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Therion - Les Fleurs Du Mal CD (album) cover

LES FLEURS DU MAL

Therion

Progressive Metal


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4 stars An art project by Therion this album consists entirely of old french folksy symphonic cover songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The album is most similar to the previous "Sitra Ahra" release and has the same line up as Sitra Ahra. In some ways it is better that Sitra Ahra, but unlike Sitra Ahra there isn't any metal in this album (not that there was much in SA but at least we come some heavy moments).

You have to get this album because of its originality. Nobody else has done an album like this. It is like a modern version of old style music that isn't made anymore.

The production is perfect. The performance of the band and singers is top notch. None of the songs suck, although some of them can get boring at times and almost put a rocker to sleep. A few songs stand out as being "hits" and are superb to anyone's ears. Some of them sound familiar as we've probably heard these melodies before (they are cover songs after all).

The songs all fit together. This is not a random assortment of songs like lemuria/sirius b or Gothic Kabbalah. There are no annoying 80s metal screams ruining the flow of an operatic song. It may take a few spins to realize it, but the instrumentals are complex and extremely well done. But you don't really notice the instruments. The guitars and drum beats are mostly in the background backing up the vocals. This whole album focuses on vocals and melodies.

I have to hold back five stars because the album is a little bit boring from a metal heads prospective. There are no noteable guitar solos or heavy moments. It is jazzed up. The songs do rock more than the original versions, but this album cannot be considered metal by any stretch of the imagination. It may have a little metal influence here and there from the "therionization" of the songs, but no the songs are not metal songs. What this is, is actually another rock opera masterpiece by Therion. Much like Secret of the Runes before it, this will bore the h*ll out of metal fans, while delightfully pleasing fans of opera or fans of old time music.

Report this review (#830888)
Posted Sunday, September 30, 2012 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars 'Les Fleurs Du Mal' - Therion (7/10)

There aren't too many bands out there that can say they have been around for a decade, let alone a quarter of a century. For those few that manage to hit the twenty five year mark, some sort of celebration is usually in order. Some might go on a world tour and appeal to their aging fanbase, while others may record an album or release a collection of shelved demo tracks for the diehard followers to eat up. Of course, Therion have never been known to follow in the footsteps of others. Although the operatic symphonic metal style is all-too common in current metal culture, Therion carved out their own niche, unshackling from their death metal roots and taking a more sophisticated and experimental approach to the symphonic style. With that in mind, it's no surprise that Therion didn't decide to celebrate things the regular way; instead, they went ahead and did an album of 1960's French pop song covers. It's sure to be a head scratcher at first, and while not every fan will get it, Therion's attention to finesse and detail makes this far more than the average covers album.

The beauty of "Les Fleurs Du Mal" lies in Therion's inate ability to take the core material and work it into their own style. By this point in their career, the band has a firm and matured grip on their sound, and a strong idea of where they want to go with it. The operatic soprano, symphonic arrangements and virtuosic neoclassical guitar work is all nothing new to Therion. The fact that Therion are able to so successfully translate these tunes to their own sound is impressive in its own right. Although most of the original songs already enjoyed the backing of a 'big band' style orchestra, many of them essentially remained pop songs, or love ballads. Especially with the peppier selections, the originals have the same head- nodding quality as alot of the Beatles' earliest stuff, with the major distinguishing factor being the female French-language vocals. When you prop the original and Therion's reimagining in comparison, it's effortless to see that they're the same song. Therion puts their own signature on the cover without losing the essence of the original. Instrumental motifs and vocal melodies are retained, transformed by the symphonic metal medium. Even on the originally orchestral-led songs (such as France Gall's "Poupée de cire, poupée de son"), Therion's symphonic element is amped up in complexity. Unless you have the prior knowledge that Therion are paying contribute to France's contemporary equivalent to the Flower Power movement, you may be more easily convinced that these are Therion originals, or at least renditions of classical operatic repertoire.

Although it's about as strange a match-up as I can imagine, Therion have managed to make this experiment work. Although this is a relatively straightforward covers album, Therion have given these tunes the same tender care and consideration they would give their own music. The songs are chosen well, and the rich phonetics of the French language translate well into Therion's music. The appropriately soaring operatic melodies of "Soer Angélique" and film-score quality of "Initials BB" were two of the most memorable moments on the album. The only song here that doesn't seem to fit is their rendition of "Je n'ai besoin que de tendresse", a Claire Dixon track that could have had the staying power of the rest of the album, were it not for the ridiculously over-the-top power metal cheese direction they chose to take it in. The musicianship and production are both excellent, although anyone who has laid ears on Therion's music before shouldn't find that surprising. In particular, operatic soprano Lori Lewis' vocals sound as bright and stellar as anything of the sort you will hear in metal. A covers album this may be, but Therion have given it their greatest effort, and it really shows.

