A sore throat. Strained vocal cords. Whiplash-like symptoms. Swollen knees. High blood pressure. No, that’s not a doctor’s diagnosis of an old man rushed to the ER, that’s what I’m going through after last night’s THERION gig.
But let me tell you, totally worth it!
They are one of those special bands everyone has, bands that we link to a specific past event. Their music always dusts off those old memories. For me, that’s a school field trip to Greece over a decade ago, when I first got into their (at the time) latest albums, “Lemuria” and “Sirius B”. Since then, I’ve been a loyal fan through thick and thin, of which the band has had a fair share of.
That in mind, I was absolutely thrilled when the band announced Belgrade will be a part of the tour promoting their latest release, the epic metal opera titled “Beloved Antichrist”. The band played the capital’s Youth Centre with support by Britain’s mysterious act THE DEVIL, German heavy hitters NULL POSITIV and Russian IMPERIAL AGE, a band clearly inspired by the works of their older colleagues they’re supporting. Sort of a full circle thing. I’ll be completely honest and say I did not get the chance to check out any of the support acts prior to the show, so I was in for a surprise, one way or the other.
First up was The Devil, a band hard to put a label on. The band heavily relies on two gimmicks: anonymous members wearing Venetian masks (Ghost, anyone?) and the absence of any vocals that are instead replaced by famous TV broadcasts, accompanied by video via a projector. The crowd was still thin deep into the band’s show, and a lot of those present didn’t seem particularly moved. Shame, because the band’s music is really heavy and on point. They might have been Paradise Lost without Nick Holmes for all we know. But the absence of a frontman and crowd that was not familiar with the songs makes for a bleak reaction. However, I’d recommend giving the band a shot, as there’s real headbanging potential.
Next up was Null Positiv, heavy and modern German metal act fronted by the charismatic Amazonian Elli Berlin. Whether it’s because of her lovely appearance or something else, there were significantly more people crammed in the first row during their performance. But Ellie’s definitely more than a pretty face. The ease with which she growls and switches from harsh to clean vocals is astounding. The band’s image is something straight out of Mad Max, and Arch Enemy influences in both the sound, look, and scenography are obvious. The whole band was engaged in engaging the crowd, which resulted in a warm welcome for the band’s first show here.
Lights went out as the Elven army dubbed Imperial Age hit the stage. With outfits straight out of the Lord of the Rings movies to match their uplifting, symphonic metal shtick the band demonstrated what Russia’s answer to Therion sounds like. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to their older colleagues, but Imperial Age still has a defined sound that even though is similar, is far from a Therion clone. The overall getup might be a bit cheesy, but good cheesy. Of course, it’s a matter of taste, but since I enjoy this type of music and image unashamedly I found their performance most pleasing. The three prominent figures, frontman Aor and lovely ladies Corn and Anna Kiara split the vocal duties, each bringing something unique to the table. The band was visibly impressed by the reception, thanking the crowd in Russian.
Eight years after the last time they cruised these parts, Therion is finally back among their Serbian family. Although its lines might have thinned since the last time they were here promoting “Sitra Ahra”, their Serbian fans made up for those few missing by leaving their heart and soul in front of the stage. Needless to say, so did the band.
The band has had a few line-up changes since they were last here, losing fan-favorite members in Snowy Shaw and Lori Lewis, and recently parting ways with drummer Johan Kullberg. However, Chiara Malvestiti and drummer Sami Karppinen did a great job in filling their shoes. And even though frontman Thomas Vikström packs enough vocal power and charisma for two, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Snowy’s eerie demeanor and theatricality. But hey, things change.
Even though they were promoting their latest ambitious release in “Beloved Antichrist”, the band’s list was mostly made up of classics, along with some deep cuts like “The Invincible” from “Deggial” (an album I love that always puts me to sleep), “The Khlysti Evangelist” from “Sirius B”, “Der Mitternachtslöwe” from “Gothic Kabbalah” or “Din” that featured a guest appearance by Elli Berlin who helped the band out with her mighty growls, from “Sitra Ahra”.
I’d like to get all technical, but to be honest, I spent the entire show in the front row, screaming my heart out. So even if there were some missed notes or other screw-ups, I didn’t care. And neither should you. However, being professionals with years of experience I’m pretty confident everything was tight as a screw. The band appreciated the heartfelt and extremely loud reception, honestly stunned by the echo of what was possibly not much more than 400 people shaking the venue.
We might have just outdone Manowar.
Mastermind Christofer Johnsson took a couple of minutes to thank us for not forgetting them as well as address the merchandise issue they’ve had in Slovenia and neighboring Croatia before the grand finale in “To Mega Therion” thundered across the venue, with the entire crowd crammed as close to the stage as possible.
If last night’s show proved anything, it’s that Therion will always be a welcome guest in Serbia. Even though the crowd was mostly people who grew along with Therion’s career, there were some fresh and unwrinkled faces as well. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait eight more years to see if the family grows.
By Jovan Ristić