Therion: Les Fleurs du Mal - Review

CD reviews are not a regular feature on this blog, but I like making an exception for this album: Les Fleurs du Mal by Therion. On sale since yesterday at the shows of their "Flowers of Evil & 25th Anniversary" Tour, and shipped yesterday to the fans who pre-ordered the album, it is a special case. Unlike for regular albums, no previews were given, no promotional copies were sent to the press. There were only some rumors the album would consist of covers of French chansons.

I didn't know what to expect - in fact, I only knew it'd be on sale during the tour, so I ran to the merchandise booth when I arrived to the Effenaar venue yesterday to see their show. I bought it, and put it in my purse right away to go and secure a good spot for myself (in fact, I ended up leaning against the stage for this show). After their regular opening song "O Fortuna" from the Carmina Burana, they continued with the opening song of the new album "Poupée de cire, poupée de son", I was very surprised. I immediately recognized the song, and I thought they played it for a joke (Sabaton made the entire audience do a YMCA during their show a few weeks ago, and I've heard a good deal of funny covers by now). But no - it turned out to be part of their new album. They played 3 or 4 songs of the new album during their concert, and then I listened to the entire album on my drive back home.

My first impression of the album was that it's just weird. French chanson with Therion's symphonic metal - hmmm. It's not the best album for a nocturnal drive on the highway either. I thought playing the new album would provide me some blasting metal to keep me awake while driving back from the gig, but it turns out to be more an album which requires you to sit down with a cup of tea or wine and enjoy it. After a few sessions of listening to the album, I'm still in doubt on how to rate it: I like it in a weird way, but I miss up-tempo songs. Lori's vocals are outstanding though - I remember the first time I saw her performing with Therion live (5 years ago I think), and I thought then I should retire as a vocalist and just do engineering. Of all singers I've seen performing, in metal, rock and classical music, she's by far the best - she has an incredible vocal range, a brilliant stage persona and she sings flawlessly. I don't expect this album to become my favorite Therion album - it's lacking the dark richness - but my ears appreciate the sound.

Here's a track-by-track review of the album:

01 Poupée de cire, poupée de son
This song was the first song of the new album that I heard during their show yesterday. It's a weird rendition of the song, and in a way, it makes the idea of a doll (poupée in French) even more vivid. Vaguely reminiscent of "La Chanson d'Olympia" as well.

02 Une fleur dans le coeur
A song which I can only describe as "beautiful", in all its aspects. It's sung beautifully by Lori, and is also part of their set during the tour.

03 Initials B.B
The sound of this song is more metal-oriented. The intro is great, the rest didn't really work for me as of now. The vocals are deep and bring a sense of 60 sexiness into the metalworld.

04 Mon amour, mon ami
The rendition of this song is very delicate and experimental - I associate it with the first CD by the former Norwegian band The 3rd and the Mortal (Tears laid in earth). After an atmospheric intro, some Gregorian-like chanting is added and then the structure turns into a power ballad - with a twist.

05 Polichinelle

The sound in this song is more familiar to the previous Therion albums.

06 La Maritza
This track is fully centered around Lori's vocals again - but the result is too much "napkin waiving wedding kinda song" in my opinion.

07 Soeur angelique
A song which didn't really catch my attention.

08 Dis moi poupée
After many slower songs with mostly female vocals, this song brings more versatility and a great change in sound.

09 Lilith
Great dark atmosphere (but that's what you'd expect from a song titled "Lilith").

10 En Alabama
Weird again, a song with a stint of Americana in it?

11 Wahala manitou
Here, the sound is more circus-like and vaguely reminds me of The Doors' second album "Strange Days"(although that could be related to the artwork of that album)

12 Je n'ai besoin que de tendresse
An uptempo song, with some great screaming after all the soft and beautiful singing in French. Even though it sounds weird and funny, I like this song a lot.

13 La licorne d'or
Best feature of this track are the backing vocals that add darkness and depth to the sound.

14 J'ai le mal de toi
A very good and layered song which they also perform during their tour. After a few listening sessions, I really appreciate the song. The video that is released for this song adds to the dramatic feel.

15 Poupée de cire, poupée de son
A reprise of the opening song.

16 Les sucettes (Bonus song)
I'm pretty sure they had a lot of fun recording this song - and it's mostly just that: really funny.