Therion – Lepaca Kliffoth (1995)
If Symphony Masses was a step in the direction for normalcy for Therion, this album is a 30 minute car drive towards that location, followed up by an acid trip. You can hear the seams of traditional heavy metal, with tinges of groove and thrash, but the production, riffs, and instrumentation give this a very strange atmosphere that I don’t think the band ever tried to replicate. If the albums before this were the darkness, and everything written after this is daylight, then this is the dawn. Hung over and pissed off, the band tries to articulate something they can’t quite comprehend by mixing in new forms of communication with the old.
Considering that this album ushers in latter day Therion’s favorite musical elements, like symphonic elements in meaningful quantities, opera singers, etc. while retaining tinges of the band’s death metal past, the atmosphere on display here could be best described as ‘gothic’ in more than one way. It smacks of effort to recall the glories of the past in a more accessible form. Besides, it has “The Beauty in Black”, which is the band’s first real effort at writing a ballad. Check out the cover art of that one, and tell me you don’t want to write cliched love poetry with references to suicide.
At times, this actually sounds more like a gussied up, symphonic version of ’90s Pantera than anything. It never goes into “ARE YOU TALKING TO ME” territory or 3 note riffs, but everything is simplified and slowed down compared to previous works. The opening track, “The Wings of the Hydra”, is a perfect example of this. The opening riff is stripped down as hell; eventually a violin keyboard patch is brought in over it. The rest the riffs gallop along in the groove-thrash mold, while all these new aesthetic elements dance over them. More simplistic grooving shows up on tracks like “Melez”, “Let the New Day Begin”, and “The Veil of Golden Spheres”.
This album’s songwriting is middle-loaded – there’s a string of awesomeness that begins with “Riders of Theli” and ends with the cover of Celtic Frost’s “Sorrows of the Moon”. The four songs in said bracket seem to merge the old and new aspects of the songwriting most effectively – “Black”, in particular is a miniature epic with the most coherent riffing and transitions on the album. In general, the songs are very theatrical and occasionally cheesy. It’s partially the aesthetics – some parts of the songs (like the middle of “Evocation of Vovin”) would still sound fairly silly if, instead of keyboard patches, they had real instruments. In short, it means that the major weakness of this album is that it suffers from the same attempted mix of softness and pseudo-heaviness that Dream Theater’s Awake did, if not to the same extent. If this album was rearranged using the musical language of Beyond Sanctorum, Lemuria, or some other non-transitional album, it might improve significantly. Anyways, it’s still historically interesting. I don’t know how much this album sold compared to other albums by the band, but this and Theli were definitely very influential on various symphonic/gothic metal bands.