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Therion: Gothic Kabbalah

Therion is always an interesting and impressive band to listen to and for twenty years they have brought the Metal world some of the most amazing Symphonic Metal that often touched upon a number of other areas like Folk, Gothic and Progressive long before it became a common occurrence. With Gothic Kabbalah, they have once again defied the conventional musical boundaries as they bring to life their latest epic adventure. This album finds four individual lead singers (two male and two female) and they immediately enrapture the listener for each of them brings a unique presence to the musical table. Given that each of them acts as a soloist rather than merely providing backup for the others it adds a more intense feel to an already dramatic CD. Band founder Christopher Johnsson (guitars, keys/organs) chose not to sing on their recordings anymore and has left this role in some truly capable hands. The singers feature among their number Mats Leven, who also served as lead man for the German Power Metal band At-Vance. If you heard that group before, you know exactly how good this guy can sing and believe me I think we have a lot more greatness coming from him in the future. Although it possesses the expected Symphonic elements that Therion are known for I did not see an over abundance of them as we found in the double CD masterpiece Lemuria/Sirius B. This album instead focuses on a moody and intense darkness at times and has some truly foreboding riffs and structures. I found this feel most prevalent during "The Wisdom And The Cage" as it mixes some growls amid the clean vocals. The other singers who are making the magical tale come to life are Snowy Shaw, and the incredible female contributors Hannah Holgersson & Katarina Lilja. The changes and grooves continue to amaze the listener for tracks like "Son Of The Staves Of Time" is a hard core rocker, but it begins with a solo operatic vocal by one of the girls. It is one of my favored tracks along with "The Perennial Sophia" (a name that is heard across a number of songs on the album). I also felt that this recording was a little more accessible than some of their others. It is deep and complex at points, but it does not tend to mystify you too much and instead will find you playing air keyboards, guitar and drums. "Trul" is one track that did that for me, and I even found some Jethro Tull feel going on in a portion of it. Outstanding music tends to find people finding their inner Rock Star.

The lineup of the core musicians has not changed as along with Johnsson, we still have the Niemann Brothers on guitar and bass and Petter Karlsson on drums. They all work together incredibly well and make it seem easy as they knock the teeth out with driving riffs or hold you tight in their arms with melody and passion. Clearly, Therion is a band that helped define the path that Progressive Metal would take and if you are a fan of any bands that cite them as their influence you owe it to yourself to get more acclimated to them. I feel that fans of both Nightwish, and Epica would love what Therion does very easily if they are not already listening. A comprehensive DVD boxed set Celebrators Of Becoming and Lemuria/Sirius B, are recommendations for any Metal library and make it easier to catch up. Therion is a band that shows that continual experimentation can still be fresh and exciting even after 20 years of doing it. Given they raise the musical bar on a regular basis how can you do any less than come along for the very interesting ride. The double CD set Gothic Kabbalah is a recommendation and music that you will play often.

Track Listing
1. Mitternacht Lowe
2. Gothic Kabbalah
3. The Perennial Sophia
4. The Wisdom And The Cage
5. Sons Of The Staves Of Time
6. Tuna
7. Trul
8. Close Up The Streams
9. Three Treasures
10. The Path To Arcady
11. Chain Of Minerva
12. T.O.F. – The Trinity
13. The Wand Of Abaris
14. The Falling Stone
15. Adulruna Redivivia

Added: January 25th 2007
Reviewer: Ken Pierce
Related Link: Therion Website
Hits: 4779
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Therion: Gothic Kabbalah
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-01-25 15:13:15
My Score:

