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A Symphonic Fairy Tale - 100%

Khull, July 31st, 2009

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.