The Fridge, Brixton, London
16th December 2007
All live pics and review by HannTu
Swedish symphonic band Therion celebrate 20 years of existence, and their evolution through the years has been nothing short of amazing. Starting out as what would later be termed â€śdeath metalâ€ť, the bandâ€™s founder and brainchild Christofer Johnsson steadily took the band through a number of stylistic and musical changes, never standing motionless, never stagnating. The bandâ€™s roster has been relatively transient as well, the only constant being obviously Christofer himself. The manâ€™s vision cannot be doubted.
Therion were one of the first bands I got into as a young metalhead about 7 years ago, and I still count SECRET OF THE RUNES as one of the first albums to really get me hooked on metal. I loved the complexity, the bombast and the atmosphere that they created; it was a vital stylistic counterpoint to what I was listening to at that time: Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica etc. I saw them with Grave Digger in London earlier this year, and then caught a little of their set at Wacken in August, and both times I wasnâ€™t terribly impressed. I still remember thinking they were staid on stage. However where the wise man differs from the fool is when he can admit heâ€™s been talking utter crap. Therion put on a show in London that will remain in my memory for a long time as being one of the best shows I will ever have the privilege to watch.
As I was watching Manchester United turn Liverpool over on their own home ground, I arrived too late to catch Sirenia or The Vision Bleak. No matter, Therion were going to be playing a 3 hour set, including the album THELI in its entirety, so I wasnâ€™t too fussed about it. The venue wasnâ€™t packed at all, lots of space to move around in, which rather surprised me. Most importantly, there wasnâ€™t any security in the photo pit (I guess they didnâ€™t expect any crowd surfing from a Therion crowd), which meant us photographers took a few libertiesâ€¦
The well-known intro into â€śThe Rise of Sodom and Gomorrahâ€ť burst through the speakers as the band took their places, including a lovely belly dancer (Arien) sporting a pair of massive swirling gold â€świngsâ€ť. As the lights flashed and the wings billowed, the stage set-up (designed by Snowy Shaw specially for the tour) took on a more epic dimension. Two women in animal masks chained to poles? Yep, check. It was shaping up to be a show of grandeur and bombast.
The vocal team of Thomas Vikstrom, Lori Lewis and Snowy Shaw truly shone, as their impeccable delivery simply highlighted their ease and relationship with the audience and with each other in the band. Lori truly took centre stage on songs like â€śSon of the Sunâ€ť, â€śThe Siren in the Woodsâ€ť and â€śArrow From The Sunâ€ť with her soprano betraying a tenderness and emotion that many more highly trained voices struggle to find. Thomas Vikstrom and Snowy Shaw worked extremely well together, providing a mini-choir when Lori took her solos. When they took their own solos, they added the theatrical aspect to the performance. Thomasâ€™s range of facial expressions showed he felt the songs he was singing, while the showman in Snowy gave extra theatrical oomph to songs like â€śWisdom and the Cageâ€ť, where he sang from the stocks, imprisoned by the masked ladies.
For â€śKali Yugaâ€ť, the much anticipated appearance by Candlemass and Memento Mori ex-singer Messiah Marcolin gave the crowd something to cheer about. Stomping around, looking remarkably like Hagrid from Harry Potter with his mop of wild hair, unshaven face and monkish outfit, yelling â€śDoomdance!â€ť, what a funny chap. His unique voice added to the trilogy (Part 3 is yet to be released), and he looked extremely pleased to be on stage again.
The acoustic version of â€śLemuriaâ€ť encountered a slight delay, when Christofer dropped his guitar and cut his hand. Snowy joked â€śHow metal is that, blood on stageâ€ť, and then asked if anyone from the crowd wanted to suck it off. Amazingly, someone chucked a box of plasters on to the stage for Christofer to patch himself up. Again, the singers were amazing, with Snowy, Christofer, Kristian Niemann and keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg on acoustic guitars and Johan Niemann on bass.
For â€śVia Nocturnaâ€ť, Ferdy indulged in a bit of spooky organ music before the rest of the immensely beautiful song kicked in. After â€śGinnungagapâ€ť, the band took a ten minute break, promising to return for the performance of the THELI album.
