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Friday 15 December 2023

Reviews: Therion, Evergrey, Catalysis, Overlorde (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Therion - Leviathan III (Napalm Records)

Christofer Johnsson has been at the helm of Therion for 35 years, practically spearheading the symphonic metal genre, they have rarely left the template they established in that time. While the membership has fluctuated the guitars/keys and compositions of Johnsson have always been what draws people to them. Leviathan III is the third part of their Leviathan trilogy of records that started in 2021, this is their nineteenth album and continues to showcase the versatile cinematic sound of Therion.

There’s a sense of finality too as this is the finale so to speak, the fantastic tales being spun by the dual vocals of Lori Lewis’ operatic highs and Thomas Vikström’s lower cleans and growls, present from Ninkigal, a short start at just over three minutes of rampaging metal, Johnsson and Christian Vidal intertwining guitars while the rhythms of Sami Karppinen (drums) and Nalle “Grizzly” Påhlsson (bass) come thick and fast. Dark and brooding is how we started but of course with a backing choir, acoustics brought in for the Medieval-like Ruler Of Tamag as classic rock strains from Johnsson’s other project LLO are brought on the organ driven An Unsung Lament.

Leviathan III
moves towards the high theatrics of TSO, orchestral scores are met with metallic instrumentation throughout Maleficium, and the whole album, blending all of the influences that Therion have played with over the years, from gothic metal (Midsommarblot), to power metal (Baccanale), to melodeath (Ninkigal) and classical music (Duende). It’s all done with many years of experience and a sense that they can do whatever they want as a band by this point. 

Closing out the Leviathan trilogy with style, Therion continue to be one of the bastions of the symphonic metal genre. 8/10

Evergrey - From Dark Discoveries To Heartless Portraits (Napalm Records)

To celebrate 30 years as a band, Swedish progressive metal act Everygrey release a special compilation entitled From Dark Discoveries To Heartless Portraits. Not a ‘best of’ but a compilation of live performances, displaying the bands might and magic on stage, then there’s a few piano/vocal versions of some of their tracks, which sound like the Silent Skies project band leader Tom S Englund has with Vikram Shankar, this anniversary record closing out with some instrumental/demo versions of famous tracks. 

Drawing from their vaults over 30 years, the album is treat for fans, much of this material not heard before. On the live songs, it’s the voice of Englund that stands tall, he’s got one of the most emotive voices in the prog/power arena, whether it’s’ on their symphonic recent material, the incredible King Of Errors, the heavy recent material My Allied Ocean or their more gothic earlier stuff such as Recreation Day or A Touch Of Blessing

The piano versions all come off the newest album A Heartless Portrait, giving you a different side to these massive metal epics, stripped back to their core sound, but losing none of the impact. While the rough versions are a closer inspection of the writing process. There is some overlap, as I’m not sure I need three versions of Call Out The Dark, or piano and rough demo versions of three of the same song, but this is a package definitely for the fans, I perhaps would have preferred a straight live record, but then many will disagree. 

With a special digisleeve editions, complete with photos and behind the scenes stories etc, - From Dark Discoveries To Heartless Portraits is an Xmas treat for the Evergrey fanatic in your life, for most though it may be nothing more than a curio, I can’t fault the music, but it’s not a must purchase unless you’re a megafan. 6/10

Catalysis - Betrayer (Self Released)

Citing Machine Head, Sylosis, Chimaira, Gojira, The Black Dahlia Murder as influences, Dundee five piece Catalysis have released four EP's and a debut album in 2020, since then, they've played many shoes around the country and in Czechia, winning the Bloodstock Metal 2 The Masses in 2022 before focusing on recording their second full length album. 

Catalysis is a groove driven metal band from Dundee that grab your collar from the first moments of Kingmaker, Sean Ranson (rhythm guitar), Paul Edwards (bass) and Calum Rennie (drums) lay down a snarling heaviness that is retained throughout the album, the melodic death metal influences coming in as Drew Cochrane's lead guitars are let loose for melodic intricacy. 

The mixing/mastering of Hans Petter Solen is a perfect fit for the more experimental and heavier nature of this album. It sounds dangerous Col MacGregor's vocals, shouted furiously the lyrics that are personal to the band. Confronting topics such as the environment, racism, government and mental health, the lyrics becoming more personal on this album as the musical scope has gotten bigger. 

The band call it a culmination of 18 months work and it's a got a lot of good stuff all over it, from the blistering opener Kingmaker which unshackles the vand once more the balance of melody and metallic force is just right. Endless is aggressive and muscular but has a big clean chorus and some slick soloing, Mea Culpa moves towards Nu-Metal as Gallows goes towards hardcore. Groove driven melodic death metal that comes from numerous influences, Catalysis release their most competent album on Betrayer. 8/10

Overlorde - Awaken The Fury (No Remorse Records

Cited as legends in the underground of the US power metal scene Overlorde release their new studio album Awaken The Fury. Having released an EP in 1987, an album in 2004 and now their second full length in 2023 (just). Released on No Remorse Records it could well be from the 80's as the production is delightfully old school giving it the same sonic scope as those early albums from fellow New York bands Riot and Manowar. The latter because of George Tsalikis' Eric Adams-like vocals, crooning and shreiking from the title track to the closing strains of Migraine, growling on Destroy Us All

The instrumentation is handled by founders Mark "M.E." Edwards (guitar), John "Kong" Bunucci (bass) along with George Janeira on drums. Kong's bass playing is as thick of syrup, (whether he rips off his bass strings after shows remains to be seen), but on Fire In The Sky he's definitely established a lead instrument along with M.E.'s Flying V. While I said about Manowar and Riot; The Madness Within is very Judas Priest, that riff coming from the Stained Glass era even the solo featuring those KK dive bombs. 

Drumming wise Janeira is a powerhouse, syncing and juxtaposed Kong's brilliant bass work. This record has been a long time coming, a really, really long times coming, and while it offers a lot of musical might it's a throwback release that comes from those halcyon 70's/80's rock and metal years, adding a progressive bent on the atmospheric Gargoyles

Awaken The Fury clocks in at nearly an hour of music, so it's been worth wait in terms of quantity, but I'd also say of quality, if you're fan of the classic heavy/power metal sound. A long time coming but a masterful throwback through the mists of histrionic heavy metal. 7/10

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