REVIEW: THERION – “Beloved Antichrist”
When you try to picture the word “epic”, you think of something bigger than you can comprehend. Something grandiose and awe-inspiring. These are the feelings that this new Therion record evokes.
For those who are uninitiated, Therion is a Swedish symphonic metal band founded in 1988. They started out as a death metal band but started to incorporate orchestral elements such as choirs, string sections and classical singing. They’ve put out 15 full length records and ‘Beloved Antichrist’ is their latest offering.
There is one important thing to note about this record, which makes it a bit hard to review it. This is a metal opera. There are themes and motifs occurring and re-occurring throughout. Melodies are revisited in different configurations and much of the texture of the record is tightly woven with the story, which you will have to dig into yourself if you want to enjoy this record.
This is a 46 track behemoth that is separated into 3 acts and lasts over 3 and a half hours featuring 29 characters played by 29 singers. The story is loosely based on Vladímir Soloviov’s “A Short Tale Of The Antichrist”. Band mastermind Christofer Johnsson remarks “It is simply the main idea of the antichrist character that is very much based on the book.“ It’s not a record that you can casually play in the background. The scale and proportion of this record is beyond anything that I have ever witnessed or heard of.
The tracks are well structured with dramatic mezzo soprano vocal styles over a tight rhythm section and layered guitar work. There are huge choirs featured on “Signs Are Here” and “Never Again”. “The Crowning Of Splendour” and “Astral Sophia” have a sense of urgency and mystery that add some flavor and variation from the other tracks. You’ve got sounds ranging from 80s ballads to orchestration similar to the romantic era of western classical music. There is no real way to pick a favourite track only because it’s a story and each track has a part to play. The last track on the record does have a similar riff pattern to Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. Imagine you’re watching a theater act or a musical when you’re listening to this album. The more you read into and let your imagination fly, the more you will get out of this record. It’s not a record you can listen to while you’re doing mundane activities.
I will confess that time constraints allowed me to listen to this album only twice, over a period, in multiple sittings. That’s not the suggested way to listen to this as you would not watch a musical in multiple sittings. This album did seem exhausting to digest in one sitting and that may be it’s only weakness – it’s just too long. I do hope they have a theatrical element to it when they take this music out on the road.
Only multiple listens will give you a sense of what Therion have set out to accomplish and the sheer ambition of their endeavor is a testament to their belief in their craft. As far as production is concerned – this is as good as production gets. Instruments are well balanced and don’t overshadow any other. This is especially important with heavy orchestration going on supporting and driving the melodies.
If you’re looking for an experience in the perfect marriage of classical symphonic music and metal, you must look no further than this record. Grab your favourite pair of headphones and strap in for this journey that you’re going to embark on.