Therion at Islington Assembly Hall, London - live review

Swedish conceptualists preview their rock opera

live shot
(Image: © Katja Ogrin)

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Thirty years on from Therion’s genesis, the Swedish symphonic pioneers have created one of their most ambitious works to date. Having indulged in classically inspired metal for the past few decades, incorporating neoclassical elements as early as 1993, they’re no strangers to the concept of combining orchestra and opera with guitars. As such, it’s perhaps surprising that Beloved Antichrist is their first rock opera, spanning three CDs. Indulgent? You betcha. But Therion have been doing this long enough to pull it off… almost.

Tonight London gets to experience a taster of Beloved Antichrist just before its release. Newness considered, extracting 90 minutes of its three hours for the purpose of a tour is a brave thing. Doubly so when budget – or lack of – means their rock opera is less Phantom Of The Opera and more operatic rock, foregoing all of the theatrical props and gimmicks that make a stage show spectacular. No doubt Therion would love to get their mitts on a full stage production but alas, the Assembly Hall has to suffice.

So is it any cop? Well, yes and no. Thank goodness Therion have the sense to spare us all 40 tracks of their operatic odyssey, instead cherry-picking what we can only assume are the best bits for tonight’s show.

Kicking off with Theme Of Antichrist, they’re straight into the action. Basing their story on Vladímir Solovyov’s A Short Tale About The Antichrist, Chiara Malvestiti, Lori Lewis and Thomas Vikström represent various characters from the tale. When they sing in unison, it’s not far from spine-tingling, especially on Night Reborn and Ginnungagap, where the quality and composition of the operatic vocals exude stark professionalism.

Christofer Johnsson, in his signature top hat, alongside Christian Vidal and Nalle Påhlsson, support their warblers with a metallic gallop, fuelled by the rampant stomp of Euro metal. Maybe two or three times the band introduce a song with, regrettably, all the panache of a slug reading an obituary. “This one is about the Christians who aren’t very happy,” says Vikström, while other stilted intros get lost in a sea of cheers and heckles.

Their operatic roadshow is all pomposity with not enough of the drama, leaving the desire to indulge in the full version nothing more than a waning curiosity.

Let’s be honest, Beloved Antichrist isn’t going to win a Tony award. High‑end self-indulgence has cost Therion memorable hooks, which only make an appearance when they whip out some old classics at the end of the set, proving the adage that sometimes less can be more.

Holly Wright

With over 10 years’ experience writing for Metal Hammer and Prog, Holly has reviewed and interviewed a wealth of progressively-inclined noise mongers from around the world. A fearless voyager to the far sides of metal Holly loves nothing more than to check out London’s gig scene, from power to folk and a lot in between. When she’s not rocking out Holly enjoys being a mum to her daughter Violet and working as a high-flying marketer in the Big Smoke.