THERION – Beloved Antichrist

THERION – Beloved Antichrist

There’s been a long musical silence from the Swedish symphonic metal act Therion for quite some years now, as their latest release came out in 2012 and it raised a lot of eyebrows as far as I can recall. Besides that, we had a variety of live shows here and there plus not so good news about Christofer Johnsson’s neck problems, and then only during the summer of 2017 we finally got the official news of an upcoming release that should make up for the long absence: a sweeping rock opera loosely inspired by Vladímir Soloviov’s "A Short Tale Of The Antichrist". The entire piece is to have an impressive length of 3 hours and fans have surely been glad to read that ‘the dramatic and epic opus comes to life through 27 different character roles, performed by long-time band members like Thomas Vikström, Lori Lewis and Chiara Malvestiti, amongst many others’. As a Therion ‘follower’ for ages now, I too was excited to get the news and was really glad for mr. Johnsson knowing that it has been quite a long term dream of his to write an own opera piece and finally his work for who knows how many years is seeing the light of day.

So far, a lyrics video for the song "Temple Of New Jerusalem" has been released, together with the album cover and none of them led to the most ‘wow’ of first impressions. I personally didn’t like nor understand the idea of the cover, but I also don’t let this detail prevent me from listening or enjoying an album if the music suits my taste. We also got some insights in the form of short interviews with Cristofer in which he explains the story line and how they had to re-write the whole story to actually make room for the beautiful female voices which were mainly missing from the conservative Russian author’s words.

Being such a lengthy and massive piece, I don’t think it makes it justice to give any sort of verdict after few listening sessions. Probably not even after months of hearing to it on daily basis. My fascination with Therion came from the fact that in most of the releases, I always kept discovering new elements, passages that all of a sudden reveal that cool little beat which I haven’t paid attention to during the previous 250 hearings. And hopefully, spinning the ‘Beloved Antichrist’ will be revealing such hidden jewels from now on.

But for now, I haven’t yet found much of that excitement when going through the 3 hours of music. The main word that comes to mind is dullness. It is definitely a Therion trademarked music. It has the sound, it has the rhythm of Therion and it has those lovely voices that have been used on more permanent basis for the latest releases. It has a multitude of small elements that add up to the atmosphere and bring the listener into the opera realm, more than the metal one. But altogether I wasn’t yet able to identify a spark. A something to stand out, to make me drop everything and want to play that on repeat for hours and do nothing else. It’s like a collection of the songs that I liked least from all the other albums.

It feels way too simple for what Therion has been able to pull off along the ages, going from their dark death metal, to a dark operatic metal and then to French chansonettes. It feels like three hours of monotony and lack of complexity, bearing the brand of Therion. And it doesn’t feel right to have this overall impression, because everytime I pay attention to what I’m listenting, I find a lot of joy in the singing and the choruses and all the vocal lines. But it’s probably what’s supporting them that seems to be less exciting, as altogether I am not yet able to tell if I progressed passed three songs in the album or am I close to the ending part. It doesn’t, yet, seem to have much variation or the ability to make me differentiate between the musical parts of the story. I say ‘yet’ because I also thought this album is not meant to be enjoyed as any other regular 40-50 minutes release that you play on repeat if you want and can eventually pick a song or two and add them to your list of favorites. Maybe it’s only working as a 3 hours listening experience, but it never captivated me strongly enough to make me wish to dedicate the time to this experience alone.

One thing I loved about Therion was the way their lyrics (even from thre song titles) opened up to a lot of exploration and brought lots of knowledge by either researching some of the subjects myself or spending lots of time on their official forum many years ago. People would come up with ideas and theories about all sort of mythologies and realms and guesses about what that might mean and why it was like that in the song. This is another detail I haven’t really felt like it’d be too much on the exciting side of things. Of course, there’s most likely lots of hidden meanings and ideas left to be interpreted by the listener, but whenever I paid attention to the lyrics, I, once again, felt this simplicity that hasn’t aroused any curiosity yet. Not even after having seen a first clip where Cristofer briefly explains the plot of the whole story. It’s just a story lacking novelty.

I am not going to stop listening to ‘Beloved Antichrist’ though. I’ll keep trying to find its beauty and its brilliance that so far I failed to identify, keeping in mind that it’s such a long listen and that I might have listened to it with my own subjective expectations in mind, while the writing process surely had nothing to do with them. At the moment when I’m writing this though, I’ve been put into the mood to re-listen to older Therion stuff and re-discovering the joy of Deggial and Lemuria and A’arab Zaraq – Lucid Dreaming. I’ll surely be attending at least one of the upcoming shows as the live bombastic appearances from Therion members and their guests have always been a pleasure for the eye.