Venue: B.B. King Blues Club (New York, NY)
Opener: Beyond The Embrace
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
It was only recently that I first heard the music of Therion and I was excited to discover that they were coming to perform for the very first time in the USA as a headliner. One of the stops on the tour would be a show at the one and only B.B. King Blues Club. I have lost count of the amount of great shows this venue has had over the course of the year and this one will definitely add to it. New York City always seems to be a highlight of any bands tour and even more so when it is their first time to the Country ever. Therion was scheduled to play as headliner for one of the nights of the popular ProgPower USA Festival.
The music of Therion is a little difficult to explain to people for they combine a number of genres that originally were not placed together as common as one finds today. It’s a little bit of Progressive mixed with elements of Traditional and also Operatic influences. If one were to classify a genre, I would have to lead to Classical or Symphonic Metal. It is clearly a band that needs to be experienced in concert after you first hear them for their impact will be that much greater. The core members of the group are Christofer Johnsson (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Mats Leven (vocals), Kristian Niemann (guitar), Johan Niemann (bass) and Petter Karlsson (drums). In addition to these players the group travels with a four-member choir and a mezzo soprano lead singer. The stage at B.B. King Blues Club would certainly be full that night. It was a shame that the band could not bring more of the classical instruments that are heard on their releases but money and ability to pull it off in the venues on the tour would be the issue. There would be no real stage show or elaborate setting to the group tonight and instead just the music would be delivered.
The opening band for the show would be Metal Blade Recording Artist Beyond the Embrace who was not listed on the venue page until very late. This ended up being a nice surprise as I am a fan of these guys and have been since I saw them perform last year with Amorphis. The band is continuing to kick some serious Metal ass based on their release “Insect Song”. If you don’t have this CD, do yourself a favor because it stands above a lot of the other Metal releases of 2004. It’s a worthy part of the collection you are building if you love the classic style of Thrash along the lines of how Metallica used to be. The group was very into it and while I felt their sound was a little on the muddy side they surpassed it with the performance they would give. It seemed to be a PA issue as the band was heavy and tight throughout their set. When they were done they all walked around the venue and mingled with the crowd. I was lucky to be standing near them at one point and found them to be a great bunch of dudes that enjoy playing their style of Metal for anyone who will listen. They were also a good choice as the opener since their music is so much more different in contrast to what we would find in Therion. Around that time I also noticed that Shadows Fall singer Brian Fair was walking about the club enjoying himself. I would have liked to say hello and nice work but I got so deep into the Therion set that I lost track of where he went.
When the time came for Therion there was a high level of expectation in the fans that rushed around the venue. Most of the attendees pushed as close to the front stage area to get in position for this incredible band. Given there was no photo pit that night, it made shooting a little arduous, but we did what we could. The band and their company hit the stage like gangbusters with full rich melodies and an over the top sound. I could not believe the amount of people assembled on the stage as this was clearly the largest performance group I had ever seen in such a space. It is especially interesting to see this in a Metal band and to pull it off without any seeming issue was something that I found it impressive to say the least. In the Therion music there are a lot of choruses and having the choir there gave the audience one better. So many of the groups that employ the Operatic style are forced to sample them or use tapes. It was an added plus to experience this in person. The four members of the choir made the songs sound a lot more alive and brought an incredible mood to the already complex musical ideas. The male lead singer (Mats) was a perfect companion to this and as energetic as Tobias Sammett of EdGuy. His voice kicked some it up a notch all night. Joining him front stage was the bands Opera singer (Karin Fjellander) who I guess could be best compared to Tarja Turunen of Nightwish. She stood on the stage majestically and surely commanded the crowd with her voice. The choir was an extension of her and so different in person rather than sampled. I wish more bands that did this type of music chose to deliver it that way, but of course this has to be an expensive undertaking. The view was mixed on the absence of the classical instruments you hear on the record. Some folks hated that end while others found it was interesting to be able to hear a purer sound from Therion without the extras. Since I was new, I have to say that I did not personally mind. It was like being treated to two different interpretations of the bands music. That evening Therion would deliver a very comprehensive set of a full 18 tunes including the encores. The made sure to touch upon all of their albums and especially the double CD “Lemuria/Sirius B” which is a CD that I think every Metal fan should own at this point. There is so much on it to absorb. Musically Christofer Johnsson, the Niemann Brothers and Peter and Johan were on point. Very tight musically and that’s to be expected with their consistent performing. Christofer was all over the place in the room he actually had and you could see his excitement in his face as he performed.
After the set seemed to run its completion with the performance of “To Mega Therion” the group would surprise the audience with two Encores’. However they would not perform additional Therion material but instead decided to treat everyone to some cover material. This would be a treat as it was done incredibly. The first was a dead-on cover of “Black Funeral” by Mercyful Fate. Mats hit all of the notes and falsettos and was so good he could have been King Diamond himself. The second was a rousing rendition of Motorhead’s “Iron First”. Shooting the photos could have been better but with no barrier the venue and die-hard fans work against you. No one moves despite you being there in official capacity. The crowd response was good and when I checked the venue managers on count I had heard about 550 which is not all that bad but I did expect more. Metal fans are coming out to support their favorite groups but sometimes are hesitant to take chances on stuff they are not too sure of. I feel when a band comes to us for the first time ever, we as supporters of the Genre should attempt to show some support. After all you never know if these groups even have the budget to return. I was a new fan and attended despite the limited background. I feel those that decided to pass for whatever reason did instead cheat themselves for everyone in attendance had a great time at this show. It goes in the memory banks and I hope for their return sooner rather than later. Only time will tell.
1. Blood of Kingu
2. Uthark Runa
3. Invocation of Naamah
4. Riders of Theli
5. Black Sun
6. The Invincible
9. Seven Secrets of the Sphinx
12. Khlysti Evangelist
13. Wine of Aluqah
14. Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah
15. Cults of the Shadows – encore
16. To Mega Therion – encore
17. Black Funeral (Mercyful Fate) – encore
18. Iron First (Motorhead) – encore