When it comes to a band like Therion, expect the unexpected. Therion was formed as a death metal band in the early 90’s by guitarist and singer Christofer Johnsson as Mega Therion after the Celtic Frost album of said name. But in time the band went for a more and more orchestral sound and today, the death metal is completely gone. As death metal was never my thing, it took me a while to get into the band. 2004 was the year I discovered them and the releases were the twin albums Lemuria and Sirius B and the reason I gave them a chance was that they had recruited singer Mats Levén (Swedish Erotica, Treat, Yngwie Malmsteen), one of my favourite vocalists. The 2007 release Gothic Kabbalah, is to me their magnum opus and marked the last album of that long time line up as the whole band except singer Snowy Shaw (King Diamond, Dream Evil) and of course Johnsson himself, decided to leave after the tour was finished. For 2010’s Sitra Ahra the new line up of vocalist Thomas Vikström (Talk Of The Town, Candlemass), guitarist Christian Vidal, bassplayer Nalley Påhlsson (Zan Clan, Randy Piper’s Animal, Treat) and drummer Johan Kullberg (Zan Clan, Randy Piper’s Animal, Chris Laney) went all in with their operatic influences and created an epic sounding album and not as direct as its predecessor.
When the Sitra Ahra tour ending, Johnsson stated that the band would take a break and that it would take a while until the next Therion album was about to be recorded. That’s why it was a bit of a shock when it was announced that a new album was on its way only two years after their last CD. But Therion wasn’t about to take the safe road with this release. First of all, the album wasn’t going to be released the normal way, only available for internet pre-order through their web site and at their shows. It wasn’t released by their record company Nuclear Blast, but through Johnsson’s one man company called Aldruna (although it’s available in shops now) and second, the music isn’t new written Therion songs, only covers of French chansons and pop songs. Why choose the easy road, huh?
So how does this work, then? At first, the whole project seems a bit pretentious and maybe it is. But after a few spins, the whole thing grew on me. Of course, listening to these songs, all sung in French, felt a bit weird and unusual, but the fact is, all the tracks are arranged in a Therion kind of way, which makes several tracks sound like original Therion songs sung in French and as the album contains 16 songs, it doesn’t take long before you hardly think about the language anymore. “Poupée De Cire, Poupée The Son” (France Gall) that opens the record is very Therion sounding and a very good song, “Une Fleur Dans Le Coeur” (Victoire Scott, 1968) is catchy and melodic and a great track, “Initials B.B.” (BB is for Birgitte Bardot) (Serge Gainsbourg) is symphonic with a sexy groove where some melodies reminds me of Blackmore’s Night and I really like the spoken part and “Polichinelle” (France Gall) is very pop, Therion style and it works brilliantly. I can hear some Alice Cooper and King Diamond arrangements in “Dis Moi Poupée” and this is heavy stuff, but still melodic, “Lilith” (Léonie) is a great, evil sounding ballad, “Walhala Maniton” (Léonie) is great, very Therionized, “Je N’al Besoin Que De Tendresse” (Claire Dixon) is hard, fast and aggressive with almost a Helloween kind of feel, “Poupée De Cire, Poupée The Son” shows up again at the end of the album, exactly the same, but this time with both male and female vocals. One version should have been enough, actually and “Les Sucettes” (France Gall) that closes the album is very catchy and best of all.
To release an album like this is a very brave move and I’m sure the guys and girls in Therion will swallow a lot of shit for it. But if you are open minded enough, this album actually works. If you are a fan of the latest Therion releases, you will probably like this one as well when you get used to them singing in French, because this has lots of the sound that Therion embraces today. This might not be for everybody, but don’t reject it without giving it a fair chance
Jon Wilmenius (8/10)
01 Poupée De Cire, Poupée The Son
02 Une Fleur Dans Le Coeur
03 Initials B.B
04 Mon Amour, Mon Ami
06 La Maritza
07 Soeur angelique
08 Dis Moi Poupée
10 En Alabama
11 Wahala Manitou
12 Je N’al Besoin Que De Tendresse
13 La Licorne d’or
14 J’al Le Mal De Toi
15 Poupée De Cire, Poupée The Son
16 Les Sucettes