Saturday, February 21, 2009

Therion - Lepaca Kliffoth (1995)

Though it was their fourth full-length, and we had been given a sampling of their symphonic/gothic direction with Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas, Lepaca Kliffoth remains the stunning and memorable masterpiece of the band's career. A transitional phase between the band's death metal roots and the hybrid of symphonic, gothic metal they would carry forward for the rest of their years. This is an extremely dark album. The band retains their fascination with obscure occult magicks and prophecies within the lyrics, and the music revolves around very simple mid-paced metal riffs drenched in the vocal libations of Christofer Johnsson.

The album starts off strongly with "The Wings of the Hydra", and from there on the serpent has snaked about your spine. An addictive piece with an obvious Celtic Frost influence, chanting vocals, simple synth tones and arabesque guitar melodies which evoke the mythical age of the song's namesake. "Melez" begins with an unforgettable bass trot, soon covered in glorious octave chords and speed-picked, almost flamenco acoustic guitar, then breaking into a simple but mesmerizing verse, an interplay of keyboards and more of that Middle Eastern feel to the guitars. But the true joy is the excellent, creepy flute/guitar exchange late in the track, which feels like the introduction to some daemonic snake charmer. "Arrival of the Darkest Queen" uses flutes and keyboards to herald the album's 'hit single', "The Beauty in Black". Glorious and gothic, it uses a pair of operatic vocalists (male and female), a sort of predecessor to the revolving door of guest musicians the band will use on later albums. Other excellent tracks include the charging "Riders of Theli", the crushing doom of "Black" which would have fit almost perfectly on Into the Pandemonium. Speaking of Celtic Frost, and as if to prove the massive influence they have, Therion offers a cover here of "Sorrows of the Moon". The rest of the album is equally dark and enchanting, with other standouts being the title track and "Evocation of Vovin".

Some might have found the production on the album crude yet I love it to this day. Synthesizers, flutes multiple vocalists, and the core of the band are all clear and precise throughout, yet it still carries a very raw and dark, ominous tone to it which trumps the later studio efforts. This may not be quite as symphonic as many Therion fans demand of their material in recent years, but it clearly marks the point where this band transformed from a slightly above average death metal band into the gods of crushing gothic death. There are very few parallels to something like this, and it belongs in the collection of any fan of quality occult metal.

Verdict: Epic Win [10/10] (give up your gods)

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