Therion – “Beloved Antichrist” 3CD (Nuclear Blast)
Given that back in their early days, Therion’s name was inspired by Celtic Frost’s ground breaking “To Mega Therion” album – meaning ‘the great beast’ in Greek, then this 16th release certainly fits that tag, being a 3 hour long rock opera made up of 46 ‘scenes’ and featuring no less than 27 character roles!!! The brainchild of founder Christofer Johnsson, the inspiration of an opera came to him 15 years ago, and has evolved over the years into incorporating rock and finally to assemble a stellar cast including Therion vocalist Thomas Vikström, as well as his daughter Linnéa, along with Therion singers like opera soprano Lori Lewis and Italian opera singer Chiara Malvestit – not to mention others like Marcus Jupither, one of the biggest Swedish opera stars of modern times and upcoming talent like bass vocalist Erik Rosenius! Extrapolated from the works of 1900s Russian mystic Vladmir Soloviev in his book, “The Story Of The Anti-Christ”, Johnsson has adapted the story to include female characters and most of all, to be accessible to a very broad audience. Indeed, it was Johnsson’s intention all along to compose a rock opera written for the stage along the lines of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, and I have to say it works magnificently! Originally a death metal band, Therion’s long established use of choirs, classical musicians and even full orchestras now stand them as one of the pioneers of the symphonic metal genre, so if there was ever a band to pull off something like this, Therion would surely be one of the top contenders. That said, there’s plenty of rock and metal throughout “Beloved Antichrist” that keeps the energy and music flowing so while the prospect of a 3 hour opera might seem daunting or unappealing to many, Johnsson has also had the fans in mind, so the arrangements ensure there’s plenty of excitement through the ebb and flow of the performances here. Anyone familiar with Johnsson will know he’s no stranger to challenges both musically and personally, and in keeping to his open minded philosophy, I certainly enjoyed the chugging riffola and frantic drumming on ‘Night Reborn’ not to mention the amazing contrasts in the vocals from soaring to baritone and femme harmonies, culminating together in choral bliss, while on ‘Temple Of New Jerusalem’ the vocal highs and their ensuing passion were simply off the scale! ‘Lions Roar’ may have started quietly enough but its power and melodic majesty soon had my full attention as full blooded choirs bombastically waded in, marching along to the thumping drums as my heart filled with epic passion. As for the dramatic, then the darkness of ‘Beloved Antichrist’ certainly brought in the black clouds along with operatic femme wailings, although contrasted brilliantly by the superb guitar work and some truly incredible melodies. Continuing into ‘Curse Be The Fallen’ the operatic vocals once again worked a treat on this full on symphonic metal piece, completed by creepy keyboards that took the lead on the ambient ‘Resurrection’, along with some ethereal femme vocals and at its peak, passionate bass vocals and backed by charged orchestral strings. With even headbanging moments like on the uptempo ‘Shoot Them Down!’ with the sopranos on fire and dueling magnificently with their male counterparts one can only wonder if it could all be pulled off onstage in such epic glory – well, Johnsson is already planning that one……!