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"Gothic Kabbalah" is an album where I found both things to like and disappointing stuff. The title track and "Son of the Staves of Times" were some of the first Therion songs I heard and they caught my attention. So it introduced me to one of my favorite bands,, but while I tried to like this album, something just didn't work.
Let's get what I liked out of the way: the vocals are arguably my favorite part of the album. It blends Mats Leven's powerful voice, Snowy Shaw's deep gravel, Hannah Holgersson and Anna Nyhlin's operatic singing, and Katarina Lilja's more uncertain style. Mats Leven is probably my favorite male Therion vocalist, and Snowy does a great job too, arguably better than Mats but we'll get to that later. Hannah has a perfectly clear voice and you can hear clearly that she's a professional opera singer. Katarina doesn't have a phenomenal voice, but I like how she can use both sweetness (her part in "Trul" sounds simply gorgeous) and a weird tone like on "Close up the Streams". I also like the contrast between the voices.
As for my favorite songs: "Trul" and "TOF: the Trinity" have wild riffs, "Chain of Minerva" and "Path to Arcady" have beautiful choruses, "Son of the Stave of Times" is very uplifting. The album is softer than usual for Therion, which, when done right, creates a sweet and beautiful mood for the songs.
But then everything else doesn't work. Other songs are simply not as memorable, because it feels like they are only half-finished. They sound like… I guess a simplified version of Therion ? That is, mostly shorter, less heavy, with softer vocals, simpler melodies, less of a symphonic and experimental feel and less obscure mythological references. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, but it creates the impression that they made almost no efforts when they wrote this album.
A good example of this laziness are the two first tracks. "Der Mittnachtslöwe" doesn't have a lot of energy or a particularly memorable tune. This is how you open a Therion album, with a dull song that sounds like it was written in 2 minutes on a particularly lazy day ? Sorry for comparing it to Therion classics, but in front of "Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah" and "Blood of Kingu", this looks pretty underwhelming.
"The Gothic Kabbalah" has more life, but it's just Mats and sometimes Katarina singing over a generic back-up band. For a title track, it's not very remarkable, complex or even interesting. It's just mildly catchy. While I have some fondness for the song, because it was one of my first Therion tracks, there's something hard to define that bothers me about it… For reasons that I can't quite explain, it sounds like less Therion than like a song for a semi-good animated movie filled with occult references.
For another song with great potential ruined by the lack of effort, there's "The Perennial Sophia". The goddess of wisdom is one of the main themes of the album, so you'd think this song would be interesting, but no. It's just a simple little melody with bored-sounding vocals. It's bland, a rather irritating kind of blandess. Equally bland and irritating is "Wisdom and the Cage", with one stupid little "Sophia, please rescue me" line and a dull chorus. One song that I could have done without, and one that's really easy to get mixed up with "The Perennial Sophia", because they are both stupid boring songs that constantly talk about Sophia.
And even though I said I liked "Son of the Staves of Time", GothKab's lack of inspiration still can suck the fun out of it. Yes, it feels good to listen to. But it's kind of a shame how they used Hannah Holgersson's great voice, because she only sings the same 4 lines in the chorus. While the chorus sounds pretty awesome, I can't help but notice that it basically repeats the same sentences. I may like Katarina's part on "Trul", but the song also doesn't go as far as it could, and I can't help feeling that the vocals are more suited for a softer, blander symphonic/gothic metal band than Therion.
I notice that most of the songs I didn't like are from this double album's first CD, while the ones that I like or find at least more interesting are on the second disk. Then, I'd recommend the second CD rather than the first one. But even on the second disk, there are some problems. "Adulruna Rediviva", the 13 minutes long last track, is supposed to be the most complex, epic and mature of the album, but to me, it's just one of these songs you forget right after you've finally finished it. And if I have to hear that stupid "It's about to crack the crystal sphere" chorus from "The Falling Stone", it will be too soon.
Rant over. I probably gave the impression that I hate this album, and yes, there are many things about it that just get on my nerves. There are songs that I could say I hate, and I could make Top 10s of the worst moments in the album. Yes, I enjoy some of the songs, and I really liked the vocals. It's an album with at least a few interesting ideas and it's not painful to listen to. But something is just not clicking with me. I really wanted to like this album, but it just bored or disappointed me. It's not the worst album I've ever heard, but if Therion has one bad album, their own "St Anger" or "Thornography", it's this one.
Listen to this record for the singing, or just for some songs like "Son of the Staves of Time", "TOF: The Trinity" and "The Wand of Abaris". Or maybe you will be charmed by its softer sound and think I'm too harsh. And I really don't want to be too harsh, but I just have to admit that this doesn't convince me as much as I wish it would.
Two and a half years after the release of the impressive double-album consisting of ‘’Lemuria’’ and ‘’Sirius B’’, Therion mastermind, guitarist and keyboarder Christofer Johnsson, the Niemann brothers on bass, acoustic and electric guitars and keyboards and new collaborator Petter Karlsson who participated in the choirs, played drums, guitars, keyboards and percussions put out another double-album which wasn’t separated in two parts this time. ‘’Gothic Kabbalah’’ features two discs, fifteen songs and a total running time of eighty-three minutes. Despite the occult title, the new record isn’t a gothic metal album but the project still reinvented itself. The classical music has decreased while the metal elements have increased. The guitar riffs have become more dominant while the rhythm section of bass guitars, drums and percussion sound more vivid than on the previous double-album. On the other side, extreme metal elements are completely absent from this record that mostly meanders through heavy and symphonic metal genres. An important novelty is the inclusion of flute sounds, Hammond organs and tambourines in the key of Jethro Tull and other progressive folk rock bands in songs like the title track ‘’Gothic Kabbalah’’. Another change of style is the inclusion of rather gloomy and low lead vocals by Mats Levén and Snowy Shaw who really add a dark tone to the release in tracks like ‘’Three Treasures’’ which could almost come from a gothic musical. Female lead vocalist Katarina Lilja also surprises with rather grounded and low vocals as opposed to the usual classically trained vocalists. Her psychedelic trip hop inspired performance in ‘’Close Up The Streams’’ is one of the biggest surprises on this output. She gets some occasional support from soprano singers Hannah Holgersson and Anna Nyhlin. Band leader Christofer Johsson had announced prior to this release that he would completely retire from singing and this record indeed features none of his charismatic growls. Overall, the song writing on this output has become more complex and progressive and the tracks need some more time to unfold than those on ‘’Lemuria’’ and ‘’Sirius B’’. This is especially true for the challenging album closer ‘’Adulruna Rediviva’’ who turns out to be the longest Therion song so far as it clocks in at thirteen and a half minutes. Among several successful elements are also a couple of fillers and the record would have been more efficient in my opinion if it had been about thirty minutes shorter and only been a single disc with ten tracks.
