The Lyrics Corner: Therion’s “Cult of the Shadows”

“La tapallah puluthu, Utukke lemnuti Apkallu”

Therion is one of the most famous acts in Swedish metal. Guitarist and main composer Christopher Johnsson created the band in 1987 and set the table for all of symphonic metal when he explored, alongside plenty of other musicians, the use of orchestras and choirs to add a grandiose effect to compositions.

If you are a casual Therion listener you might have missed out on their lyrics. On closer examination, it can be said that the lyrics are mythical ensembles that employ different resources of occultism to exalt the numerous magic practices and also to support the allegorical language of the most descriptive pieces. The writing style of the band walks a line between mythical speech and incantation of spells; it all adds another layer of perception to their songs.

Thomas Karlsson is a close collaborator to the Therion project and has provided the lyrical topics to all of the albums since 1996. He is a writer of the esoteric and is the founder of an occult organization named Dragon Rouge, rooted in Left-Hand Path philosophy and empiric occultism. In his academic work he has studied the Gothic Kabbalah and its rune system from a historical and metaphysical point of view.

“Cults of the Shadow” is the song we will analyze today in The Lyrics Corner. Released on Theli, this killer cut involves a simple scheme for empowerment through the mix of English, Akkadian, Sumerian and Latin phrases sung by the large choir. The male lead vocals were sung by Dan Swäno and Piotr Wawrzeniuk.

The left-hand path is a common notion in Western Occultism, and this album and this particular song deal with several symbols that are repeated in these multiple traditions. Set, the Egyptian god of the desert, is viewed as a force of chaos; meanwhile, the Sigil of Baphomet and Babel are name-dropped too, in an attempt to reinforce the ethos of this magic framework that deals with an individualistic philosophy. It should be kept in mind that the dichotomy of Left and Right hand paths is not a “good vs. evil” fight; instead they are different sets of practices and studies that reveal different truths in different ways.

Written in a style reminiscent of cryptic occultist books, the lyrics in this song point to the spiritual journey through the  left-hand path magic initiation, the one that employs the Alchemy philosophy frame to use secret codes in order to discover the unseen spiritual world. In fact, “Cults of the Shadow” is one of the confusing books of the occultism author Kenneth Grant (a former student of the famed Aleister Crowley), in which he describes his interpretation of diverse ‘magick’ schools, including some references to Ancient Egyptian religion. It is good to note that Thomas Karlsson’s work is influenced by the Thyphonian school of Grant, and this book, and this song, probably serves as a historical reference to what they are trying to conceive: a path that connects the primitive forces of Chaos with personal enlightenment and the transformation of the soul through the Alchemy.

In the lyrical narrative, this is probably a resume of the story behind the myriad of symbols:

Starting after the putrefaction process, the soul’s initiate (the subject of the lyrics) will cross the Styx river, the border that leads to the Underworld, in an attempt to unveil the alchemic secrets. The foreign and exotic chants reinforce the notion of the dark forces that terrorize and seduce through the walk, and the ancestral beings are named in the form of the Sumerian and Akkadian figures: the Utukke Lemnuti, the demons on those mythologies. The initiate invokes primal forces to gain the ultimate truth and guard himself/herself with pledges to ancestral beings like Apsu, the male principle, and the Apkallu, the Seven Sages of Sumeria; the usage of these symbols was not chosen from a random caprice; conversely, those names represent those kind givers who endowed mankind with the gifts of civilization and understanding. In the end of the lyrics, old Sumerian purification prayers and empowering recitations probably set the mood for a victorious final clash of the initiate against the dark forces, conquering dark through dark.


Secret Chiefs cloaked in wisdom
Dark illuminators of ZYX [1]
Brings the putrefaction process
To lead the soul across the Styx [2].

Ludul bel nimeqi ea [3]
Naramtu dianau Apsu [4].

The Seven Ones of Babel [5]
offer the Grail of Ecstasy [6]
to open the Eye of Shiva
through the Great Work of Ecstasy [7].

Celebrators of becoming
Appears in the Sethian [8] mystery
To turn lead to gold
Through the Great Work of Al-Khemy [9].

The Secret Sign of Mendes [10]
Unveil the Magick of the Goat
Cults of the Shadow
Under Ilan Hizon’s [11] root.

La tapallah puluthu [12]
Utukke lemnuti [13] Apkallu [14].

The Seven Ones of Babel
offer the Grail of Ecstasy
to open the Eye of Shiva
through the Great Work of Ecstasy.

Celebrators of becoming
Appears in the Sethian mystery
To turn lead to gold
Through the Great Work of Al-Khemy.

Erset la tari [15] ki-utu-kam [16]
Adapa baru sar kissati [17]
Ziqqurrat Kutha pet pi Girru
Erset la tari ki-utu-kam [18].

Subigo inimicus [19].

Ludul bel nimeqi ea
Naramtu dianau Apsu.

[1] This symbolizes chaos as an inversion of the standard alphabet.

