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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.