that open “Maleficium” recall System Of A Down – echoes of the superior voice of Serj Tankian are cast up several times throughout the album – before mellowing out like most of the rest of the material. “Maleficium”, though, is still one of the album’s signature highlights, along with the aforementioned “Ayahuasca” (the longest track at almost eight minutes). 

 “What Was Lost Shall Be Lost No More” achieves a certain intensity that several of the other songs lack, while “Duende” opens acoustically and atmospherically, the flamenco-style intro a welcome diversion. Then the operatic, neo-classical assault takes over once again.

 Climactic Norse-fest “Twilight Of The Gods” opens with a Tony Iommi-esque droning riff, promising much, but then delivers more of the same formula and a martial, marching beat leads the way to the drum-driven finale (Sami Karppinen on the skins). 

Performed live, with full orchestra and choir, Leviathan III might be a different and more impressive beast, but that remains to be seen, and heard.

 The old Symphonic Metal lark obviously takes some courage, such are the potential pitfalls, not to mention logistical demands, and Johnsson is to be congratulated again for significantly adding to Therion’s already 35-year legacy. If his reach exceeds his grasp, on this evidence, it’s certainly not for want of trying.

Buy the album here:

https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/therion

7 / 10
CALLUM REID


EP REVIEW: Serj Tankian – Perplex Cities


 

Respect where it is due. Heavy metal titan, political activist hero and System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian has yet to offer up a project or product unworthy of the intense and continued attention of those who love music, love the world around them and care deeply about the overt inadequacies of those entrusted with its protection and future. 

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The Top Ten Stories at Ghost Cult This Week 9-23-22


In a new feature here, we recap the biggest stories of the week here at Ghost Cult! We went to 12, because fuck it, it’s our list! This week we have new reviews from Slipknot (one week early) the comeback from Razor, news about Guns N Roses, Serj Tankian of SOAD, Disturbed, vinyl from QOTSA, a major fest gets canned, our interview with Long Distance Calling, a review of Heilung, and the new video from Casket Robbery!

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Serj Tankian Shares a New Single and AR Video for “Pop Imperialism” – New EP Coming Soon


System of a Down’s artist and activist Serj Tankian, will release a new five song EP titled Perplex Cities on Oct. 21 via his own Serjical Strike label. Perplex Cities is his second EP in the last couple of years, following his 2021 release of the hard-hitting Elasticity EP. Before reaching the music streaming platforms next month, each track off the EP will be made available via a free augmented reality experience featuring Tankian presenting the five tracks himself in an intimate fashion. Via the app he will be appearing in the same space as the listener-viewer to explain the music and listen along. The first such immersive experience is available now, with the release of “Pop Imperialism” via the Arloopa app. Check it out here.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Ibaraki – Rashomon


Ibaraki is the new solo project from Trivium’s Matt Heafy, and Rashomon is released through Nuclear Blast, having been over a decade in the making. The name translates as “Wild Trees”, but is also taken from a terrifying Japanese demon of feudal legend, and the concept is a profound affirmation of Heafy’s Japanese-American heritage, incorporating a number of different musical styles. Although the main inspiration clearly sits within the black etal genre, taking influence from the experience of Emperor’s Ihsahn, who co-produced, and whose quirkier ideas from his solo work are peppered throughout the release. Continue reading


Serj Tankian Shares New Music Video for “Rumi”


Serj Tankian (System of A Down) has shared a new music video for his song “Rumi,” a tribute to both Tankian’s six-year-old son of the same name, and the 13th-century Sufi poet. The track comes from his recently released new EP, Elasticity. The vinyl version of that EP is out now. Also, the documentary about Serj’s music and activism, Truth To Power is available to watch now on VOD (Video On Demand). Watch the video now!

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Serj Tankian (System of A Down) Shares New Lyric Video for “Your Mom”


Serj Tankian of System of a Down recently released his new solo EP Elasticity, has dropped a new lyric video for his track “Your Mom’ today. You can watch the clip below. You can purchase and stream the album from the links below, with vinyl arriving April, 30th, 2021.Continue reading


Serj Tankian of System of a Down Discusses “Truth To Power” Movie with Marc Maron


Marc Maron’s “WTF Podcast” has shared a new interview with System of a Down’s Serj Tankian to discuss the new documentary “Truth To Power.” The film highlights Tankian’s life in political activism and music. On the podcast, Serj discussed his life story, how he got into music, how SOAD formed, how the band reunited in 2020, an interesting story of a run-in with late Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun, and the film. 

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UPDATED: System of a Down’s Serj Tankian’s “Elasticity” EP Release Detailed, Video Released


 

System of a Down vocalist and political activist Serj Tankian will release a new solo collection of rock songs, Elasticity, on March 19. The official music video for the EP’s title track, which was directed by Vlad Kaptur, will arrive tonight (Thursday, February 4) at 9:00 p.m. PST / 12:00 a.m. EST. is out now! 

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System of a Down Discuss Reunion and New Music with Zane Lowe of Apple Music 


System of a Down had one of the biggest stories in 2020 when they reunited and released two new songs for charity to benefit Armenia. Now Serj and Shavo have joined  Zane Lowe on Apple Music to discuss their new songs “Protect the Land” and “Genocidal Humanoidz”, why they hadn’t come back before now, except as a live act, and more. Watch the video and read some excerpts now courtesy of Zane Lowe on Apple Music. 

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