Retro review: Therion - A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming (1997)

Band: Therion
Album: "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming"
Style: Symphonic/Gothic Metal
Release date: 1997-05-16
Origin: Sweden

1. In Remembrance
2. Black Fairy
3. Fly To The Rainbow (Scorpions cover)
4. Children Of The Damned (Iron Maiden cover)
5. Under Jolly Roger (Running Wild cover)
6. Symphony Of The Dead (new version)
7. Here Come The Tears (Judas Priest cover)
8. Enter Transcendental Sleep
9. The Quiet Desert
10. Down The Qliphothic Tunnel
11. Up To Netzach/Floating Back
12. The Fall Into Eclipse
13. Enter Transcendental Sleep
14. The Gates Of A'arab Zaraq Are Open
15. The Quiet Desert
16. Down The Qliphothic Tunnel
17. Up To Netzach
18. Floating Back

Therion is a band that I keep coming back to on this blog. I don't know if it's because of the backlash from angry fans I recieved after my review of their cover album in french or if it's because I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the band. Whatever the case might be, here's what I have to say about the band's eclectic "sort-of-a-compilation-album-but-not-really-anyway" - the oddity that is "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming".

During the late summer/early autumn of 1996, a friend of mine introduced Therion to me by playing the band's break through-album "Theli". I was 15 years old and never before had I heard heavy metal combined with keyboards and choirs the way said album presented. I fell in love with the mysterious world the band seemed to invoke and soon picked up "Theli"s predecessor "Lepaca Kliffoth" (1995) which during the years grew into becoming my all-time favourite album from the band. Anyway, the success of "Theli" saw the band touring for the album quite alot and the band probably felt pressure to follow up the success with something quite fast. Either that, or the record company Nuclear Blast smelt easy profit and forced the band to release something. In either case, the result became this weird anomality and as a blind fan-boy, I of course bought "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" blindly and probably looked like a big question-mark after the initial listen.

The first two tracks are leftovers from the "Theli"-recording sessions and I totally get why they we're left out of the final product. Both songs suffer a great deal in the song-writing department, they're less symphonic than the songs on the album and does not utilize any choirs whatsoever. The good parts are to be found in the vocal-delivery; both Dan "I'm-in-every-band" Swanö's baritones and Piotr Wawrzeniuk's underrated drunken-weirdo vocals fits like a smelly glove. Other than that, both "In Remembrance" and "Black Fairy" are underwhelming and sleep-inducing gothic doom metal songs that goes absolutely nowhere.

Next up, we have the covers. I've stated in a previous post about how the Scorpions-cover made me discover that band and although Therion's version comes nowhere near the brilliance of ze Germans, it is still a good effort. Then there's a cover of Iron Maiden's classic "Children of the Damned" and it's basically the same thing with this one. This version follows the original closely so it's a good effort there but it's fucking Bruce Dickinson that sings on Maiden's version which is why this version is inferior and pointless in the end. "Under Jolly Roger" actually manages to be a bit more interesting than the original, much thanks to the production and the much fitting vocals of Tobbe Sidegård (ex-Necrophobic). Since I am not a fan of Judas Priest, I haven't heard the original version of "Here Comes the Tears" so the only thing I have to say about it is that it is a very boring song with a lot of repetition towards the end. For some unholy reason unanswered, Therion decided to place an instrumental and shortened version of "Symphony of the Dead" from their second album "Beyond Sanctorum" (1992) between the Running Wild-cover and the Judas Priest-cover. Let me just say that the engima as to why they decided to do so is more interesting than the song...

...and now we have arrived at track 8 and this is where the truly bizarre things begin. Somehow, somewhere, some "artist" friend of Therion head-honcho Christoffer Johnsson decided to film and "direct" the most amateurish "avantgarde art-movie" I have ever witnessed. Notice that I use quotation-marks around some of the words here - that is because the entire thing I so questionable as to what "The Golden Embrace" (as the movie is called) really wants to be. Now I have seen the film and trust me when I say that you need your embarrassament-pillow close by. This guy anyhow convinced Christoffer to write the music for the movie and he of course obliged. So from what I understand, tracks 13-18 here are the original "movie-themes" and track 8-12 are the Therion-versions of some (not all) of these songs. That alone is questionable and weird but that's just how it is. If some of you are interested in enduring a long period of torture and decides to go and find this profound piece of shit-film, the first thing you'll notice is that the music doesn't fit with the images on your screen whatsoever. I'm assuming Christoffer had no idea what to expect from the movie and the guy who filmed it probably just wanted music he could use for free. The result is cringe-worthy to say the least. Like, when the camera slowly pans around a forest, one of the music-tracks come to an end and a new, very up-tempo song begins and then the movie decides to cut to a new frame. I seriously doubt this was done on purpose as I feel the "director" really just had no clue to what the hell he was doing.

I've rambled on enough about the film now. The music to the film itself (track 13-18) is not bad per se, it's just that it quickly becomes tedious background music and the keyboards and choirs sounds cheap and computerized. Also there are no vocals, apart from some "la-la's" and "oh-oh's". The Therion-versions of these songs (track 8-12) are basically the same with just some added guitars, bass and drums that really feels like they don't belong there. This is especially true when one listens to this album after just hearing "Theli" - the difference in quality is astoundishing.

No, "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" reeks as a rotten product of the greedy Germans over at Nuclear Blast whom scented more money from the success-wave of "Theli". Do yourself a favour and avoid this pile of dog-turd at all costs. Oh, and I forgot one thing; that cover is one of the worse Photoshop-vomits that I've ever witnessed.

Do you feel like you still need this album anyway? Contact me here and I'll list more reasons why you shouldn't.

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