Because of their opulent set designs and deep investment in orchestral composition, they are often referred to as Opera metal, in indeed, band founder Christofer Johnsson has revealed that their next project will be a fully realized rock opera, including set and costume designs.
Les Fleurs du Mal is a slightly unusual album in that it is not made up of original compositions, but rather is a collection of traditional French songs, performed in Therion's signature over-the-top style. On one hand, some of the treatments that Therion give these traditional French chansons are lovely, especially the rare occasions when they can hold back and keep the flourishes spare, such as the opening of “Mon amour, mon ami.”
More often than not, however, they cannot leave well enough alone, and drown the simple, delicate melodies in complex, baroque layers of keyboards and guitar with an overwrought soprano vocal keening over top.
In a way, this project feels like a novelty, a diversion before Therion devote themselves to the multi-year, all-consuming project that will be their opera. But instead of keeping the feel of the record light and playful, they pour as much drama into it as possible, effectively smothering a lot of the fun out of it.
Whenever a track shows promise, like the opening of “Soer Angeliquie,” with a cheeky harpsichord and simple melancholy vocals, Therion pile more and more complexity on top until the original spirit of the song is crushed.
Les Fleurs du Mal is a grand album, but it is also overcomplicated, overdressed and saccharine to the point of a stomachache. Therion excel at an aesthetic of excess, of overindulgence, which often serves them well when it comes to huge, sweeping projects. But on this record, the treatment comes across as too heavy-handed, the interpretation overwhelming the original material.
(released November 13, 2012 on End Of The Light Records)