As the opening strains of â€śPreludiumâ€ť were heard, metalheads started filtering back to the front of stage to catch the second half. â€śTo Mega Therionâ€ť, a perennial favourite got the crowd moving, headbanging and playing air guitar. â€śCults of the Shadowâ€ť and â€śIn The Desert of Setâ€ť featured outstanding performances by the two male singers and Lori, a three-strong choir is all you need when they consist of such amazing singers.
The highlight of the show must surely be â€śThe Siren of The Woodsâ€ť. Beautiful acoustic guitars, swirling keyboards and distorted open chords, emotional overdriven guitar solos and the truly unbelievable performances of Lori and Thomas. It was like a mini-operetta on its own, with Thomas and Lori gazing deep into each otherâ€™s eyes as they sang their laments, lying in each otherâ€™s arms. Hearts broke when Lori rejected Thomas finally, who was left to bewail his misfortune. As the song built to a crescendo, I found myself thinking, â€śItâ€™s moments like these that make metal great.â€ť
The night wasnâ€™t over though with â€śGrand Finale/Postludiumâ€™, with the epic â€śAdulruna Redivivaâ€ť off their latest album GOTHIC KABBALAH. Could the peaks and troughs, highs and lows be hit again? With a resounding yes, Therion did, triumphantly, majestically. Two covers ended the night, Mercyful Fateâ€™s â€śBlack Funeralâ€ť and ABBAâ€™s â€śSummernight Cityâ€ť. Messiah Marcolin made a reappearance for "Black Funeral", thanking Therion for bringing him back on stage. Snowy gave King Diamond a run for his money with his soaring ear piercing falsetto, and the crowd favourite â€śSummernight Cityâ€ť closed the show, because Therion didnâ€™t want to end the show â€świth a song about funerals and shitâ€ť.
The sultry beauty of Lori Lewis was only matched by her magnificent voice. Hitting the notes correctly is one thing, injecting personality and emotion into songs that werenâ€™t written for you in the first place is another. Thomas Vikstrom was powerful when he needed to be, tender when required, dramatic, maniacal, with voice to match. Snowy Shaw, what a legend. Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Dream Evil, Memento Mori and Cans are found in his CV, and now Therion. His versatility and confidence, added to his natural charisma and a love for being in the spotlight, sprinkled with moments of sheer humour (wearing a Santaâ€™s hat thrown on stage, popping balloons that mysteriously appeared out of nowhere!), and his voice! Falsetto, growl, operatic â€“ the man had it all.
Musically, the instrumentalists were flawless. Christofer Johnsson headbanged incessantly with his trademark scarlet Gibson Les Paul, while his counterpart Kristian Niemann, while more reserved, produced flashy solos and complicated arpeggios that were blindingly fast and accurate. The drumming, courtesy of Petter Karlson was top notch, as was bass stalwart Johan Niemann. Ferdy Doernbergâ€™s contribution to the evening on keyboards will not go unappreciated; his subtle touch gave credibility to the live performance, instead of the band relying on backing tracks. One of the abiding memories I will have is his round grinning face in his butcherâ€™s outfit with fingers dancing around the keyboards.
After the band took their bows, Christofer Johnsson made a rare address to the crowd, thanking them for the last 20 years and looking forward to the next 20. I can only agree based on the nightâ€™s performance. It was an aural smorgasbord, a visual feast, a sensory buffet of all that was spectacular and theatrical. With the creative vision of Christofer and a band of talented musicians around him, I donâ€™t see any reason why they shouldnâ€™t have a few more years left in them. To Therion and the next 20 years.
The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah
Son of the Sun
Wine of Aluqah
Wisdom and the Cage
Kali Yuga Part 1-3
An Arrow From the Sun
Break (10 minutes)
To Mega Therion
Cults of the Shadow
In The Desert of Set
Nightside of Eden
Invocation of Naamah
The Siren of the Woods
Summer Night City
Thanks to Duff Battye at Duffpress and Deborah Lombardo at Nuclear Blast UK for the photo pass!
Thanks to Johan at RockersDigest for help with the set list.