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A journey through another land - 89%

Observer, February 19th, 2007

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.