Alot of disappointed fans have gone as far as to say "Les Fleurs Du Mal" is the band's biggest misstep, and a major letdown in the scope of an otherwise illustrious career. I would hope it was a granted that Therion wasn't trying to make a revolutionary masterpiece here. Instead, here is one of the most innovative symphonic metal bands taking a step back from the composition duties in order to stretch their arms and have a bit of fun while they're at it. It's futile to compare this to Therion's real albums. Although an album of new Therion originals may have been preferable, this is a really great way for the band to commemorate the twenty five year milestone. Maybe they'll do some symphonic metal covers for Tibetan throat singing or gamelan music for their fiftieth anniversary? I hope so!

Report this review (#888996)
Posted Sunday, January 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Therion have always been a little bit different from regular Metal bands but when I heard that they would release their new record on their own and without the support of the visionary German Nuclear Blast label, I was quite surprised. When I later heard that the new release would feature fifteen or sixteen cover version of the French chanson genre of the sixties and seventies, I first thought that this was a joke but it ultimately turned out to be true. The Swedish band plays sixteen classics that are mostly inspired by the famous French lyricist Charles Baudelaire and especially his most famous publication that was 'The Flowers Of Evil' which happens to be the title of this record.

Let's get a couple of things straight before I lose myself in the description of the tracks. This record includes almost only short tracks with a running time around three minutes. The lyrics are entirely performed in French. The female vocals on this release are much more dominant than the masculine ones. The new songs have mostly nothing to do with the atmospheric metal anthems or the classic epics of the band's past. This record is something completely new. Twenty-five years after the band made its first steps as a death and doom metal band, they focus on an aspect that we didn't even expect to exist: fun. You can hear that Therion are indeed having loads of fun on this release that sounds more diversified, entertaining and lighter than any other album by this band. The Swedish don't care about fan expectations, critics or financial issues and simply do what they want to do and they do well.

Some of the tracks on here are in fact close to the originals and have a charming old school Chanson flair. A good example could be the very light 'Wahala Manitou' by L'onie Lousseau or the catchy romantic ballad 'Une fleur dans le coeur' by Victoire Scott.

On the other side, there are also a couple of more emotional and introspective songs on this record. There aren't many of them though and that's what makes them even more intense and outstanding. The best example is the sad 'J'ai le mal de toi' by Colette Dereal that combines emotional female and male vocals and makes me think of a more rhythm orientated version of a Ginette Reno song. This sounds strange but it works very well. One of three promotional video clips was done for this song that is dedicated to the French singer and actress Betty Mars who committed suicide by jumping out of her apartment in the modern La D'fense suburb of Paris in the late eighties. This new interpretation of the lyrics and the intense video make this song very touching. Musically, it's maybe the best song on the entire record for me. Other longing songs on this record include the melancholic but romantic 'Mon ami, mon amour' by Marie Lafor't. There are also some darker and mystic tracks on the release such as the perfectly entitled 'Lilith' by L'onie Lousseau that could please to older Therion fans.

There are also a couple of truly experimental pieces on this record. One must of course cite the new interpretation of Serge Gainsbourg's 'Initials BB' that includes narrative and poetic passages and needs a few spins to grow even though it's one of the most intriguing songs on the entire record. The initial track is in fact dedicated to the legendary actress and singer Brigitte Bardot. It wouldn't be too exaggerated to call Therion's band leader Christofer Johnsson a soul mate of the eccentric French artist he's covering here.

As I said, there are also a lot of energizing fun songs with a certain rock 'n roll attitude on this release. 'Je n'ai besoin que de tendresse' by Claire Nixon is an up-tempo track stylistically situated somewhere between the European power metal and the glam rock genre. The song feels like a mixture of a Slade party track of the late seventies, a Glam Metal anthem by W.A.S.P. from the mid-eighties and a funny Power Metal track by Helloween from the late eighties. A second video clip was done for this song. It shows Therion playing the track in front of a chaotic crowd that is getting drunk, fighting each other and having sex in the weirdest ways. This is definitely an image one has never seen before coming from this band and that unexpected aspect makes it so exciting.

There are only a couple of tracks that are comparable to the earlier works of Therion. A good example would be the opener and as reprise also the album closer 'Poup'e de cire, poup'e de son' by France Gall. In the new version, technically perfect and slightly hysterical female vocals meet a few Symphonic Metal elements and truly heavy guitar riffs. A third and last video clip was done for this song. Even though this track is maybe one of the few directly accessible songs for the regular fans, the video funnily depicts the opposite. One can see Therion performing in a cheap bar once again where the crowd simply ignores the band or starts to disturb and hate the performance. Scenes of drunk and puking women, brutally fighting men and people having sex on the toilet are also shown.

Therion definitely risk a lot with this new release. No matter what one might think about it, the concept is quite courageous, entertaining and unique. I would have never expected this band to create this kind of fun ride of an album. It doesn't sound that much like a Therion release but I happen to truly adore this addicting record. Any open-minded music maniac should try this release out and might maybe call this her or his bible of the year 2012. Any Therion fan should though stop and try this record out warily instead of purchasing it blindly and getting disappointed. This release is not for everyone but those who accept it will probably love it quite a lot just as I already happen to do.

Originally published on the Metal Archives on October 10th of the year 2012.

