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I think Therion's pinnacle was the Lemuria/Sirius B double album. There really was nothing lacking there, fantastic atmospherics, composition, and thundering melodies. After that album, the next couple were good, but not great. I was hoping for a return to form, and I received it; in the form of a cover album. Granted this is an album consisting of songs that many would be hard-pressed to remember, let alone be alive for. If I had not read the credits to the album, I would have had no idea the album was not original pieces for this band. That being said, I feel that this album was just wonderfully put together. The reasons for this are to follow.
1. The fact that I never would have known it was a cover album shows that Therion melded the pop songs seamlessly into their style of orchestration. I know that music has come a long way, and that pop music nowadays consists of mindless clones and cookie cutter bands that are interchangeable without much difference. To some extent, this is true for the time frame these songs were taken from. I am sure that this was all music that people could sing along to, purchase records anywhere, and hear on the radio stations at any point in time. I love listening to cover songs that are pop, but performed by metal artists. It shows where their interests are, and what styles influence them. Sometimes, it's really random (such as in this case), but for Therion it fits. This band covers an enormous spectrum of themes and genres, so I suppose that obscure French pop from 50 years ago fits right in their musical talents.
2. Vocally, it is right up Therion's proverbial alley. This is not far from their beaten path, and sounds fantastic. I absolutely love the soprano and tenor vocals, as they seamlessly fit together, and are definitely the centerpiece for the recording. As a prior reviewer stated, it is definitely akin to Deggial, due to the lack of bombastic electronically scored symphonies. This is just a light amount of keyboard work, with some beautifully organic strings. I absolutely love the melodies, because they are extremely catchy, and have a Broadway musical feel to them. I can imagine the original music being like a Moulin Rouge style cabaret montage.
3. Instrumentally, this is tops. Everything fits and is not over the top in one way or another. There is beautiful vocals over the top of pianos, harpsichords, and some light orchestration. Along side the vocals are guitars that are neither too involved, nor too far back in the musical soundscape, and gives just enough flair to make you sway your way through the tracks. The drums are simplistic, and just right. There are no double bass beats, nor are there maniacal fills like in Sirius B or Sitra Ahra, but done tastefully to drive the melodies.
4. This album flows seamlessly from one song to the next. There are no abrupt changes in style, speed, or instrumentation, so the 16 songs really don't feel like they are separate. Because of this, the momentum kicked off from the first track is carried easily from beginning to end, and does not ebb and flow because of an all-acoustic track, or a slow instrumental. Thus, the whole experience maintains a linear tone, without the sine waves of Vovin, or Secret of the Runes.
Overall, I am so pleased with this album. It has the upbeat and light-hearted feel of Gothic Kaballah, and the organic sound of Deggial. It is a fun and light album with some great little solos, excellent guitar work to drive the beautiful vocal melodies, and just a touch of orchestra to give it that little extra something. I really hope these guys continue down this path with a bit of their own original music. This is definitely a breath of fresh air, and a wonderful departure from their norm of the last decade or so. Bravo ladies and gents, and I hope to hear you again soon!
After Secret of the Runes, Therion were kind of losing it. Lemuria/Sirius B showed the first signs of a downfall, while Gothic Kabbalah and Sita Ahra confirmed that. In fact, after hearing Sita Ahra (which was a very hard task to do, believe me), I basically considered Therion to be another one of those bands who keep getting worse (*cough* Sirenia, anyone?). When I read that the upcoming Therion album was going to consist of covers of '60s pop music, I thought that they really hit rock bottom. Thankfully, I was very, very wrong. Even if you cannot understand French, this album is highly enjoyable.
The vocals take me back to the Secret of the Runes era. There is no choir and vocals are not all operatic. I thoroughly enjoyed the vocals on this album. There's been a great deal of improvement over Sita Ahra in this department, where the vocals just sound forced and cold (and inaudible at some points). Musically, this album is like a mix of old and new Therion. Think of it as a mix of Deggial and Sita Ahra, with greater focus on orchestrations overall.
What I enjoyed most about the album, apart from the fact that it's their most enjoyable album in 11 years, is the whole idea. I mean, you would never expect an operatic metal band to release a full-length album with nothing but 60s French pop songs, would you? It's genius if you ask me. Not to mention the fact that they pull the whole thing off brilliantly.