On the positive side, Therion continues its streak of catchy and gripping openers with the album highlight ‘’Der Mitternachtslöwe’’. The track mixes a dynamical rhythm section and powerful heavy metal riffs with some decently employed symphonic elements and Middle Eastern folk sounds. The dark and mysterious verses are crowned by a majestic chorus sung in English, German and Latin which works surprisingly well. The opener of the second disc is called ‘’The Wand Of Abaris’’ and features an even more mysterious tone with Snowy Shaw’s eerie, gloomy and low vocals as well as the dragging and hypnotizing instrumental pace. The Middle Eastern folk elements are still present and the enchanting chorus really stands out since it’s performed by female choirs and sounds much more positive than the verses. The antithesis of these tracks on this diversified release comes in form of the powerful up-tempo track ‘’Sons Of The Starves Of Time’’ that features high pitched female vocals, majestic choirs and Mats Levén’s most enthusiastic performance on lead vocals. The chorus has this certain kind of magic and reminds me somehow of several famous New Age performers such as Era or Vangelis. This is a track that should also please to many fans of emotional and sophisticated music outside the metal scene. An honorable mention goes out to the hidden gem ‘’The Perennial Sophia’’ which convinces with laid back verses driven by enchanting female lead vocals and an incredibly catchy chorus where Mats Levén sings in a low but warm tone as opposed to Snowy Shaw.
On the negative side, some tracks grow only slowly or fail to impress at all. ‘,Wisdom And The Cage’’ features Snowy Shaw on lead vocals as he randomly and theatrically tries to growl, pant, sing, shriek and whisper through a chaotic song. His cringeworthy performance is slightly amusing and definitely not in a great way. ‘’Trul’’ is another song that goes straight nowhere for me. The folk inspired female vocals aren’t all so bad but the song’s numerous breaks and changes of style sound very odd. ‘’TOF – The Trinity’’ is a fast, hectic and nerve-wrecking track that sounds completely alien on the album and which isn’t even tolerable as a stand-alone experiment. It sounds like a rehashed Judas Priest tune performed while being on drugs. ‘’Chain Of Minerva’’ also changes pace and style way too many times against its own good even though the calmer and numbing parts which are almost lounge-inspired definitely have some potential.
In the end, there is a surprisingly elevated amount of fillers or misses on this nervous double-album and the song writing is all over the place. Still, the most gripping songs on here, namely ‘’Der Mitternachtslöwe’’, ‘’The Perennial Sophia’’, ‘’Sons Of The Staves Of Time’’ and ‘’The Wand Of Abaris’’, as well as a couple of intriguing experiments like ‘’Three Treasures’’, save this record from being of an average quality only. A few tracks might grow and unfold as time goes by but other tunes are just overtly diversified, long and progressive against their own good. This double-album is hard to digest and only recommended to dedicated collectors and fans. Less would have been so much more on this output. Several limited editions featuring additional live tracks only add to the confusion and are rather worthless in my book. Occasional fans might rather appreciate the live release ‘’Live Gothic’’ which was recorded in Poland that came out one and a half years later. It features the best tracks from ‘’Gothic Kabbalah’’ plus several essential classics of the band and comes around with an intense and intimate live atmosphere. Fans of classical and more sophisticated music can’t get around ‘’The Miskolc Experience’’ which was recorded in Hungary and released two and a half years after this studio album. The band played several of its own hits and many classical excerpts from Dvořák, Mozart, Saint-Saëns, Verdi and Wagner with a classically trained choir and orchestra. Epica have recorded a very similar record in Miskolc, entitled ‘’The Classical Conspiracy’’, which is also highly recommendable. If you simply want to go with a Therion studio release, make sure to purchase both the predecessors ‘’Lemuria’’ and ‘’Sirius B’’ as well as the follow-up ‘’Sitra Ahra’’.
In Mexican Spanish, “cagada” has two meanings. The literal meaning is, “a pile of shit”, but there’s also a colloquial meaning, which is, “a big mistake”. Therion’s Gothic Kabbalah, the Swedish symphonic metal ensemble’s eleventh long play, actually fits in both concepts, though to be honest it’s not entirely worthless. It’s just that compared to their previous output, it really seems like a really big, steaming “cagada”. There’s some quality to be found here but you’ve got to dig deep to find it. I was extremely disappointed when I first listened to this, and though I’ve occasionally tried to enjoy it these past years, I still find it pretty mediocre, undoubtedly the band's worst so far. And the fact that it's a double album just makes things worse.
It all starts to suck right away with its boring cover, a pretty generic “mystic-looking” eye with flames that looks like the logo of a mediocre and poorly conceived online game. Yeah, that’s right, I’m even complaining about the artwork. Whatever happened to the dark, abstract compositions full of symbolism that adorned their classic albums? Anyway, at least they kept their logo intact, so there was hope for this one. Or so I thought. For what I found here is a shitload of half-assed ideas thrown in, and an overall lack of catchiness. Also, I’m not a huge fan of both Mats Levén and Snowy Shaw vocals on this album, on which they are an overused resource. They sound out of place and try too hard to sound operatic and grandiose. They work better when singing calmly or narrating-like. Therion should have kept their “one power metal singer song per album” formula and stick to REAL operatic vocals for the rest of the songs, which is what used to set them apart from other symphonic metal bands in the first place. Finally, the "metal" here so many claim to be amazing, mostly consists in lackluster riffs and insipid songwriting, and is in fact very generic, far from what Therion used to produce.
