Released: 2012, End Of The Light Records
Celebrating Therion’s 25th anniversary is the release of the band’s 15th studio album, LES FLEURS DU MAL. Christofer Johnsson is the brain child of this art project, something he has apparently had bottled up inside for quite some time, waiting for the opportune moment to proceed. Johnsson even completely financed the album, which begs the question of why? Would the label not support it otherwise? The answer to that is yes, Nuclear Blast did not want to release it and considered it too controversial. Who could blame any label, considering the fiasco that Judas Priest unleashed over another dead French guy in NOSTRADAMUS? Couple that with the labeling of the whole thing as a project of “art”, often an indicator of a musician becoming self-absorbed with the critical value of their legacy and own importance. It happened to Sting, Geoff Tate, Robert Plant, and now apparently Therion.
So yes, there were plenty of ominous signs looming before this was ever released. Credit Therion for being an unpredictable group, LES FLEURS DU MAL being a cover album of French songs sung entirely in French based and on the poem of Charles Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs Du Mal”. However, Rime of The Ancient Mariner this is not. Having never heard any of the original songs, I sought them out to see how Therion had altered them. The first one has been suitably metalized, “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” resembling nothing of the 1965 original, but man helium-voiced soprano Lori Lewis is way up the scale and into the lofty reaches of the upper stratosphere, making Tarja sound like a growler by comparison. Most of the songs melodically resemble the originals with some added intensification, but chiefly it is the operatic highs of Lewis that distinguish these songs from the gentle croon, and frankly more appealing style of the originals. Not all is lost though, as “Initial B.B.” is light years better than the original, and a compelling and catchy riff carries the spoken seductive female vocal, thankfully employing new vocalist Johanna Naila and metal man extraordinaire Snowy Shaw shares vocal duties.
Clocking in at 16 tracks, this is a long album, but not without some great songs and sections. However, it is worth questioning if this is really Therion anymore? Gone are any death metal growls and the soft songs outweigh any metallic crunch by a good sum. Likewise, if you are going to do an art project, why not do some originals instead of some old and long forgotten French tunes, unknown to half the world? Unquestionably there are some that will label this genius, but in reality this is a self-indulgent waste of time, likely to alienate many of the band’s fans. Hey I get it when a band wants to experiment and not be limited, and I am open- minded, not expecting or wanting the same album over and over. But this album is truly only for the hardcore fans and completists that insist everything Therion releases is gold. Enjoy.