If you go to see Therion anywhere within central Europe you’ll find a venue filled to capacity and a crowd who know every word to every song punching the air with joy and enthusiasm. Here in England the story is a little different as the venue for this special one off gig is less than full and it takes the band, who are tirelessly energetic performers, a couple of songs to work the crowd up into a froth. However, given that this is London, notorious for its apathetic, cooler-than-thou crowds, it is a tribute to Therion’s skills and to the tenacity of their fans that the night is an unqualified success and that while the venue is not as heaving as you would like, the crowd respond well to the fist-pumping anthems that are Therion’s stock in trade.
While Therion have produced a number of astonishing albums including current masterpiece Sitra Ahra, it is in the live environment that the band, with all their sense of drama and occasion, truly shine. This special Halloween night show, and the first show of a large Europe-wide tour, shows just how good Therion can be live and the opening of Sitra Ahra’s title track works every bit as well as the choice of ‘rise of Sodom and Gomorrah’ that the band employed when playing Krakow on the twentieth anniversary tour. Each singer appears separately, heightening the drama, and it’s a pleasure to see that Katarina Lilja, Snowy Shaw and Lori Lewis all survived the cull and are greeted like old friends by the crowd, while Thomas Vikstrom is a grand master of ceremonies who’s slotted into the line up perfectly. With Christofer Johnsson decked out in top hat and sunglasses and now with short hair he looks now like a cross between Nick Holmes and Dracula an is clearly enjoying himself while new boy Christian Vidal shines on lead guitar and has plenty of opportunity to show off his abilities over the two hour set.
The set itself was a well-paced affair that mixed up the old and new so that long-time fans of the band would be satisfied while the band themselves could enjoy airing the new material. With two hours on stage, the band had time enough to spare to choose a great set list and they succeeded particularly with a truly mighty opening punch of ‘Sitra Ahra’, ‘Wine of Aluqah’ and a massive sounding ‘typhoon’, the excellent opening track from Lemuria. Other highlights, although the whole set was astonishingly good, included a heavy ‘clavicula nox’, a beautiful ‘lemuria’ (which saw Thomas providing flute for the occasion) and an encore of ‘Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah’ and ‘to mega therion’, songs which saw the girls in bizarre multi-coloured tops and head gear sporting huge grins and clearly loving every minute of it.
Therion are a band who remain unique. While there are many bands who attack symphonic metal with gusto, no one has come close to matching Christofer Johnsson’s vision and the live show is a beautifully choreographed, often incredibly heavy, reminder of the band’s power. The new line-up clearly have invigorated Christofer to a great extent and the sense of fun and energy flying off the stage made this a wonderful gig to attend. Therion were a pleasure to witness and they can’t return to UK shores quickly enough.