Sweden's beloved Therion have gone through many stylistic changes over the course of their career. Starting out primarily as a lethal death metal ensemble, the band slowly incorporating more progressive rock, avant-garde, and thematic themes into their music, culminating in the 2004 double album Lemuria/Sirius B. With Gothic Kabbalah, Therion have fully realized their operatic, gothic, and progressive instincts, moving further and further away from the extreme metal sounds heard on early releases like Theli, Vovin, Of Darkness…, and Deggial. On this latest album, Christofer Johnsson (guitars, keyboards), Kristian Niemann (lead guitar, keyboards), Johan Niemann (bass, acoustic guitar), and Petter Karlsson (drums, guitar, keyboards, vocals), are joined by guest vocalists Mats Leven, Snowy Shaw, Hannah Holgersson, and Katarina Lilja, giving the album a very rich and multi-layered effect, both from a vocal perspective as well as musical. Relying less on technical virtuosity (although there are a fair share of shredding solos, impressive drum displays, and masterful keyboard passages throughout this 2CD set) and massive riffs, the band instead concentrates their efforts on musical textures and dramatic vocal layers. Leven and Shaw each have excellent voices, and give a nice contrast between the higher pitched metal attack and the darker, huskier, gothic approach, which works well against the operatic styles of Hannah and Katarina. 70's prog rock fans will certainly enjoy the multitude of vintage Hammond and Moog keyboard sounds which abound on Gothic Kabbalah, and coupled with the excellent rhythm and lead guitar work, gives much of the album a feel not unlike Arjen Lucasson's Ayreon or Star One projects.

Therion have created an unqualified success here with Gothic Kabbalah, an album that is sure to raise the bar for operatic progressive metal. Check it out.

Therion: Gothic Kabbalah
Posted by Duncan Glenday, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-01-18 01:51:14
My Score:

There are no cookie-monster vocals on this record.

Read that again - no cookie-monsters!

So for the large number of prog fans who would like much of today's better progressive metallic fare but for the growling - you can now add Therion to your shopping list.

But long-time Therion fans will probably wish they were there - and here's why: Gothic Kabbalah doesn't have that brilliant, dark anger that made the ballsy Vovin and Theli, two of the best records of their genre. It's far more refined, and far less metallic. And Gothic Kabbalah doesn't have the huge sounds and the grandeur of Lemuria / Sirius B. It's also a double-CD, but it's far more straightforward and a bit more sophisticated. The same thing happened to The Gathering, Lacuna Coil, and so many other edgy dark-metal acts that became popular. Their recent records have been excellent in every way - songwriting, performances, stellar production - it's all there. But they lost their edge!

Interestingly, there's a stronger classical orientation here - not the grandiose in-your-face operatic soprano singing over heavy black metal - rather, it's subtler and deeper. It's in the compositions, the vocal performances, the choirs, and particularly, the instrumentation. There are folksy moments as well, and guest artist Rolf Pilotti's flute work of often sounds like a cross between Focus and Jethro Tull. Listen to "Trul", or the title track, and hear the energetic pipe-work. Elegant and well attuned to the flow of the composition. The intro to "Tuna 1613" - will have you thinking 'rock opera' - and indeed, Gothic Kabbalah is a concept piece - there's still something of the dungeons-and-dragons theme, but this time, Therion taps into obscure European mythology. The record, it isn't brimming with creativity - but there are many pleasing moments. Listen also for the odd use of the chorus in "The Perennial Sophia" and "Three Treasures", and for the unusual duets in "Chain Of Minerva". Therion's 13th album ends with a 15-munute epic with a strongly classical bent, deeply layered, beautifully structured, and easily the standout track on the album

Adding depth to the music is a strong list of guest artists, including Ken Hensley, Dream Evil's Snowy Shaw, and the excellent Mats Levén from At-Vance.

Ultimately, it's one of the best things Therion has done. It's more progressive than before, its approachability will find wide appeal, yet it's easily as well layered, as complex as before. We can't give this less than 4.5 stars - it's just so bloody good in every way. You can listen to this all day long. But damn, where's my Therion gone! This music is wonderful, but it's just not that special any more.

Think of it as is what Rhapsody always wanted to be, but didn't quite manage.

» Reader Comments:

Therion: Gothic Kabbalah
Posted by Carlos Canales Vega on 2008-02-06 16:07:21
My Score:

Soaring and catchy melodies, great ominous atmosphere and all around quality instrumentation and arrangements, make this a memorable listening experience.
The lack of the black/death metal cookie monster vocals made me give this a try and... boy i'm glad i did it!
Highly recommended.

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