Disc one is the shortest and also the worst, though “Der Mitternachtslöwe” is not a bad of opener at all. In fact, I find it to be one of the best tracks of the whole double album, its overall composition reminding me of the excellent Secret of the Runes album. Its varied array of vocals works magnificently, unlike most songs of the album. And after that, one of the albums nastiest surprises arrives. “Gothic Kabbalah” itself it’s just too flute-happy and folksy for it’s own good, giving Jethro Tull a run for their money. It’s followed by a couple of totally mediocre tracks displaying extremely boring chorus and virtually no hooks, then “Son of the Staves of Time” slightly augments in quality. After that, we have another forgettable song and finally the first disc ends with a couple of ok tracks, “Trul”, which bears some Blind Guardian-esque riffage and chorus, and “Close Up the Streams” which boasts nice melodies and an interesting rhythmic section.
Disc two is marginally more interesting, with opener “The Wand of Abaris” carrying a smooth cadence not unlike “Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah”, albeit with a less powerful chorus. “Three Treasures”, despite its-top notch musicianship (a constant in both discs, truth be told), is totally skippable. “The Path of Arcady” is a good song, with mildly catchy chorus, solid riffs and a remarkable extended instrumental outro. Then, “TOF – The Trinity” appears. It’s by far the heaviest song of the whole album and my overall favorite, displaying a progressive structure, great riffs and solos, memorable melodies and powerful chorus, including those sung by Mats Levén. “Chain of Minerva” seems promising with its jazzy drum and bass parts, yet develops into not much. “The Falling Stone” attempts to be heavy, yet it’s as weightless as anything produced by any random Nightwish clone. And finally, the longest song ever produced by these swedes, “Adulruna Redivivia” arrives. I have to admit it’s a fairly strong way of ending the album and a good, if not mind-blowing, song. Unsurprisingly, it is composed of several distinct sections, which traverse between amazing and plain uninspiring (the main guitar solo is pretty weak) and most of the time merge well with each other. It ultimately works fine, but clearly it isn’t the epic masterpiece some claim it to be.
So, in the end we’re left with 50 minutes or less of solid, yet not excellent, material, enough for a decent album. But no, Christopher Johnsson and the lads choose to release this 85-minute, pretentious snooze-fest. Perhaps they though they could manage to do another Lemuria/Sirius B double punch. Truth is they didn’t succeed. And be no mistaken, I’m a huge, HUGE Therion fan, not only because I firmly hold some of their albums as absolute favorites, at the same level of timeless classics of any genre (metal or not), but also because they were one of the first bands I saw live, during a time most international metal acts just ignored my home town Guadalajara (at a 4 million people populace, Mexico’s second largest city and home to a great deal of faithful metalheads like myself) or simple couldn’t make it here. And since the first time they came (year 2000), they’ve kept on returning at a rate of almost two times per year. In a few words, they hold a special place in my metal-coated heart. And that’s why, my dear metal brothers and sisters, I just can’t stay put and indifferent when they release sub-par material. In fact, I have to WARN you all, to better listen to their previous albums. Things would somewhat improve with their following album, but that’s another story.
Of course they’re less symphonic as before. Denying this would be stupid.
However what’s always puzzled me since this opus came out more than two years ago is this is often the main argument used by its detractors to justify a supposed (and totally imaginary) decrease in quality from our Swedish occultists. Instead let’s face it: this was the cleverest way to go. Lemuria/Sirius B had featured a whole symphonic orchestra, extended choirs, various novel instruments such as mandolins and balalaikas, and of course what had been the culmination of everything, the famous wow they even used a real church organ! thing. While in every further album since the very first one Christofer Johnsson had tried to add a little something more, the point had probably been reached when it was no longer possible. Gothic Kabbalah, where the orchestrations are merely programmed and the only alien instrument is a poor occasional flute, is exactly this: a return to SIMPLICITY.
For the unlucky ones who aren’t familiar with the band yet I’ll immediately add this has nothing to do with the failures most long-established artists call returning to their roots. The roots of Therion were death metal, and this album doesn’t show a single hint of death metal. Hell, even the bombastic Lemuria/Sirius B was more DM than this, with Johnsson’s occasional growls. Now he’s officially stopped singing those have thus forever (?) vanished in oblivion. Gothic Kabbalah isn’t Therion looking behind – it’s looking forward, as always. But let’s look closer, we’re sensing something bizarre. Indeed, a BAND PICTURE! There hadn’t been any since Theli a decade ago and even that one, relegated in the corner of a page, was of very poor quality. The meaning is clear, Therion finally presents itself as a genuine metal band more than Christofer Johnsson’s personal brainchild. Furthermore the guy, precisely, is relegated in the background, lost and wild, flanked by the sombre, monolithic figures of the Niemann brothers here looking more like demonic executioner’s assistants than actual musicians. Eventually if we except drummer Peter Karlsson (not to be confused with lyricist Thomas Karlsson) the forefront is exclusively taken by the four lead singers who aren’t even considered as full bandmembers. Indeed an inverted band pic may be something funny in itself, but it above all underlines the main point here: the key role will be devoted to singers.
How? The contrast between two female lead voices, a warm one and a shriller one, will be once again exploited, though those voices sound far less “operatic” (if this term, after all, means anything) than on Vovin for instance. Besides, and this is fully novel, a similar contrast will now be built between Mats Leven’s energetic power metal voice and the exalted, tortured wails of Snowy Shaw. Occasional drummer for King Diamond, exuberant frontman of the grandiloquent horror band Notre Dame, the man is eventually given the opportunity to show his full potential, and he takes it. He’s an inborn showman, what his voice betrays more than once, and his range is amazing. The additional guest tenor and soprano end up with a part pretty much restricted to the choirs which have now become anecdotal, all the more they’re often undertaken by the four aforementioned singers.