[2] In Greek mythology, the river Styx was both a deity and the most known of the rivers that border the underworld. The waters of the Styx had miraculous powers and were also the fetid tomb of enraged souls.

[3] This line is a reference to “I Will praise the Lord of Wisdom,” a Mesopotamian poem of an afflicted man that questions his suffering, despite his faithful service to his Gods.

[4] Apsu is the male principle and the waters of the beginning of time in the Enuma Elish myth. He was paired with Tiamat.

[5] Babel is both a symbol for pleasure and the Earth.

[6] Shiva is one of the Three Hindu primary deities. He is both the destroyer and the benevolent. The iconography of Shiva includes a third eye open on his forehead, signifying another level of perception of the spiritual side of everything.

[7] The ecstasy concept deals with trances to transcend the senses. In psychology, it means a loss of self-control.

[8] Set was the Egyptian deity of Destruction and Chaos. It was paired with the Greek monster Typhon. It was the brother of Osiris and the personification of everything that confronted Egypt civilization: the desert, the harsh droughts, famine, the crocodile, and chaos itself. Depending on his mood, he could protect the caravans in the desert or destroy them.

[9] The Alchemy is viewed here as both a philosophical view and a spiritual guidance.

[10] One of the names of the Sigil of Baphomet, an occultist sign that depicts the power of the life force and the opening of a higher state of consciousness from the individual path of the Dark. It put together opposites, so it can be linked to the occultist view of the Alchemy.

[11] In the alternative mysticism of Kabbalah, this is a synonym for the Qliphoth, the Tree of the Death, or the Dark Tree. It’s the opposite of the Holy Sefirot.

[12] It seems it is translated from the Akkadian as “Do not fear to be swallowed.”

[13] The Sumerian equivalent of the demons.

[14] The Seven Sages of Sumeria. They were fish-like demigods created by Enki to improve mankind and establish culture.

[15] “The Land of No Return.” This is the Sumerian equivalent of the Underworld.

[16] A set of Sumerian rituals for purification.

[17] According to the Sumerians, Adapa was the first Sage of Mesopotamia, the first Apkallu.

[18] In Sumerian: “The Ziggurath of Kutha opens the door of fire, the land of no return, the rituals of purification.”

[19] In Latin: “Dominate the enemy.”


Did you like this? Share with us your comments about it, and if you want, suggest another song to examine. Together we can prove that metal lyrics do not all suck.

(Image VIA)

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Published on: December 2, 2015

Filled Under: Metal, Nerd Shit

Views: 1146

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  • Dubs

    Good job, Lonk.

    • Thanks for the congratulations and thanks for helping me out with this one, Dubz.

  • COAL ROLL

    Wow, this is really interesting stuff

    • It was very fun to put this together. I read a little about occultism and magic, but trying to unveil the meaning on the older languages was a pain and I had to check different sources and words to give them some kind of meaning.

      I also repeated the song until I got tired of listening to it, jajaja.

      • Dubs

        It’s clear you did a ton of research.

        • I had to read a resume of Kenneth Grant work and I got headaches because I didn’t understood it, jajajaja!!

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            People study that stuff for decades and still don’t get it.

          • Well, yeah. Occultism is a hard subject. There too many schools and practices that is easy to get confused between it.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            If you want a humorous and easy to read take on left hand Occultism, among other things, check out Robert Anton Wilson.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Anton_Wilson

          • Thanks, K!

      • KJM, Shake Zula

        A lot of Saturnalia Temple lyrics are like this(similar inspiration).

        • I’m checking this song’s lyrics: Aion of Drakon:

          “Cut the silver cord
          with the scythe of Thantifaxath
          The spider web of time
          covers the cavern of the most holy

          The sulphurous breath of Drakon
          your intoxication
          your elixir of life”

          Yup, pretty occultist left-hand path.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            I have that CD, excellent Doom/Stoner Metal. I was very disappointed that their recent release wasn’t as good(to my ears). Tommie Ericksson(sp?) was also in Therion for a brief time.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            Yeah that last effort of theirs was super underwhelming. I think we talked about that before

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Yep, a couple of decent songs but nowhere near as good as ‘Aion Of Drakon’ or ‘UR’.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            Agreed, sadly

          • From Metal Archives:

            Drums (1994), Guitars (1997-1998).

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Both “Tommies” definitely share similar occult beliefs(Thelemite).

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            I hope Saturnalia Temple do other shows in The US besides MDF, Dopethrone as well.

          • In Metal Archives it says that he belongs to the Thomas Karlsson organization, the Dragon Rouge. So, yeah, they’re pretty connected.

            They both were part of Shadowseeds, the only band in which Karlsson played as musician.

            Wow, they’re BFFs!

          • KJM, Shake Zula
  • Maik Beninton™
  • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

    Link, i didnt know you like Therion so much. Pertinent to the post last Sinday, Therion was a transformative band for me. I dont listen to them as much as I should but they should not be overlooked by any metalhead.

  • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

    OT: I dont want to steal any of Links Glorious Short Story of Therions Lightning Sword ×/÷ 3 . . . but this finally got here after about 3 weeks (rfi)

    • Wuzzat?

      • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

        Dragged into Sunlight & Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V.. This version ltd to 200 copies

    • RJA

      Did it come with a rolled up bill?!

      • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

        Thats standard tabletop fare here

  • tertius_decimus

    Let’s give credit to Leonhart for putting together all the information (really impressive job, mate), however, with mind set cold most of Therion’s lyrics look like a encyclopaedia mishmash that was compiled together for the sake of being compiled together. Ode lyric style gives just a scratch of surface understanding of many worldwide mythologies. Nile does better job in that regard.

    • KJM, Shake Zula

      Their lyrics are only supposed to be focusing on Thelemic themes. Hence the name: Therion.

      • tertius_decimus

        They were covering everything from Greek to Aztec mythology. Wide geography and timeframes made them free to change music style from previous album to another. At least, I’ve learnt many unknown names and stories thanks to Therion.

  • tertius_decimus

    Someone, please, write something on Bal-Sagoth amazing lyrics. I’d write myself but my English leaves much to be desired.

    • Maik Beninton™

      Link managed to write it with his self-taught english, you can do it too.

      • tertius_decimus

        His Spanglish is way better. In my native tongue there are 3 times, in English there are 26. Still flounder as hell after many years of learning. 🙁

  • Waynecro

    This was a badass and fascinating Lyrics Corner, dude. Thanks!

  • Matt Pike’s Sweaty Left Nipple

    Cool article Link, I need to go jam some Therion now. Used to listen to them a lot but haven’t really kept up with them lately.

  • Boss the Ross

    Great job Link, this was a very well researched and thought out lyrics corner.

  • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

    Find a fentanyl patch stuck to your drawer on a dark day? SHOOSH
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eJLiMOvUgXs

    • KJM, Shake Zula

      #jealous

      • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

        #RAINYDAYFUNDTREASURES

        • KJM, Shake Zula

          Gotta wait until Saturday.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD
          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Unbearable. At least I has tasty nugs to ease the pain.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            Anything can be bearable with a patch

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Hell, a break or a fracture can be bearable with a patch.

          • more beer

            I can live without other things but no bud is unbearable.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Co-signed.

    • more beer

      Be careful with those things. I’ve seen them drop stone cold junkies.

      • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

        Lawl

        • more beer

          Have fun I’m gonna go to a show.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            You have fun, bro

          • more beer

            Thanks I will.

      • KJM, Shake Zula

        I’m sure he knows his recommended serving size.

        • more beer

          I’m sure too. But at the same time. I’ve seen them drop heroin addicts who were on the methadone clinic.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            The problems w junkies is that they have no VIT, END, STR, DEX, WIL, INT, FTH, AGL, or CHA. The best they get is . . . LCK, i guess

          • more beer

            No the problem with junkies is they are junkies.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            18(00) Constitution +500 Against Accidental OD

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            There’s always that’s risk of being more on one side of the patch than another. A friend who was hospitalized took a shower and forgot to take his patch off. As soon as the warm water hit the patch, he passed out. He’s lucky the nurse found him.

          • more beer

            Yea he is lucky. Did they blast him full of narcan?

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Probably.

          • more beer

            I’ve seen a couple of people who od’d shot with that shit. It is ugly because it makes them instantly dope sick. Man I have lived in some fucked up places.

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            I remember when 2 of my best friends lived in an apartment building that was basically a huge crack house. The moment you opened the front lobby door, the smell hit you right in the face.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            Mmm

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            Smelled like an evil hospital.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD
          • KJM, Shake Zula

            It just doesn’t smell good when you’re not the one smoking it.

          • more beer

            I’ve lived in places like that. But that didn’t even kind of prepare me for the tweekers out west. talk about some messed up people.

          • more beer

            You guys have a good night I’m I’m out to see Maruta.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            Daaamn, that shud b a gudn

          • more beer

            They were pretty fucking good. I love that venue 5 minutes from my house.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            We use bags of hot water, works p well

  • Janitor Jim Duggan

    Very interesting article. I’ve read about alchemy before and it interests me.

    • KJM, Shake Zula

      Remember, the ideas in Alchemy are mostly symbolic.

      • Janitor Jim Duggan

        I know. Ive read the work of Albert Campus and enjoyed it and a few other authors as well.

      • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

        Fucking satanists

        • more beer

          Just another bullshit religion.

        • KJM, Shake Zula

          SATAN.

          • 100% PURE BLACKBEARD

            Patch yesterday got me goddamn lifted, bro. I was up playing d3 til like 2 am with these canadians and had no idea what time it was

          • KJM, Shake Zula

            2 more days…

  • Eliza

    These lyrics are just brilliant! I always like the mythology and occult themes in music.