Secret of the Runes

Label: Hammerheart Records
Three similar bands: Nightwish/Amorphis/Celtic Frost

Rating: HHHHHHH (5/7)
Reviewer: Daniel Källmalm
1. Ginnungagap
2. Midgård
3. Asgård
4. Jotunheim
5. Schwarzalbenheim
6. Ljusalfheim
7. Muspelheim
8. Nifelheim
9. Vanaheim
10. Helheim
11. Secret of the Runes

Christofer Johnsson - rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion, additional choir and orchestra arrangement on Bonus Tracks
Kristian Niemann - lead and rhythm guitar
Johan Niemann - bass guitar
Sami Karppinen - drums, percussion
Piotr Wawrzeniuk - lead vocals on "Crying Days" and "Summernight City"

Of Darkness... (1991)
Beyond Sanctorum (1992)
Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas (1993)
Lepaca Kliffoth (1995)
Theli (1996)
A'arab Zaraq - Lucid Dreaming (1997)
Vovin (1998)
Crowning of Atlantis (1999)
Deggial (2000)
Secret of the Runes (2001)
Lemuria (2004)
Sirius B (2004)
Gothic Kabbalah (2007)
Sitra Ahra (2010)
Les Fleurs du Mal (2012)
Beloved Antichrist (2018)
Leviathan (2021)
Leviathan II (2022)

Vocal and string soloists:
Marika Schonberg - solo soprano
Erika Andersson - solo alto
Carl Rahmqvist - solo tenor-baritone
Anna Rodell - solo violin
Asa Akerberg - solo cello
Thomas Karlsson - whispering voice on "Ljusalfheim"
Kristina Hansson - coloratura soprano
Anna-Maria Krawe - soprano
Anna Artursson - alto
Marika Schonberg - alto
Henrik Holmberg - tenor
Patrik Forsman - tenor
Carl Rahmqvist - tenor-baritone
Joakim Berg - bass-baritone
String ensemble:
Anna Rodell - first violin
Josef Cabrales-Alin - first violin
Malin Samuelsson - second violin
Johan Moren - second violin
Linda Svedrup - viola
Niklas Sjunesson - viola
Asa Akerberg - cello
Monica Jonsson - cello
Woodwinds (solo and ensemble):
Fareidah Hildebrand - flute, alt flute, piccolo
Erik Rodell - oboe, English horn
Henrik Blixt - bassoon, contrabassoon
Brass ensemble:
Mikael Sorensen - trumpet, fluegelhorn
Ayman Al Fakir - horn, Wagner tuba
Kristina Borg - horn
Rune Bodin - trombone

Recorded in Modern Art Studio (Stockholm, Sweden)
Producer: Therion, Christofer Johnsson
Cover artwork by Thomas Ewerhard

Released 2022-09-09
Reviewed 2022-11-19


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In the third album within the mail from Hammerheart containing Therion reissues we take on the Secrets of the Runes. It could have been a title of a Stargate SG1 episode, but in this case it is the 2001 album by Therion. Like the other albums I have reviewed so far, this being the third, it is a rather dreary artwork with a number of runes. In the album there are eleven runes that tells a story about significant events and places in Nordic mythology, things that we learn in school coming from one of those countries where this mythology has shaped ancient history and still does through words and stories that remain. And the runestones that are found a little here and there, I actually have one not too far from where I live. But what about Therion’s take on these stories?

Well, they tell a good story. Compared with the previous albums I have reviewed so far this is the heaviest, and also the most diverse. It is more of a metal album than the other two I have written about; it has a heavy sound but also good variation. The choirs and symphonies are less in the driver’s seat but more in the supporting role, and that helps making this album both more dynamic and attention seeking. There are some vocals in Swedish, I find that to be rather appealing as Swedish is a fantastic and diverse language, like most of the Scandinavian languages. They start logically with Ginnungagap that is a good way to grab attention with the creation myth of Nordic mythology, or rather the starting place of it. It is a great song that catches the listener’s attention and then it is held through the 47 minutes of playing time.

I like it that this album is shorter, more dynamic, and more powerful than the other two I have written about. It may actually be the best of the six, and even if it isn’t it has stood the test of time really well considering that it still sounds rather fresh. It lacks the weaknesses of the longer playing time that is the case of several of the Therion albums I am working on, this feels dynamic and has depth all way through, it ends with the listener feeling like wanting more rather than less; and that is always a great way to end.

It might not be a timeless classic, I don’t think any of the six albums I am working on fits that description, but it is certainly a good one that I will keep in my player and return to from time to time as its wonderful songs and atmosphere makes it a worthy album to listen to. The secrets kept within these runes are too good to remain unheard.