The songs, thus, seem to have been written for this sole and only purpose: allowing said vocalists to shine. The band feeling is once again reinforced by the fact almost everyone has contributed to the writing process, with ironically only a negligible part abandoned to Christofer Johnsson, echoing his lacklustre presence on the previous picture. Don’t be fooled though: Mr Therion still wrote and programmed all the orchestrations, and you can be ensured nothing here has been slipping through without his approval anyway. However as may be guessed the result is a highly varied album which will most probably sum up to another unique piece in the band’s discography especially given both Peter Karlsson and, more importantly, the Niemann brothers left hardly a couple of years after. Varied, and metal. The overblown grandeur of Lemuria/Sirius B is gone, but as a direct consequence Kristian Niemann’s extended, fluent guitar solos now will finally be appreciated to their true value while the riffs, though overall not as impressive as on HDHM, are often worth of mention (e.g. TOF – The Trinity). Without forgetting his brother and bassist Johan who isn’t only well present, but even sometimes indulges in short solos.
Writing FIFTEEN different songs – genuine songs without a single interlude – isn’t easy matters, but the guys somehow managed to do it while all along never abiding to the two key words, simplicity and priority given to the singers. Wisdom and the Cage will thus be Snowy Shaw’s song, the first half being exclusively supported by his insane voice alone. The following Son of the Staves of Time is by contrast Leven’s song, what isn’t surprising given he wrote it himself, though this still won’t hamper the addition of some beautiful female vocals; female vocals which will in turn take the best in The Falling Stone. On the opposite The Perennial Sophia, The Wand of Abaris or Three Treasures are all slow, melodic tracks where the leading role isn’t devoted to a particular singer, but they all share roughly equal duties in a harmonious whole. By contrast again (will you finally understand this fucking thing is all about CONTRASTS and nothing else?) a couple of much heavier moments have been thrown in, culminating in a TOF – The Trinity oddly reminiscent of old Symphony X. Symphony X robbed us with their album V, in turn we’re robbing them. Not a complaint, though. And, last but not least, an EPIC! There hadn’t been any true Therion epic since Via Nocturna (No, I’ve never considered Kali Yuga as an epic). As the final, ultimate contrast, Adulruna Rediviva takes the opposite way of the entire album with a long, bombastic, complex track more in accordance with the popular view of Therion as a symphonic/operatic band. Genius in irony!
There’s no need to say more, this versatile gem is one of Therion’s best. Granted the overall concept and lyrics will remain secondary as they aren’t the best the band’s ever pulled out; the journey through various religions and cultures Lemuria/Sirius B consisted in was much more convincing that these obscure prophecies the exact meaning seems to be reserved to Dragon Rouge members, but I can’t imagine anyone listening to Therion solely for lyrics anyway. Second, let’s admit they should have kept it to a single CD. These wonderfully crafted little tunes are a pleasure to listen to at random, a pleasure the two-CD format of course hinders. Getting rid of Chain of Minerva and Trul could have helped, as though I don’t have any serious grievance against the latter it still somehow breaks the flow of the album, while the former is the only bad track here, sounding like a mediocre sequel to Emerald Crown which wasn’t a particularly remarkable song to begin with; perfect snoozefest here. But again, a filler and a disposable track on a total of fifteen is still a nice performance.
And indeed, this isn’t gothic!
Highlights: Der Mitternachtslöwe, The Perennial Sophia, Wisdom and the Cage, Son of the Staves of Time, The Wand of Abaris, TOF-The Trinity, Adulruna Rediviva
There's a certain level of enjoyment one gets from guessing what the latest Therion album will sound like, and an even greater level of excitement or disappointment depending on the result. For example, those who expected Gothic Kabbalah to continue on the styles of predecessor Sirius B / Lemuria would be sorely let down, as would those who wanted another season of Theli. As should be expected, Therion chose to redefine themselves for their latest. Gothic' appears to be Therion's most ambitious album yet, and not just in the length department. There's a lot to digest in this one; traditional Therion lyrical themes are masked on this grand adventure that would have the brothers' Grimm themselves applauding at the conclusion. So what should one expect from Gothic Kabbalah in terms of sound? If we could put it as simply as possible, it would be Theli-esque guitars driving the symphonic meanderings of Sirius B utilizing the lyrical wonder emitted from Secret of the Runes.
Expect to find yourself singing along to a great deal of these songs. Snowy Shaw, Mats Leven, and Katarina Lilja are the primary vocalists here, handling the vast majority of vocal lines on any given song, and handle it they do! Vocally, this is the most engaging Therion album since Lepaca Kliffoth or Symphony Masses – I wish I were joking! Surprisingly, the apparent glut of vocalists doesn't create an unbreakable wall of voice; instead, there are quite enough instrumental breaks and pauses that one would be surprised to know so many are present. How the choir vocals are utilized lies the true cleverness – oftentimes they'll enforce a particular word or line, as is common on most tracks. On much rarer occasions they'll perform vocal chaos in which, quite honestly, you'll still find yourself humming along with. When combined with the myriad mythological and fantasy references (Norse mythology right alongside the Iliaster, how cool is that?), the true scope of Gothic Kabbalah becomes clear, and it's at that point you're totally sucked in.
I eluded to a number of styles in the opening paragraph, but that doesn't mean much to somebody unversed in the ways of Therion, does it? Allow me to explain: Between the three guitars (I know, I can't honestly believe there are three either), most common is an unobtrusive chug-like rhythm that mimics the bass most of the time save for the opening riffs of a select few tracks. Above that expect to hear what I call productive wank (those who are familiar with Stratovarius will know what I'm talking about); solos – yes, there are solos in a Therion album, make frequent appearances, my personal favorite being the one midway through The Falling Stone. The symphonic elements do tend to meander a lot, generally slow or mid-paced moving with the music, but they aren't afraid to go balls-out when the time calls, as it does on TOF – The Trinity, among others, at which point the music might border on overwhelming with how much is going on.
