Gothic Kabbalah is about as perplexing as its sacrilegious name implies. The latest symphonic metal offering from Swedish metalheads Therion is cryptic, confusing and epically overlong—but perhaps more than anything else, it's ambitious.
This two-disc set is riddled with meaninglessly pretentious poetry, and while the songs are technically impressive, they tend to be repetitive. In the hour-and-twenty-minute duration, there's far too much room for uninspired songs to exist.
The album, however, provides a pleasantly eclectic balance of sounds by alternating between several male and female singers. Former frontman Christofer Johnsson retired from singing last year, and while he still plays guitar on Gothic Kabbalah, guest vocalists Mats Levén and Snowy Shaw take over the mic. Neither is a stranger to the Swedish metal scene and they don't alter Therion's sound too drastically, though the songs appear more disjointed than they should.
They are accompanied by two female opera singers, Katarina Lilja and Hannah Holgersson, who are a hit-and-miss effort, oftentimes overworking the cheese factor. It doesn’t help that the lyrics they all sing (the ones you can actually understand) are just plain silly: "When night has found all the three treasures/ The stars will fall, the lion will rise."
But forget all that—poetic lyrics aren't the point of Gothic Kabbalah. It's about the operatic music and sharply refined riffs, not to mention the pure power of metal exploding in intricately designed, slightly Arabic-influenced classical rock pieces.
If you can stand that type of larger-than-life metal, overproduced but nevertheless awesome, then Therion's superficial ballads will fill your plate and then some. Just wait until the final track, “Adulruna Redivivia,” to be blown away by the heavy instrumental solos and headbang-worthy chorus. If nothing else, it’s fun.