There isn't one weak track on the album and I assure you, you will not want to skip a single track. The highlight of the album, in my opinion, is Mon Amour, Mon Ami. I'm hooked on this version of the song, it's perfect really. The original track itself was really good, and Therion's version added that extra umph.
If you're new to the band, go to this right after Secret of the Runes. A great release.
(Originally written for amazon.co.uk)
There aren't too many bands out there that can say they have been around for a decade, let alone a quarter of a century. For those few that manage to hit the twenty five year mark, some sort of celebration is usually in order. Some might go on a world tour and appeal to their aging fanbase, while others may record an album or release a collection of shelved demo tracks for the diehard followers to eat up. Of course, Therion have never been known to follow in the footsteps of others. Although the operatic symphonic metal style is all-too common in current metal culture, Therion carved out their own niche, unshackling from their death metal roots and taking a more sophisticated and experimental approach to the symphonic style. With that in mind, it's no surprise that Therion didn't decide to celebrate things the regular way; instead, they went ahead and did an album of 1960's French pop song covers. It's sure to be a head scratcher at first, and while not every fan will get it, Therion's attention to finesse and detail makes this far more than the average covers album.
The beauty of "Les Fleurs Du Mal" lies in Therion's inate ability to take the core material and work it into their own style. By this point in their career, the band has a firm and matured grip on their sound, and a strong idea of where they want to go with it. The operatic soprano, symphonic arrangements and virtuosic neoclassical guitar work is all nothing new to Therion. The fact that Therion are able to so successfully translate these tunes to their own sound is impressive in its own right. Although most of the original songs already enjoyed the backing of a 'big band' style orchestra, many of them essentially remained pop songs, or love ballads. Especially with the peppier selections, the originals have the same head-nodding quality as alot of the Beatles' earliest stuff, with the major distinguishing factor being the female French-language vocals. When you prop the original and Therion's reimagining in comparison, it's effortless to see that they're the same song. Therion puts their own signature on the cover without losing the essence of the original. Instrumental motifs and vocal melodies are retained, transformed by the symphonic metal medium. Even on the originally orchestral-led songs (such as France Gall's "Poupée de cire, poupée de son"), Therion's symphonic element is amped up in complexity. Unless you have the prior knowledge that Therion are paying contribute to France's contemporary equivalent to the Flower Power movement, you may be more easily convinced that these are Therion originals, or at least renditions of classical operatic repertoire.
Although it's about as strange a match-up as I can imagine, Therion have managed to make this experiment work. Although this is a relatively straightforward covers album, Therion have given these tunes the same tender care and consideration they would give their own music. The songs are chosen well, and the rich phonetics of the French language translate well into Therion's music. The appropriately soaring operatic melodies of "Soer Angélique" and film-score quality of "Initials BB" were two of the most memorable moments on the album. The only song here that doesn't seem to fit is their rendition of "Je n'ai besoin que de tendresse", a Claire Dixon track that could have had the staying power of the rest of the album, were it not for the ridiculously over-the-top power metal cheese direction they chose to take it in. The musicianship and production are both excellent, although anyone who has laid ears on Therion's music before shouldn't find that surprising. In particular, operatic soprano Lori Lewis' vocals sound as bright and stellar as anything of the sort you will hear in metal. A covers album this may be, but Therion have given it their greatest effort, and it really shows.
Alot of disappointed fans have gone as far as to say "Les Fleurs Du Mal" is the band's biggest misstep, and a major letdown in the scope of an otherwise illustrious career. I would hope it was a granted that Therion wasn't trying to make a revolutionary masterpiece here. Instead, here is one of the most innovative symphonic metal bands taking a step back from the composition duties in order to stretch their arms and have a bit of fun while they're at it. It's futile to compare this to Therion's real albums. Although an album of new Therion originals may have been preferable, this is a really great way for the band to commemorate the twenty five year milestone. Maybe they'll do some symphonic metal covers for Tibetan throat singing or gamelan music for their fiftieth anniversary? I hope so!
