Swedish symphonic metallers Therion are a worldwide success now and tour regularly in their own right and are a popular attraction at metal festivals everywhere.

The band have evolved gradually over the years and refined their mad yet somehow irresistible mixture of opera, metal and symphonic arrangements performed by multiple vocalists. In their early days they were as much about doom and death metal but it was with the 1996 release of ‘Theli’ that the “real” Therion was born.

For the first time founding member Christofer Johnsson really let loose with his musical vision featuring choirs, operatic style vocals contrasted against crunching metal guitars and a variety of arrangements and rhythms. Theli was re-released on its; own last year and my review can be found here.

Back in 1997 Therion released an album of extras and outtakes from the ‘Theli’ sessions called ‘A’arab Zarag-Lucid Dreaming’ and in this release of ‘Theli’ there are three songs included from that album as extras plus rare track ‘Babylon’.

‘Theli’ sold much better than previous Therion releases and emboldened with his success Johnsson pushed forward quickly with the release of ‘Vovin’ in 1998. The line-up of the band was very fluid at this point so Johnsson really is the main driving force and the songs follow a similar path to ‘Theli’, although this time there is a real choir and orchestra involved at the recording stage so the operatic grandeur that was required was fully realised at last. Tracks like ‘The Rise Of Sodom And Gomorrah’, ‘Wine Of Aluqah’ and ‘Raven Of Dispersion’ are loved by crowds across the world to this day.

Sales of ‘Vovin’ were double that of ‘Theli’ and the rise of Therion had begun in earnest. They were ready to become one of the best loved and most original symphonic metal bands around, not to mention one of the craziest!

This two CD package is a great place for anyone to start their Therion collection. I think it really does show them finding their musical place in the world and has a slew of classic Therion tracks across both discs. It’s a testament to these songs that many are still staples of the band’s live set. In fact when I saw Therion in Glasgow this year (review here) no fewer than nine of the songs from these two albums were featured. If you always wondered what they were like on album then this is where to begin to find out.

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