Report this review (#896725)
Posted Sunday, January 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Review originally written for www.therocktologist.com

I'll be terribly honest to you, this is the first Therion studio album I ever listened, I don't feel ashamed because metal-related music is not my specialty, though I believe I should have listened to some older ones before this newest one. I did know Therion, but only for some songs, not for an entire record, so this is my first true experience with the band, and sadly, not that positive. Probably my feelings have to do with my not-so-keen position regarding this genre, but believe me, when I listen to a metal album I always try the best to appreciate it and even enjoy it.

So 'Les Fleurs du Mal' is a 2012 release that features 16 songs in a 55-minute album, so as you guess the tracks are really short (2:30-3 minute average) and that was my problem, I could not fall in love with any single track, I tried and listen to them and I found nothing but repetitiveness and even boredom. I am sorry, because I know the band is big in the genre and I know purists will kill me, but I simply feel this is just an average album that could perfectly disappear and remain unnoticed.

The album begins with an explosive song, since the first seconds we can listen to a fast and powerful sound, featuring female-opera vocals and dark textures. 'Une Fleur dans le Coeur' is the second song, here the atmosphere changes with a softer tune at least for the first minute, later it becomes a bit darker and in the final minute more emotional. There are some songs like 'Polichinelle' that sounds even funny, I don't know, ridiculous to me, it sounds like Saint-Seiya soundtrack or something like that.

Some of the things I like is the use of instruments that produce a neo-classical sound, sometimes well fulfilled with some gothic schemes, an example of this is 'Soer Ang'lique'. In fact, I can say the band is really talented and colorful, I like how they use reminiscences of ancient times, elements that transport us to old eras, however, it is the music that in moments fails to create the desired enthusiasm on me.

This time I did not want to review song by song, it would be so tired (and tiring for the reader) so I let you my overall feelings in the above paragraphs. Sorry Therion fans, just not my cup of tea. Final grade 4 stars. However'

Enjoy it!

Report this review (#909567)
Posted Wednesday, February 6, 2013 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Therion get their Serge Gainsbourg on with this collection of generic metal-flavoured covers of classic French pop songs. It's an interesting experiment in exploring what metal can learn from this unexpected quarter, but all it makes me want to do is go listen to the originals rather than sit through these Therion-by-numbers adaptations of old material. I can sit through one or two of these at the time, but the schtick begins to wear thin after five minutes or so and perhaps Therion would have been better simply taking this style of songwriting and adding motifs reminiscent of the genre to original compositions of their own rather than adhering to the original tunes as strictly as they do here.
Report this review (#1174999)
Posted Tuesday, May 13, 2014 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
COLLABORATOR
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
4 stars Who would have ever thought that metal would come to this way back in the late 70s and early 80s when the genre was really picking up some serious steam? Symphonic power metal versions of French chanson probably didn't cross anyone's minds in those days, however in Sweden when the Mayan calendar turned over in 2012 it did. Of course everyone knows that THERION were innovators in popularizing their brand of symphonic power metal with the release of "Theli" way back in the 90s and have released one stellar album after another since but they have been seriously in danger of the whole thing becoming a little stale despite the high quality of interesting tracks they laid upon us. Well, on their 15th studio album LES FLEURS DU MAL (The Flowers Of Evil) they decided to unleash their romantic side by taking tracks by 60s and 70s French chanson artists and adding a healthy dose of Nordic aggression to make an unlikely combo.

The French artists covered here include France Gail, Victoire Scott, Serge Gainsbourg, Marie Laforêt, Sylvie Vartan, Annie Philippe, Isabelle, Léonie, Claire Dixon and Betty Mars. The cast of musicians on board is the regular army with six full band members plus 24! guest musicians adding all kinds of orchestral sounds like trumpet, flute, oboe, trombone, horn, cello, violin, accordion, mellotron and additional guitars and vocals. The sound is full and rich and extremely well produced. The clash of the modern symphonic metal world with 60s / 70s pop music really is a test of one's eclectic nature and acceptance of strange ideas merging into an unlikely union, but THERION manage to pull this off with ease because they are obviously professional and passionate about every detail of the music they put out.

I have to admit that upon first listen i was scratching my head with this one. There are tracks where the vocals are ridiculously over the top despite being more than impressive but somehow once my mind was blown way open i have to say that this works for me. This is a noble experiment that deserves a chance to shine but personally i wouldn't want to hear a repeat of this idea for despite my growing to appreciate it, it just doesn't quite hit me as enjoyable as pretty much all the albums since "Theli." So hopefully this is a one album fulfillment that doesn't have to be repeated. Still though an excellent experiment that takes a stab at the unlikely pairing of Scandinavian Viking sounds tackling the subtle intricate sensualities of a Romance language such as French. You probably won't hear French metal bands like Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord taking this on! Pleasant listening and well done but still not quite as good as the albums ranging from "Theli" to "Sitra Ahra." 3.5 stars rounded up

Report this review (#1412219)
Posted Monday, May 11, 2015 | Review Permalink

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