Therion – Of Darkness…
Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth
We all know Therion as an ambitious, innovative, and skilled symphonic metal band around the only remaining founding member, Christofer Johnsson. This Swedish legend has developed its very own, unique operatic sound over the last couple of decades, but Therion was always open-minded about experiments, and has played in rather different genres and styles. The band has continued to do so since its foundation under the moniker of Blitzkrieg in 1987, when Johnsson and his band mates were only about fifteen years old. The band quickly changed its name to Megatherion and then on to Therion in 1988. Therion itself started to play a mixture of thrash and death metal on its first demos, which led to a full length debut, Of Darkness…, which was released in early 1991. If you are one of those who have known Therion for its later symphonic metal milestones, you should be cautious before purchasing or even listening to this record. It’s a good release to my ears, but is very different from the band’s later works.
Of Darkness… offers a style of death metal that unites bleak atmospheric passages with faster, unchained technical instrumental work. There are also slower moments that are clearly influenced by early doom, and there are even ambient, atmospheric hints at black metal, which was very popular around this time in Scandinavia.
Despite raw production (no matter if you purchased the original or the remastered The Early Chapters Of Revelation compilation from 2000, which includes Therion’s first three records plus a couple of mostly forgettable bonus tracks in the form of alternate versions and demos of some songs from these albums) and the young age of all involved musicians, this album is filled with stunning atmosphere, great song writing ideas, and solid technical abilities. Especially those songs which include slower passages deliver soundscapes that would fit into any grisly horror movie. The opening “The Return”, featuring a lot of synthesizer, is probably the greatest achievement from this point of view. “Asphyxiate With Fear” varies from pitiless death and thrash riffs to slow doomy bits with a melancholic touch. The varied first single “Time Shall Tell” is another apocalyptic dark ride filled with unexpected and creative changes in pace and style, and certainly needs several spins to grow. This track in particular proves to me that already Christofer Johnsson has huge song writing potential.
The faster, more straightforward death metal tracks are engaging, but end up sounding similar, and are not my cup of tea. “Genocidal Raids” is the most interesting candidate among these songs. It has really fast and evil passages that will bring you to the edge of your seat, and is probably among the most aggressive songs the band has written in its career.
In the end, it’s interesting to discover Therion’s roots on Of Darkness…. Recorded back in August and September 1990 in Stockholm, the band definitely did the best it could if we take the age of its members, their financial possibilities, and their talent into consideration. This record is an atmospheric death metal release with lightly amusing horror lyrics and a few bleak twists here and there. Fans of Scandinavian old school death metal and those who occasionally listen to bands like the creative Swiss extreme metal band Celtic Frost should be happy with this. It’s really not a bad record, but bears no comparison to the band’s later accomplishments. Anyone else should start their musical discovery of Therion with a more recent release. The follow-up, Beyond Sanctorum is changed and much more original than Of Darkness….
3.0 // 5