Shying away from seemingly humble death metal beginnings, Therion gradually morphed into an orchestral metal titan, gradually adding violins and choirs until the entire Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and Kuhn Mixed Choir was assembled for the recording of the sprawling epic double record Lemuria/Sirius B in 2004. With costs to tour with such an ensemble prohibitively astronomical, Therion's opportunity to perform their orchestral tracks live in the splendor and richness in which they were originally concieved is afforded to them and fan like on The Miskolc Experience. Recorded at the Miskolc Opera Festival in Hungary, the CDs and DVD comprises two parts; Classical Songs, which are selections of the band's favorite classical pieces and Therion Songs, an assortment of Therion's most involved tracks that fully utilise the range and brilliance of a full orchestra and choir.
Starting off with the martial Clavicula Nox completely unplugged, the band then joins the lavish orchestra for Dvorak's Symphony No. 9, adding a muscular and powerful blast of metal to some of the "heavier" pieces of the classical canon. Who can resist a 100 voice choir forcefully belting out Verdi's Il Trovatore as the band accompanies with a metal crunch? Even in the wintry Symphony No. 3 from Saint-Saens, the band displays a mature musicianship and profound respect for the pieces that have influenced their music; especially devoting the 2nd half of Classical Songs to the work of Richard Wagner (who in my mind was the original headbanger.) The sprawling, awe-inspiring operas of Wagner accompanied by metal instrumentation are a sound to behold, and the band performs his pieces with vigor.
However the illusion of metalheads clapping gently at the conclusion of pieces is quickly shattered in "Therion Songs" as Mats Leven strides on stage - metalheads raise their beers in appreciation, and chants are started during the galloping riffs of the Blood of Kingu. (Methinks the establishment was not amused.) They haunt with the elegiac Sirius B, inspire awe in the sprawling adagio Lemuria and have metalheads out of their seats for the rousing Schwartsalbenheim. Therion differentiate themselves from the pack of metal acts adding an orchestra for pomp and weight; the orchestra and choirs are integral to the performance of their music - it becomes none more so apparent than on the Rise of Sodom and Gommorah, a thrilling harmony of pulsing guitars, impassioned choir vocals and unforgettable rising strings.
Also included on the DVD is a documentary chronicling the behind-the-scenes development of the The Miskolc Experience, a brief insight into the musical background of Therion with interviews from the band and Miskolc Opera Festival musicians and organizers (even the pitch to the Mayor of Miskolc to convince him why a metal band should play!) as well as the first completely orchestral performance of Therion's music in Bucharest.
The legacy of Therion as one of the first and greatest metal artists to embrace their classical roots is assured; the Miskolc Experience will definitely be a disc worth Experiencing at least once; however only fans of Therion or those who appreciate classical music as much they do metal should commit themselves to a purchase.
The Miskolc Experience is available now through Nuclear Blast/Riot.