For much the world's Metal community, the band Therion is the primary reason that the whole Symphonic Operatic Metal genre started in the first place and when you listen to their music its easy to see how this could be the case. Originally begun as more of a Death Metal band they began to introduce orchestrations and choirs into their sound about fifteen years ago and when you listen to how their albums progressed over time it becomes quite an interesting Metal study. Had they not undertaken this approach in their composition I think that we would have seen a very different Symphonic Metal genre or one that did not begin to manifest itself as early as it ended up doing with their input. Therion had only visited New York once before and the appearance was at B.B. King Blues Club. It would be the full band along with a four member choir and a soprano vocalist. The show was quite good but the band was a little restricted in movement based on the number of players and the space available amidst all their gear. This evenings show would be at the recently opened Highline Ballroom and given the venues larger stage would make this a lot more interesting in my opinion. Therion would also bring with them the band Aesma Daeva from Minneapolis.
Aesma Daeva: I was very much the novice when it came to the opening band tonight for while a couple of my friends listened to them before, my only knowledge was that this was the band that Melissa Ferlaak (vocalist) had left to join Visions Of Atlantis. I had heard good things about them but never really sampled their stuff so I was really looking forward to hearing and seeing them in the live sense as the opener for Therion. Melissa was replaced by Lori Lewis and she recorded the bands newest release "Dawn Of The New Athens" and while she and the band were doing pretty good at their set, they seemed to be keeping the material to the more morose and somber sounding stuff for some reason. The downside for me and anyone else who didn't have much background on them was that this was making everything sound a little too similar from song to song and not being able to differentiate one track from another unless they mentioned the name. Often it didn't help because I found myself wondering "didn't they just play that one" to replies of "yeah I think so, but maybe it's a continuation". Yes the band was together musically and everyone seemed adept at what they were doing but with the songs being too close in vibe along with the understated lighting I was not enjoying them as much as I had wanted to. I'm hoping to get some of their music soon to allow myself a chance to better absorb and appreciate them and of course I wish them success with their new album and singer. They are clearly a good option for fans of the brooding Gothic Metal genre that also has Symphonic elements.
Therion: As mentioned above I had caught the first time that Therion had ever performed in NYC a little over a year ago and they were supporting their double release "Lemuria/Sirius B" and the show was a totally different presentation from what I would find going on this evening. The main visible changes were that Christofer Johnsson (guitarist/founder) was no longer singing and that Mats Leven who both toured and recorded with them for that last time was no longer one of the guest members. The other difference would be in the way that the choir was presented for instead of having the four members standing to the back of the stage the four different vocalists would become more a part of the show. There were two male singers and two female (Snowy Shaw, Thomas Vikstrom, Lori Lewis and Katarina Lilje), and it was quite interesting to see that Lori from Aesma Daeva was also filling in the role of touring vocalist for Therion during these shows. I have to say that she was livelier during this set than I found her being during her own bands performance. The tour would find Therion supporting their latest Metal masterpiece "Gothic Kabbalah", which is a double CD based on the length of the tunes that the band presented on it. They would not do the entire album front to back and I admit that I expected this given the fact that it was more of a Rock Opera than the last album and all the songs worked together in sequence very well. Recently we have seen bands coming out and presenting all or most of their new albums (as was done in Iron Maiden and Rush on their recent tours) so it would not have surprised me to find Therion doing this tonight. Instead they would mix it up and present both new and older numbers for the crowd and I think based on their mixed reception to the new release that this was a good idea. I liked it but had read others had found it too excessive, but that is good with a band like Therion as it keeps it interesting in my opinion.
As I mentioned the show was much different than the last time and these singers were in on he action from beginning to end which made for quite the dramatic presentation as opposed to being relegated to the side stage area. It was almost like watching a Heavy Metal Opera as the players walked back and forth to sing their parts or to sing against each other in unison. The male vocalists each handled their roles commendably, and I found that Snowy Shaw was perhaps the most intense of the pair even though Thomas was doing a great job. They were in very classical looking garb but Snowy came out with this sinister looking hood at times and held a book that appeared to be some ancient tome that he was singing from. The ladies were also fantastic and were playing to the crowd at every turn and their own costumes were both stylish and sexy. I like the new CD quite a bit and was glad to find my favorite tracks "The Perennial Sophia" and "Son Of The Staves Of Time" being delivered amidst their classic numbers. After playing enthralling tune after enthralling tune they took a cool drum break that found both Thomas and Snowy playing floor toms while the bands drummer Petter Karlsson took his own drum solo. It was quite visual and brought some level of difference to the often boring part of a bands set. Christoffer was on the money tonight as were the Niemann Brothers and despite the overall seriousness in their material you could tell that they were pleased with the gig and the audience response. Given this show was almost like being at staged Broadway show at times I was a little bummed that they did not take better advantage of this venue's incredible lights. The band instead chose to keep it very dark and used deep red and purple or blue tones more than any of the brighter stuff and while I admit this kept it dramatic it also made it difficult to enjoy in various parts of the venue. Not to mention the problems getting decent pictures for review purposes. At this evenings show it seemed that every person in the audience was a Metal paparazzi as they snapped image after image while the band rocked out. Some other musical highlights for me would be the material from "Sirus B/Lemuria" – my own introduction to the band as I was a latecomer to their sound and their epic "To Mega Therion". They would close the night with the Manowar track "Thor", and while I liked how they delivered it, I felt it was not the show stopping closer that some around me felt it was. Last time they did Mercyful Fate's "Black Funeral" and they killed with it. Given the range of Manowar tracks to choose from I would have picked something else. However, I was in the minority on this one as the track had fists in the air and screams of approval.
If I had to find any overall complaints about the evening it would first have to be with the few individuals who decided that tonight would be the perfect time to be stupid and start fights in the club. If you have never seen The Highline Ballroom before you need to know that the general standing area is a square and while roomy, its easy to accidently find yourself in a melee should something happen. Luckily for the Metal fans around me the security staff had these idiots out of the door in moments. Remember people, these shows are about fun and enjoying the Metal not about starting nonsense, don't ruin it for others and end up getting yourself tossed out. Especially with the prices of club entry these days. In any event Therion did a fantastic job and no one left the venue disappointed. My hope is that they return again soon and draw even more people into their web. Be sure to check out some of their music if you are one of those who had not done so already.
1. Mitternacht Lowe
3. The Blood Of Kingu
4. Falling Stone
5. An Arrow From The Sun
7. Wine Of Alugah
8. Perennial Sophia
9. Son Of The Sun
10. Klyhsti Evangilist
11. Son Of The Staves Of Time
12. Tune & Drum Solo
14. Rise Of Sodom And Gomorrah
17. Cult Of The Shadow
18. To Mega Therion
Official Web site: www.megatherion.com
Official Web site: www.aesmadaeva.com