Les Fleurs Du Mal
"‘Les Fleurs du Mal’ is a conceptual album by Swedish band THERION that features only French lyrics and consists of cover versions of old French pop songs from 60-70s. THERION celebrates by "a special art project", headlining by the material, its 25 anniversary. It was also said that the album is available only during the tour and from THERION online store; it is sponsored by the only founding member, Christofer Johnsson. But you can buy it i.e. on Amazon as well. I am not going to go at length comparing THERION old and new and trying to rationalise things. The reason is simple, as this album was actually the first that caught my full attention. I start from the cover: it's full of topless females. Obviously, Charles Baudelaire's legacy is quite reminiscent there. The cover is made of a quite rich artwork of Saturno Butto, themed mainly erotic and varying from matte painting to charcoal sketches.
Most of the songs here are quite short, yet powerful. Why these songs? I have at hand some lengthy explanations from the press kit, but in fact it boils to one single thing: the overall direction of French songs that are dark and telling some quite grim stories. Yet we all aware of a largely poetic language and melodic music background of French culture. Christofer has a great, fluent knowledge of musical styles and approaches, so he claims influences from King Diamond, Candlemass to folk music and ABBA. The album is beating with energy, in carries you along with its set of 15 songs performed mainly by the lead opera singer, soprano Lori Lewis.
Of course I was curious about how exactly the original songs were altered. It's too much of effort to get past all these tracks, so I picked few favourites. ‘Mon amour, mon ami’ by Marie Laforet is a playful pop song, performed originally in circus-like up-tempo, but THERION specialists worked closely in order bring about the "inner darkness", toned down tempo and timbre and added traditionally "darker" music instruments such as organ - so song became indeed heavier and more minor, yet more powerful and strong. ‘Polichinelle’, performed with a cute teenage girl's voice by France Gall, is initially a pretty love ballad that relates to a Commedia dell 'arte character (note that comedian masks are worn by the naked ladies on the album booklet. (Thumbs up for the throughout conceptual work!) THERION ended up with an operetta rendering of the song, making of it somewhat of an opera house hymn, this type of sound you would expect from contemporary French musicals. Despite being one of the most experimental pieces on the album, it would be, probably, one of the most noticeable tracks.
Finally, Victoire Scott's ‘Une fleur dans le coeur’ - Christofer did not like very much a feature you can hear in original, the honky-tonk (tuned-off) piano that he only describes as "dreadful". Instead, THERION interpretation is deeply lyrical, with plenty of acoustic guitar and strong soprano of Lori multiplied by the riffs you might expect from Jann Tiersen, metal additions and whole lot of different styles changing one to another. One drawback that I see is that the vocal style often remains of the same across album, so if you listen to 15 songs in a row, you might be tired a bit with the similar style. Yet the band paid enough attention to insert pleasant breaks by quest vocalists. The album sounds sound, fresh, and original and there is additional fun to compare originals to the covers." - Reflections Of Darkness