Therion – Beloved Antichrist

Rating: 2/5
Distributor/label: Nuclear Blast
Distributor/label URL: www.nuclearblast.de/en/
Buy Album [URL]: www.nuclearblast.de/therion-beloved-antichrist.html
Band Website: www.megatherion.com/

Therion - Beloved Antichrist
Therion – Beloved Antichrist
Review:

It’s safe to say this is going to be one of the largest productions released this year. Therion are back with their 16th studio album, however this one is something that is no doubt going to divide fans of the band.

The scope and scale of the production of Beloved Antichrist is impressive, with 29 vocalists and a vast array of instruments making appearances throughout the 46 track record. Christofer Johnsson, the main man of Therion, has reportedly been building to this three hour epic over the past 30 years and it’s clear why it has been so long in the making, it’s huge! This is their 16th studio album and Therion have changed a lot more than just the line-ups since their early days as a death metal band. Their albums have shifted genres along the way to incorporate more theatrical elements and this work focuses very much on the opera side of “rock opera”.

There is a story as to why this was released as an album, when it would obviously work better as a stage production, because to get the backing for a stage production this album had to be released. Essentially this is a soundtrack to a theatre production that hasn’t been made yet. With that in mind, it makes sense as to why this album doesn’t really work, because it wasn’t written as an album.

The plot of this opera is based on Vladimir Soloviev’s “A Short Tale Of The Antichrist”, which is, as you’d expect, about the Antichrist. The story takes place at a time after religious intolerance had taken hold. The track titles tell the story quite well on their own, beginning with “Turn from Heaven”, which of course is the beginning of the rejection of religion, through to themes of people striving for destiny and purpose, including the Antichrist. Of course, he doesn’t know he’s the Antichrist until (spoiler) 7 songs in when his father reveals himself. The story continues as the Antichrist tries to construct a temple and events transpire that lead to war.

There is an issue with the album’s focus on opera in that, while impressive, the vocals are overbearing at times. 29 vocalists may be an impressive number, but as they are all singing in similar styles it becomes difficult to tell which character is which. It needed some variation in styles, or more distinct voices, to help listeners get a better grasp of what is happening. That is where it would be better on stage as audiences could see the action and characters and make them easier to follow, instead of just having voices come out of nowhere for three hours. It’s also quite easy to lose track of events, as it isn’t easy to imagine what is happening like you would with an audio book or play where you have descriptions and sound effects.

This album also has very few moments of subtlety, so a complete playthrough can be tiring as the impressive start with huge vocals and orchestra is essentially the album showing its hand far too soon. Where can it go from there? Well, nowhere really, and for some reason I didn’t notice the onslaught die down for any meaningful amount of time until the penultimate track. Just a reminder that I’m reviewing this as an album, not a stage production, I should point out how there are hooks and callbacks that recur throughout, but they don’t really feel memorable enough to highlight where you had heard them before. They may well be character themes, or flashbacks, but the lack of definition leaves a feeling that they are examples of repetition not clever references.

The danger with listening to this online or digitally is you don’t really get the 3 act structure that is more obvious with the three physical discs. It is an opera, with a coherent and linear plot, character developments, and events so needs to be approached as such. Also, trying to listen and give your attention to the whole three and a bit hours performance thing at once might seem like a chore, especially if you are not used to listening to opera. The album is described as a rock opera, and at brief moments the rock side does have a chance to shine, however the album overall is very much grounded in opera. It’s a great concept and ambitious, but is it an enjoyable experience? For me, not so much. It does require your undivided attention to keep track of characters and the story, and asking for people to listen to 3 hours of music is a big ask nowadays. If there was an abridged version, with one or two nuanced and gentler songs, (not 30 second movements, whole songs), then this would be more accessible and would be better for it. But it doesn’t, so it remains an album for people that love the genre and have the time and patience to properly appreciate it or know the original story well and would enjoy a new interpretation of the story.

Tracklist:

Act I

1. Turn From Heaven
2. Where Will You Go?
3. Through Dust, Through Rain
4. Signs Are Here
5. Never Again
6. Bring Her Home
7. The Solid Black Beyond
8. The Crowning Of Splendour
9. Morning Has Broken
10. Garden Of Peace
11. Our Destiny
12. Anthem
13. The Palace Ball
14. Jewels From Afar
15. Hail Caesar!
16. What Is Wrong?
17. Nothing But My Name

Act II

1. The Arrival Of Apollonius
2. Pledging Loyalty
3. Night Reborn
4. Dagger Of God
5. Temple Of New Jerusalem
6. The Lions Roar
7. Bringing The Gospel
8. Laudate Dominum
9. Remaining Silent
10. Behold Antichrist
11. Cursed By The Fallen
12. Resurrection
13. To Where I Weep
14. Astral Sophia
15. Thy Will Be Done!

Act III

1. Shoot Them Down!
2. Beneath The Starry Skies
3. Forgive Me
4. The Wasteland Of My Heart
5. Burning The Palace
6. Prelude To War
7. Day Of Wrath
8. Rise To War
9. Time Has Come/Final Battle
10. My Voyage Carries On
11. Striking Darkness
12. Seeds Of Time
13. To Shine Forever
14. Theme Of Antichrist

Lineup:

Christofer Johnsson – Guitars
Christian Vidal – Guitars
Nalle Phalsson – Bass
Thomas Vikstrom – Vocals
Johan Kolberg – Drums

Review by: Ryan Whitwell
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