@ The O2 Islington Academy
20th December 2013
Review & Photography by Graham Hilling
It’s been a while since Swedens Therion played in the UK so I was expecting a good turnout for this evenings gig!
However, the eye watering early start meant that that the openers this evening; Sound Storm from Turin in Italy, were playing to a pretty small crowd.
Shame really as they are actually not bad at all. Playing symphonic metal blended with something a little heavier and sporting live female backing vocals along with the main vocals of Phillipe D’Orange(!) they play their hearts out despite the lack of audience and are very well received by the small but attentive crowd.
The songs are well written and good enough on a single live listen to make me want to check out the recorded material. Not been able to say that of many bands of late.
Sound Storm Setlist
Back to Life
Wrath of the Storm
Blood of Maiden
Next up on this truly international bill are Coma from Poland. Fronted by the charismatic Piotr Rogucki, this is a difficult band to pigeon hole into any musical genre. For the most part they play rather middle of the road straight rock, with the odd metal nod thrown in for good measure. They are hugely popular in Poland and it’s obvious a few peeps in the audience hail from the same country and are very pleased to see their fellow countrymen on stage.
However, considering the extensive touring they do, the live show is a little bit of a disappointment to be honest, especially after the exhuberance of Sound Storm. Only Piotr Rogucki has any real flair on the stage, even if it does look at times like he has studied Freddy Mercury for inspiration.
Even his antics can’t really hold my attention for the complete duration of the set, with only “Eckhart” from the album “Excess” making me sit up and take notice. This particular song builds nicely and while it is a little too long it does have some definite hooks to latch on to. So, Coma come and go, in many respects the odd band out on the bill tonight.
Keep the Peace
Don’t Set Your Dogs
Dance with a Queen
A Better Man
When the Music is a…
Next to take to the stage are Arkona from Russia. This is a band I’ve seen before and been impressed with, they have incredible energy. Fronted by Maria “Masha Scream” Arkhipova, we have growled and clean vocals, both done well and enough energy just from this one individual to knock over a skyscraper. She really does not stop moving for the whole set. I could do without the fur draped around her neck mind – unnecessary in 2014 I think.
They play pagan metal, with a backing track to add texture and live wind instruments such as a flute and bagpipes. Indeed, this is the first gig I can recall seeing a bagpipe solo, which actually worked pretty well! “Goi Ride Goi” is a highpoint with many folks in the crowd thumping the air, clearly enjoying the set as much as the band appear to be on stage.
“Stenka na Stenku” see an accordian backing track deployed and with this it seems that at times, they seem to be having just a little bit too much fun on stage, a hurdy gurdy type dance to accompany this at the end kind of ruins any thoughts I might have had of them being a “serious” band which is a shame because the music has genuine weight and enough variation and twists to hold the interest.
Probably being a little harsh here. I’m certain that most of the punters in the now packed Islington Academy would disagree with me anyway, Arkona are well received and very popular.
They divide up the audience for a “Vault of Death” which is actually a wall of death as Masha Scream apologises for her lack of English and strong Russian accent! This turns out to be a wall of death set to a traditional folkish metal song, all a little bit strange but lapped up by the audience.
Ot Serdtsa k Nebu
Goi, Rode, Goi!
Stenka na Stenku
So, the scene is set for Therion from Sweden. This is a band that has always pushed the musical boundaries falsely imposed by genre labels and willing to go where many other metal acts feared to tread!
This evening Therion will be playing the whole of the “Vovin” album from 1998 to a now packed out venue.
The stage is also a little too small to comfortably hold the whole of Therion with them having to put the back of the stage to good use aswell as the front. This isn’t a problem and keeps the band moving around on the stage, taking it in turns to take the limelight. Founding Therion guitarist Christofer Johnsson looking particularly cool in a large top hat.
The dual female vocals of Linnea Vikström and Lori Lewis soar with the music and while they may be a little operatic at times for my taste they do a magnificent job this evening. Lori Lewis in particular almost teases the crowd and looks demented at times. They perfectly compliment the male vocals of Thomas Vikström. A solid job from Grizzly on bass and Johan Koleberg on the drums drives the songs along and the whole thing is finished off perfectly by the lead playing of Christian Vidal – fluid and accomplished.
The album playback progresses without too many surprises, the tracks sounding as I remember them from the album. Highlights are “The Rise Of Sodom And Gomorrah” which sets the scene for the rest of the gig. “Wine Of Aluqah” with it’s beautifully twisted beginning and “Clavicula Nox” which slows thing down a pace only to be sped up again with “The Wild Hunt”. There is precious little time for chat in between the songs as the stage time is squeezed by the inclusion of 4 bands on the bill.
There’s still time, however, to fit a few new tracks in before returning to more familiar ground with “Invocation Of Naamah” and “To Mega Therion”. An unexpected “Lemuria” finishes off the show in a suitable fashion with the band looking like they’ve enjoyed the gig as much as the audience. Top notch!
The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah
Birth of Venus Illegitima
Wine of Aluqah
The Wild Hunt
Eye of Shiva
(without The Opening)
Raven of Dispersion
Rock Opera excerpts
End of the Dynasty
Who’s Your God?
Flesh of the Gods
Invocation of Naamah
To Mega Therion