Therion have always been a little bit different from regular Metal bands but when I heard that they would release their new record on their own and without the support of the visionary German Nuclear Blast label, I was quite surprised. When I later heard that the new release would feature fifteen or sixteen cover version of the French chanson genre of the sixties and seventies, I first thought that this was a joke but it ultimately turned out to be true. The Swedish band plays sixteen classics that are mostly inspired by the famous French lyricist Charles Baudelaire and especially his most famous publication that was “The Flowers Of Evil” which happens to be the title of this record.
Let’s get a couple of things straight before I lose myself in the description of the tracks. This record includes almost only short tracks with a running time around three minutes. The lyrics are entirely performed in French. The female vocals on this release are much more dominant than the masculine ones. The new songs have mostly nothing to do with the atmospheric metal anthems or the classic epics of the band’s past. This record is something completely new. Twenty-five years after the band made its first steps as a death and doom metal band, they focus on an aspect that we didn’t even expect to exist: fun. You can hear that Therion are indeed having loads of fun on this release that sounds more diversified, entertaining and lighter than any other album by this band. The Swedish don’t care about fan expectations, critics or financial issues and simply do what they want to do and they do well.
Some of the tracks on here are in fact close to the originals and have a charming old school Chanson flair. A good example could be the very light “Wahala Manitou” by Léonie Lousseau or the catchy romantic ballad “Une fleur dans le coeur” by Victoire Scott.
On the other side, there are also a couple of more emotional and introspective songs on this record. There aren’t many of them though and that’s what makes them even more intense and outstanding. The best example is the sad “J’ai le mal de toi” by Colette Dereal that combines emotional female and male vocals and makes me think of a more rhythm orientated version of a Ginette Reno song. This sounds strange but it works very well. One of three promotional video clips was done for this song that is dedicated to the French singer and actress Betty Mars who committed suicide by jumping out of her apartment in the modern La Défense suburb of Paris in the late eighties. This new interpretation of the lyrics and the intense video make this song very touching. Musically, it’s maybe the best song on the entire record for me. Other longing songs on this record include the melancholic but romantic “Mon ami, mon amour” by Marie Laforêt. There are also some darker and mystic tracks on the release such as the perfectly entitled “Lilith” by Léonie Lousseau that could please to older Therion fans.
There are also a couple of truly experimental pieces on this record. One must of course cite the new interpretation of Serge Gainsbourg's “Initials BB” that includes narrative and poetic passages and needs a few spins to grow even though it’s one of the most intriguing songs on the entire record. The initial track is in fact dedicated to the legendary actress and singer Brigitte Bardot. It wouldn’t be too exaggerated to call Therion’s band leader Christofer Johnsson a soul mate of the eccentric French artist he’s covering here.
As I said, there are also a lot of energizing fun songs with a certain rock ‘n roll attitude on this release. “Je n’ai besoin que de tendresse” by Claire Nixon is an up-tempo track stylistically situated somewhere between the European power metal and the glam rock genre. The song feels like a mixture of a Slade party track of the late seventies, a Glam Metal anthem by W.A.S.P. from the mid-eighties and a funny Power Metal track by Helloween from the late eighties. A second video clip was done for this song. It shows Therion playing the track in front of a chaotic crowd that is getting drunk, fighting each other and having sex in the weirdest ways. This is definitely an image one has never seen before coming from this band and that unexpected aspect makes it so exciting.
There are only a couple of tracks that are comparable to the earlier works of Therion. A good example would be the opener and as reprise also the album closer “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” by France Gall. In the new version, technically perfect and slightly hysterical female vocals meet a few Symphonic Metal elements and truly heavy guitar riffs. A third and last video clip was done for this song. Even though this track is maybe one of the few directly accessible songs for the regular fans, the video funnily depicts the opposite. One can see Therion performing in a cheap bar once again where the crowd simply ignores the band or starts to disturb and hate the performance. Scenes of drunk and puking women, brutally fighting men and people having sex on the toilet are also shown.
Therion definitely risk a lot with this new release. No matter what one might think about it, the concept is quite courageous, entertaining and unique. I would have never expected this band to create this kind of fun ride of an album. It doesn’t sound that much like a Therion release but I happen to truly adore this addicting record. Any open-minded music maniac should try this release out and might maybe call this her or his bible of the year 2012. Any Therion fan should though stop and try this record out warily instead of purchasing it blindly and getting disappointed. This release is not for everyone but those who accept it will probably love it quite a lot just as I already happen to do.