Gothic Kabbalah is honestly the perfect example of symphonic metal's capabilities. The Falling Stone, The Perennial Sophia, and Tuna 1613 could all be classic Therion tracks, and Adulruna Rediviva is easily the crowning achievement of this album and their discography – clocking in at a hefty thirteen and a half minutes (It's also the only track that doesn't lend to the incredibly enjoyable sing-along mentality). While too many bands seek to combine memorability and engagement together in an album, especially in symphonic metal, too little actually succeed (See: nearly every female-fronted band being put out the past few years). In a sub-genre that lends to so much crap, it's a relief to know bands such as Therion continue to kick ass and reinvent their style with each album. The recommendation goes out to fans of all things symphonic. This is one album you don't want to pass up the chance of owning. Indeed, our nineteenth century story tellers would wear looks of satisfaction upon it's conclusion. Well done.
Not all supergroups deliver, this much we've seen. I mean, you'd think getting a bunch of hugely talented musicians and throwing them into a room together would result in some fantastic output (or at least some great punch-ups), but it often turns out that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
This one isn't like that. It's a chore trying to summarise Therion for those who aren't familiar with them yet – starting out as a death metal band with some progressive elements, they've now morphed into a full-blown symphonic metal opera outfit. And don't even go into their lineup – judging by all the ins and outs that keep happening, it looks more like some open-source project than an actual band. All you need to know is that there are enough people contributing here to have their own football team, substitutes and all.
Full-strength squad or disguised unemployment, then? Well, when you're doing the kind of stuff these guys do, it's a big thing that you commit to the cause. It'd be easier to go halfway and then start taking the piss, being all “Hey, it was tongue in cheek, you know? We're cooler than that, come on!”. Anyway, cool or not, these guys come across like they fully believe in what they're doing, and at the end of the day, that sells it.
This shit sounds grand. It's the kind of thing Metallica desperately hoped S&M would end up sounding like. And it's not just some 'orchestra theme + voiceovers – cut to metal riff' hack formula. Everything interacts organically with everything else, savage guitars clawing for space, brass sections pushing back, string sections nimbly claiming the remaining room while the drums hammer down the groove and vocals soar over and rumble below the din. Despite this description sounding like a cacophonous mess, it's anything but. It's actually an intricately orchestrated drama with everyone chiming in when their parts are on, but it's handled so masterfully that you get sucked in all the way, appreciating every little detail of the tapestry it creates.
Of the two CDs, the first is the more piss and vinegar, using Mats Levens' steel-lunged delivery and Snowy Shaw's gravelly rumble, juxtaposing them with operatic sopranos and tenors for full effect. The second reins back the tempo to create a more laidback atmosphere but, in the middle, throws all that out of the window to unleash the pure fury of TOF: Trinity on everyone. It's a long haul going through both, but unsurprisingly you don't really feel that. If you like your metal sincere, ballsy and willing to take risks, this should go down extremely well.
The Sirius B era was too good to last forever, and the Theli era was too brilliant to last as long as it did. So Therion evolved again, incorporating elements like those of Rhapsody and its flowery companions, some of them hokey and dull, others triumphant and functional. It's all different and new, and I hope it's not a sign of things to come.
The new vocalists aren't quite up to par here. The vocals are more like typical power vocals, and those that carry an operatic form aren't performed with their former skill. The riffs are faster and more forceful, but not nearly as memorable or passionate even as Deggial's. Then the lyrics finally snap. They get hokey. They get cooky and verbose without the merit of the occult themes that once permeated Therions vocabulary- they have gone from the ancient hebrew kaballah to the popular madonna kaballah. And for two discs they go on, enfatuated with their own silliness, and plowing over the absolute flawless brilliance that Therion is still capable of.
How do we know they're still capable of it? Because of the last track. GK would get a 60% from me if not for Adulruna Rediviva. This may be Therions single best song ever. It has all the operatics, all the symphonics, all the powefull beautifull crazy twists and shifts of Sirius B and Theli, it transmogrifies from epic to subtle to wild to electronic to mysterious to obvious like Classical Gas did in the 60s, Adulruna is a powerful magnum opus of Therion's sound that ends the album with music so great you can only hope a second listening will prove the rest of the thing to be so good, but on my 5th listening, it has yet to improve.
It's worth buying just for Adulruna Rediviva. The rest is schmaltz but I maintain Therion's worst is better than most. And the end is mind blowing. Absolutely mind blowing. I very much hope the end is a hint of things to come, and that the body is over and done.
Therion is a band that never ceases to amaze me. They started out as an excellent death metal band, and then changed their style from each album that followed. That doesn’t mean that their style is bad- quite contrary. Therion uses entire choirs and symphonies to record their albums and evolved into a symphonic/operatic metal band. They seem to improve upon their previous masterpieces, from their raw- sounding Lepaca Kliffoth to their polished Lemuria and Sirius B. However, it seemes that Therion has slipped on their way to greatness with their two- disc album Gothic Kabbalah.
The album isn’t too bad, but it’s definitely not up to snuff with Therion’s previous works. The first disc begins off with Der Mitternachtlöwe, a decent song with nothing extraordinary. Then comes up Gothic Kabbalah. This song is not half bad, but I realized that they virtually removed the operatic vocals which has grown as a part as Therion. The symphonic parts also seem a lot weaker which dominated in their previous works. The rest of the songs on disc one are rather sub par, and Tuna 1613 definitly sounds similar to Iron Maiden’s Number of the Beast, except Maiden did it 1000 times better.
The second disc starts off with Mats Levén doing some very lame vocals, and I winced when I heard the riffs that followed. Then, Snowy Shaw ( Or at least I think it’s him), does some really high vocals. Even though this indicates he has one hell of a range, this sounds like a whiny teenager under cock and ball torture. Further along, we have TOF- the Trinity. Albeit the obvious wanking, it’s one of the highlights of the album. This highlight, however is overshadowed by he second to last song, The Falling Stone, which is full of pretentious pop influence. The next song, however, could be considered the strongest song of the entire album, Adulruna Rediviva. This song is Lemuria- esque sounding, which is a great improvement from the rest of the album. It is also the longest song on the album, so one can be grateful for that.
Overall, this album sucked; I hope the next album coming out in 2009 doesn’t follow this trend. If you are a Therion newbie or are just starting with them, look away. Start from Theli or Lemuria, then pick up Vovin or Secret of the Runes, and then get Sirius B, Deggial, and Lepaca Kliffoth. If you are a diehard fan of Therion, then heed with caution; it’s going to be a kick in the ass ( not good). This could be the selling -out point in Therion’s career.
