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Therion - Lepaca Kliffoth
Review: At its core, this album is crowd-pleasing heavy metal of all the familiar patterns, and although songs are well-written in a technical sense, their void of artistic direction is filled with technique and distraction, giving this album a schizophrenic character. A typical song is a time-honored heavy metal riff and blockhead drum pattern tied to a distinctive even if too familiar melodic pattern, usually borrowed from classical interpretations of Egyptian or Hungarian music.
To dress this up as a novel approach to the genre, gratuitous keyboards and chanted vocals and extensive bluesy guitar solos are added. Vocals have degenerated from a death growl to a hoarse shout of rigid cadence, sounding like a dockworker communicating a defect in lift machinery instead of music. The consequence of this aesthetic salad is to accentuate the rudimentary heavy metal riffs and verse-chorus aspects of song structure, producing profound boredom. Like their inspiration Celtic Frost, Therion seem determined to fulfill the classic rock tragedy of gaining just enough recognition to try too hard for more, at the same time abandoning the hard work and pride in their music that made earlier albums while sometimes amateurish communicative music, and have thus created their "Cold Lake." Undeniably, it will be popular because it is easy to listen to for heavy metal fans and, having enough similarity to soundtracks and other recognized "important" music, will seem like an upgrade to high culture for the great unwashed. Moments here show the same brilliance that crowned earlier Therion albums, but here it is as ornamentation and not structure, melding the aesthetics but not conceptual power of progressive rock and operatic vocals into what is ultimately very cheesy radio hard rock.
When this album came out, people heaped the same praise on it that is now reserved for Opeth, not noticing the similar dearth of ideas. Perhaps Therion are craftier than thought, and realizing that metal's audience was downgrading with the end of creative impetus in death and black metal, decided to be a big fish in a small pool by making distracting and pompous music for fools. Whatever their intent, this carnival music is a sequence of unrelated ideas competing for attention and relying on short attention spans to be taken seriously as a continuity of musical idea, and should be avoided by the serious listener.