Therion - Lepaca Kliffoth (1995) - Progressively ambitious with a healthy balance - 72% (03/10/14)
After the headless predecessor Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas, Therion took a short creative break, focused on more consistent song writing, and grew together as a new band and unit to release Lepaca Kliffoth in 1995. Along with band leader Christofer Johnsson, who would perform vocals, keyboard, and guitars, Polish drummer Piotr “Docent“ Wawrzeniuk, who was once involved in a Polish punk rock band called Panzer Service, returned. Parts of “Evocation Of Vovin“ mix classic heavy metal with Middle Eastern-tinged melodies with a vivid punk vibe, which may be due to his influence. The trio was completed with Fredrik Isaksson from the death metal band Excruciate, who would later play in another famous Swedish death metal band called Grave. The few death metal moments on this release are restricted to “Let the New Day Begin“, however.
Lepaca Kliffoth has nothing to do with Therion’s death metal roots anymore, apart from a few select harsher riffs here and there. The guitar play has evolved in a more melodic direction and even features some power metal-inspired passages, such as in “Melez“. It’s the same thing for the vocals. The growls have been replaced by a shouted singing style by Christofer Johnsson. The band leader is giving more and more space to professionally trained operatic guest singers in addition. Hans Groning performs bass and baritone vocals and Swiss singer Claudia Maria Mokri, known for performing on Celtic Frost’s To Mega Therion and its follow-up Into The Pandemonium, performs soprano vocals on “Lepaca Kliffoth“. In addition to this, the album includes a decent Celtic Frost cover with “Sorrows Of The Moon”. Another Swedish background singer and a German guitarist complete the list of invited musicians. The combination of different vocalists works especially well in the soft “The Beauty In Black“, and my personal favorite, “Evocation Of Vovin“.
The thing that strikes me most when listening to Lepaca Kliffoth is how much the song writing has evolved in the past two years. This symphonic gothic metal record goes back to the atmospheric occult sound elements of the past, but also surprises with beautiful and truly catchy melodies that stay on your mind. The mellow and mysterious goth-rock single “The Beauty In Black“ comes around with appeasing orchestrations and beautiful piano melodies. The experimental sound effects of the predecessor have been reduced and are now employed in a more harmonious manner, as seen in the mystery-infused title track “Lepaca Kliffoth“. The new songs feel less overloaded and more balanced, and give the melodies and vocals the time to unfold and become memorable.
This album finally sounds like what would make Therion famous over the next two decades, but the lyrical content has also improved and refers to more and more mythological elements from Middle Eastern cultures. The term “Qliphoth“ refers to the representation of evil spirits in Jewish mysticism. The realm of evil is also termed “Sitra Ahra“, “Vovin“ means “Dragon”, and “Theli” is the name of the great Dragon according to the Sefer Yetzirah, the oldest book of Jewish esotericism. All three names would later on become titles for other Therion records. On that subject, the artwork is a mixture of a hydra and a vovin as well.
Despite several intriguing tracks, the album needs several spins to grow on, and isn’t always easy to digest. In addition to this, no track comes close to the epic mastery of “The Way“ from Beyond Sanctorum. This would be different on the essential follow-up Theli, which would be released one year later.
Lepaca Kliffoth was more than just a transitional album for Therion, but a visionary record that would define the new band sound and its lyrics for the years to come. It’s probably the most interesting release of the early years for those who have known Therion as a symphonic metal band only. The mixture of symphonic elements and operatic vocalists, Middle Eastern folk influence, and an angry punk vibe is definitely very original. If Therion hadn’t released several masterpieces in the years to come, the reception this record would surely be better nowadays. Had it been released by another band, Lepaca Kliffoth would be a highlight in almost any discography.
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