What I loved about Therion was their magnificent use of choirs and operatic vocals in combination with what can be described as almost wagnerian melodic structures. It gave the music a very unique and dignified sound. With Gothic Kabbalah, these aspects seem to have been toned down to the extent that they're almost gone. The choirs are reduced to background noise and these new singers, while not inherently bad, are woefully ordinary and boring compared to what I've come to expect from Therion. The grandness is still there, but it seems shallow and clanky in contrast with the previous albums pompous greatness. This album sounds more like an epic Katatonia album than a serious Therion effort.
When I listen to Therion, I don't want to listen to regular heavy metal. I want Therions own patented brand of symphonic greatness that didn't fit into any existing musical mold, but who instead had created their very own mold. One that doesn't necessary conform to what the average dull-brained metalhead thinks should be in a heavy metal album. At least they used to be that way. With Gothic Kabbalah, Therion have taken one step away from that. I've heard rumors about how Therion wanted to slip a foot in the door on the american market with this album. Somehow, that makes the whole situation a bit more clear.
The lyrics of Thomas Karlsson (the kooky leader of the "magical" order Dragon Rouge, which Christofer Johnsson is a member of) have always been a mishmash of more or less obscure mythology and his own demented notions about magic. But on this album, they seem to be especially silly. Perhaps because of the new vocals. I suppose it used to be easier to ignore the painfully pretentious lyrics and just enjoy the abstract beauty of the choirs and operatic vocals on the previous albums. Now we don't have that luxury.
All in all, I'm disappointed and somewhat disillusioned. I hope this was just a one-shot deal, but somehow I doubt it.
Therion has a long history of writing really fun, mature, and kickass heavy metal. I always worry that maybe their next release might be a flop. Maybe they might pull an In Flames and release something like Nightwish. Or maybe they'll just keep on kicking ass while the guys in Nightwish keep wondering why they can't keep up with Therion's originality.
There is nothing cliché in this album. It is as simple as that. Therion manages to pull of just over 80 minutes of complete originality, and while it is more accessible than some of their other albums, it is still Therion. It is still the operatic mythological metal that Therion continues to invent. And to think, they still haven't released the third album that was to accompany Sirius B / Lemuria. The Perennial Sophia for example, is the best Therion ballad so far. They might release a better one in the future, and I honestly hope they do, but for now this will suffice. It isn't boringly long like Siren of the Woods, but at the same time it isn't way too short. I don't fall asleep during it, even when trying to fall asleep, as the soft break soon ends with Snowy Shaw's voice kicking in with a "Yawwww!" at the beginning of The Wisdom and the Cage.
Kristian Niemann is one of the best guitarists of our time, and he seems extremely comfortable standing with the ranks of Therion. His solos are unlike any I have ever heard. They are intricate, memorable, technical, and they stick on the mind like a tiny magnet onto a giant magnet. Listening to this release not only gets songs stuck in my head, but the entire solo, and I often find myself air-guitaring to them even if something totally different is playing.
Then there are the riffs. These riffs are more uplifting than Dragonforce, without the cheese, and manage to keep their originality. I don't hear very many influences in them, perhaps Iron Maiden and other classic metal bands, but beyond that it seems to me that Therion is the influencer, not influencee. These riffs are fast, catchy, technical, everything that makes a heavy freaking metal album heavy freaking METAL!
Then there are the riffs. Not guitar riffs... Drum riffs. Petter Karlsson's drum riffs to be exact. These provide a heavy metallic backbone to Therion. The drumming is the best Therion drumming to date. From trots, to gallops, to double bass aural assault, they add a whole new dimension to the music. Trul is the highlight of the album's drumwork. Trul on its own is a headbanging masterpiece, but the drumming adds a celtic tribal feel, a folk influence that rockets this song to the status of "Classic".
The bass riffs complement the album like steak sauce on a steak. They provide a bold strength to the guitar riffs, and keep the song moving during the solo. Unlike most metal albums, the bass is actually audible, and is mixed in extremely well considering the massive array of sounds Therion produces.
The symphonic elements, the vast array of orchestral elements mixed in with heavy metal, provides a mythological atmosphere that Therion strives and succeeds in achieving. It boggles my mind that this band can produce so much material that surpasses Howard Shore's work as a modern composer.
The vocals need no introduction, unless you are a Therion newbie. Therion has been combining operatic vocals with heavy metal since 1992 with their classic song Symphony of the Dead. Back then, they didn't dominate the music like they did now. However, another element is added in with the operatic vocals. There is no longer "just" operatic vocals, but a vast array of vocal styles that fully explore the vocal talent of four beautiful voices. Two female and two male, both have their own moments as a lead vocalist as well as a backing operatic voice. In my opinion, the vocals is what makes this album so great, without such powerful voices, The Perennial Sophia would be boring as most beautiful instrumentals are. I couldn't possibly get into many of the songs if there were "just" operatic vocals either. The riffs would still be catchy, but the vocals on this album are so varied and interesting, that there is not a single dull moment throughout the entire eighty point five minutes of this album. They are the driving force of Therion, and I only hope that they continue to utilize this potent combination of operatic vocals with every other vocal style that has revolutionized music in the past sixty years. I hear influences from 1940's era jazz, as well as folk, blues, and genres I can't even name.
Finally there are the lyrics. The meanings behind those beautiful words sung in Perennial Sophia tell stories of legends that span thousands of years ago. Therion is not only influenced by heavy metal legends from the 70's and 80's. Therion is not only influenced by genres from as far back as the 1940's. Therion is influenced by the legends that formed the centerpiece of many cultures 3,000 years ago and beyond. Furthermore, their songs tell stories of treasure hunts and adventure on top of the ancient myths.
I give this a 100. I've only given that to only one other album, Wolfheart by Moonspell, but by comparison that album is a 67. This would get a 200 if allowed, a 100 for each disc. Unless Therion releases another album this year, there is no way another album will come along and top this one. There have been some gemstones too, Dark Tranquillity's Fiction, etc... but this is a dragon's hoard of gemstones.
