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'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!