The highlights of this album are as follows: Der Mitternachtlöwe, Gothic Kabbalah, The Perennial Sophia, Wisdom and the Cage, Son of the Staves of Time, Tuna 1613, Trul, Close up the Streams, The Wand of Abaris, Three Treasures, Path to Arcady, TOF - The Trinity, Chain of Minerva, The Falling Stone, Adulruna Rediviva.......... but if I were to pick from four of those, I'd have to say TOF- The Trinity, The Perennial Sophia, Trul, and The Falling Stone.
Therion has always been among my favourites, starting with death and then (thank God or, perhaps, I should say - Devil) turning to wonderful symphonic metal. With their mindblowing masterpiece Sirius B/Lemuria it was difficult to think that they could come up with something better than that (yes, I consider Sirius B/Lemuria to be their greatest work). And they didn't...
In their latest opus Gothic Kabbalah I find changes that should seem dissapointing for a die-hard fan. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this album is the lightest in their discography and the most progressive one too.
Light, not-that-metal-to-headbang-to guitars and vocals almost made me shatter the 2 CD's upon the very first time of listening. Curse me a thousand times for how wrong I was. With each consequent listening the album just got better and better. Damn, the runes are still there, catchy melodies and great compositions are still there, great vocals are still there (consider "Wisdom and the Cage", "Trul" for great female performances). So far so good?
Contemplating the "least metallic Therion album" issue I have come to a conclusion of what Therion did/might have wanted to do with this album. It seems to me that their new approach drew them closer to classical music than ever before. If it's not heavy it doesn't mean that it's not complex or valuable to listen to. Nowadays, every man, who considers himself a "true intellectual" knowing what "real" music is will praise Mozart, Beethoven, Bach to name a few. For those thinking that metal is all about strumming randomly on the strings and screaming some unintelligible gibberish I have a couple of words: listen to Gothic Kabbalah and, perhaps, future generations will have Therion (among other great bands) side by side with Mozart in music studies.
Summing up on the album, Therion has made a new turn in their career, to the better or to the worse, it's up to you, just give it a second chance if you didn't like what you heard the first time.
Highlights: the whole two CD's. Seriously.
Well, after repeated listens, it’s time to provide a ‘little’ review regarding this particular piece of music made by one of the most creative and interesting bands currently around.
This is not Therion’s greatest album but it’s still damn good and manages to fulfill the bands’ standards in terms of musicianship, lyrical complexity and length. Because we are talking of 85 minutes of music divided in two discs, ergo, a whole lot to listen and analyze.
Yes, this album isn’t perfect or supreme. There are several flaws affecting it. Throughout the net and the metal scene there have been tons of negative comments about Gothic Kabbalah or, going to the other extreme, pure laurels and flowers without a middle point. To avoid such confusion I instantly bought the album as soon as they started selling it in our country so I could find out what was going on.
The production is something worth mentioning as everything sounds clean and clear. The instruments are vibrant (that bass!), keyboards here and there provide melodic approaches, the voices are perfectly mixed (except a case that I will point out later) and the few choruses never get covered by the instrumentation… Wait a second. Did I say “few choruses”? Indeed! It’s Therion’s most accessible work so far, more guitar driven and less inclined to operatic approaches; it lacks the violin craziness we once had in Secret of the Runes (i.e.: “Vanaheim” or the masterful “Muspelheim”) or the ominous and dark chords in Deggial (like “Eternal Return” or “Ship of Luna”). The choruses appear few times, only to enforce some lyrical lines or to add the usual grandiosity to the song.
Clean conventional vocals, both male and female, are the main leads in Gothic Kabbalah. There is a tenor and a soprano but they sing alone. Again, the huge great classical choruses are practically gone except from Adulruna Rediviva, the epic song of the album, and even there they don’t take full control of the song like many of their previous stuff. This may literally provoke an instantly negative reaction for many fans and probably attract other people at the same time. It happens every time a band changes direction.
As usual in Therion, the lyrics are far away from most standards. You will notice a few recurrent topics like Abaris, the runes (or “runa” in swedish) and other symbols. Yet again, they are mainly dreamy, complex, hard to get, full of obscure references and quotes in many other languages right from the beginning, “Der Mitternachtslöwe”, which is also a high point of the album and an awesome opener despite the lack of grandiloquent choruses and the strange vocal lines.
Somehow I found that it takes longer to get into Gothic Kabbalah but, once you finally hear things carefully, we are in front of a great album that could’ve used some extra work and a cut in the length.
The first disc features a nice set of tunes. As mentioned above, the opener is something for the tours. It features the usual sound of the band but with fewer instruments (which doesn’t mean they don’t play what’s left in a complex way) and way more guitars, riffs and drumming. Metal is back! Along with the great drumming comes a bass that you can clearly hear tapping each cord at the rhythm of those ominous voices. Pure gold.
The rest is also interesting, like the folk elements in “Gothic Kabbalah” and “Trul” (it contains a nice flute solo and a damn catchy chorus) or the incredible “Tuna 1613” (which isn’t a song dedicated to the fish but a surprisingly good fast guitar-driven madness like I didn’t hear in a while), practically the best song of the first disc with the use of both the tenor and Mats Levén’s voices. The other high point comes at “Son of the Staves of Time”. This one, people, is the reminder of the previous Therion’s albums. The choruses feel more “full”, you just don’t hear only one or two voices anymore and the lyrics truly bring the previous two albums' feeling.
As you can see, there is a lot of music to pick from.
With all the good things must come something bad and that is “Close up the Streams”. It’s a decent song but I found myself skipping it and go straight to the other CD thanks to the hideous beginning. This is a personal thing so I hope I won’t cause any drama or tragedy but I cannot explain how much I hate the female vocals here. It’s just impossible to tolerate the whiny, stupid and pathetically seemingly goth/seemingly bad style that makes it sound like a complaint rather than singing. I think the best, and softer, analogy I can do is that it feels like an old witch chanting a spell. Horrible. The distortion and effects applied to the voice didn’t help at all.
But after that bitter drink we put the second disc and… well, “The Wand of Abaris” is fine nonetheless but the chorus seems out of place and pretty un-metal but nothing to cry much about... Then comes “Three Tresures” a song that, with “Chain of Minerva”, will keep sounding in your head, one for the beautiful flute parts and inspiring lyrics and use of the female voices and the other for the odd chrouses and vocals. Worth to mention is the “Adelruna Antiqua / The prophecy of Sibylla” line of that song, which truly brings back some of the previous albums feelings. You can also hear how the bass and drums begin to build and later explode in the chorus.
Unlike the first disc, this one feels a bit stronger and perhaps by cutting the length of the first and then removing something of the second they could’ve accomplished a masterful and unique album instead of two that contain good stuff but also feature “conflictive” points.
The closer, “Adulruna Rediviva”, is an epic piece of more than 13 minutes which may appeal those who wanted an album similar to the Lemuria/Sirius B duo. It’s way better compared to, for example, “Secret of the Runes”, which had the same repetitive riff over and over again till the end without much variation. Here they put everything in the battlefront: choruses, more classical instruments taking part of the action, guitars everywhere and more, so probably nobody will be disappointed with it.
I saved another personal comment regarding the booklet because I don’t know if the album comes in different versions around the world so I didn’t want to throw a dark point in vain. Strange symbols and figures are featured between songs’ lyrics and the middle of the booklet comes with more of that stuff, which was a nice addition. So far, so good but.... oh, surprise! At the end they featured a band’s photo… I think they should never EVER put a photo like that again. I cannot describe it pretty well really (my english has its limits) but there is only and only one word that comes to my mind: “Posing”. It is credited who is the responsible of that tragic abomination, and you may find him familiar for his previous “works” at turning people into clowns (I warned this was personal). It also felt quite disappointing if you consider that they went dressed up way better for their concert in Mexico. I know, the title says “Gothic” Kabbalah, but well…
Ok, I think that was the other low point of the album, though it doesn’t have to do anything with the music itself but I needed to give the warning. This is way more accessible and progressive than Therion’s previous works so it’s required to be open minded and ready for something different. You truly never know what these guys can come up with.
Solid in most fronts, I obviously encourage getting this album as it is one of the most important releases of 2007.
'Gothic Kabbalah' is actually the first Therion-album that I bought upon release. Never have I denied the genius of Christofer Johnsson and the people surrounding him, but they never had any studio album that could hold my attention for its full length.
My interest in the band was reawakened when Mats Levén was added to the ranks. And with Levén, my absolute favorite Metal singer, at the helm, Therion released the impressive dual album 'Lemuria' / 'Sirius B' and the stunning box set 'Celebrators Of Becoming', including a near perfect concert in Mexico City.
With that in mind, I was eagerly awaiting the new (double!) album by the Swedish collective. Only a perfectionist like Christofer Johnsson can get away with such long gaps between releases. Especially when they're as good as this one.
Misleading is the title 'Gothic Kabbalah'. In fact, 'Gothic Kabbalah' might just be Therion's least "gothic" album since they stopped playing Death Metal. The amount of operatic vocals has been reduced dramatically and instead, we often hear a girl with a powerful voice who has obviously been inspired by Arabic and Persion music. In addition, Mats Levén gets all the space he needs to display all the sides of his excellent voice. And the music is more guitar-orientated than ever. All together, that makes 'Gothic Kabbalah' Therion's most progressive, as well as their most accessible work to date.
However, it took me longer than usual to really get into the album. Instant kicks in the face like 'The Blood Of Kingu' or 'Kali Yuga' on 'Sirius B' are a little harder to find on this album. They're still there though and one of them is 'TOF - The Trinity', probably the heaviest Therion-song to date, in which lead guitarist Kristian Niemann goes completely insane on his instrument. The structure of the song is progressive and highly inpredictable and the guitar riffs are pounding heavily. On top of that, there's Mats Levén totally showing off his versatility.
The song has been placed in the middle of the second disc, so it takes some time to get this kick in the face. Personally, I think this is due to Christofer Johnsson's perfection. The guitarist probably wanted to build up a great climax and thought long and well about the order in which the songs should appear. After a couple of spins, I can only conclude that he made the correct decision.
My personal favorites are mainly the heavier ones, such as the aforementioned 'TOF - The Trinity', 'Tuna 1613', 'Son Of The Slaves Of Time', of wich the music is completely penned by Levén, and 'The Falling Stone', with a great job by one of the two female singers! But on the other hand, there's also some great other tunes, like the symphonic midtempo stomper 'The Wand Of Abaris', the excitingly structured and romantic 'The Perennial Sophia', with great bass work by Johan Niemann and operatic vocals by Levén, and the Brit-folky choirs near the end of 'Trul'.
Fans of "classic Therion" will probably find something of their liking in the majestic closing piece 'Adulruna Redibiba'. Bombastic, epic and fantastic! And when even the strange title track starts to sink in (I liked the trade-offs between Levén and the female singer in the verses right away anyway), you'll notice the true value of this album.
I must say...I really like this "new Therion"! Levén's lead vocals as well as Kristian Niemann's marvellous guitar solos get a lot more space than before and the songs have more balls than ever! And for the fans of "classic Therion", there's still the German / Nordic mythology lyrics by Thomas Karlsson and Christofer Johnsson's classical Arabic / Persian melodies. The symphonic bombast has just been slightly reduced in favor of more guitar- and song-orientated stuff.
It's still unmistakably Therion nonetheless. I think Christofer made the smartest move in his carreer to let his bandmates cooperate on the material at such a large scale. Therion sounds more as a band than ever.
The sticker on the album cover said that 'Gothic Kabbalah' is "the best and most exciting Therion-album since 'Vovin'". I doubt if the fans of 'Vovin' will agree with that, but for me, personally, this is Therion's best recording yet: heavy, progressive and accessible, yet still epic and bombastic. And of course, Christofer Johnsson's ridiculously high quality standard has been fulfilled again. The new year has only just begun, but if 'Gothic Kabbalah' will not be my album of the year, that would mean this will be a great year for music!