Beloved Antichrist by TherionRelease date: February 9, 2018
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
It’s very hard to reconcile modern day Therion with the death metal band they began life as over 30 years ago. Christofer Johnsson has led his merry men down a path of overblown and epic symphonic metal, of so-called “Metal Operas” twisting through complex storylines and multi-album arcs. Beloved Antichrist can be seen as the culmination of that transformation – a bloated behemoth of a record 15 years in the making, an undertaking whose monstrous nature can be quite effectively summed up using numbers: 3 discs (which each complete an act of the story); 46 tracks; 28 different vocalists. The big question is are the 3 and a half hours’ worth of music it contains actually worth the time?
The short answer is no. Certainly, if you were hoping for a return to those long gone death metal days then don’t even bother. Even fans of the band’s later output may struggle to get their jaws around this morsel. It’s a Metal Opera that puts the opera first and the metal a very distant second. Indeed, at times it seems like half a disc can go by without hearing so much as a riff. The songs for the most part are slow, rambling creatures that don’t often reach any kind of conclusion. That shouldn’t be surprising – Johnsson intended this to be a full blown opera, only transforming it into a Therion album relatively recently in its conception. Apparently it was always intended to be performed live in its entirety. On those terms it’s easier to forgive – it’s much easier to swallow the meandering while picturing a classically trained tenor performing on stage. It doesn’t change the fact that listening to the album itself is a bit of a slog though.
That’s not to say this album is completely irredeemable. A redux version could create a fantastic album from some of these tracks. ‘Never Again’, ’Bring Her Home’, ‘Hail Caesar’, ‘Shoot The Down’ and ‘My Voyage Carries On’ all inject some high tempo, classic Therion excitement into proceedings. ‘Theme of the Antichrist’ is a fantastic three minutes that really should have come much earlier than the final track, and perhaps acted as its namesake throughout. The second disc is perhaps the most entertaining, with a particularly juicy run of tracks between ‘The Arrival of Apollonius’ and ‘The Lions Roar’. Largely, however, the album feels indistinct. Tracks come and go, blur into one and the standout moments – a tasty riff here or a catchy hook there – often don’t last long before the operatic overacting kicks back in.
I haven’t really talked about the story here so far. For those interested, it’s based on Vladomir Soloviov’s A Short Tale of the Antichrist, and tells the tale of the Antichrist wandering around, meeting his dad Satan and bringing about the apocalypse. It’s nonsense, much like the album in general. It takes a few listens to get anything from these tracks, an investment that for most people simply won’t be worth it. For those that do, the album has its rewards, but still without the performance on stage, without the full opera to hang the whole storyline and music together the album feels incomplete. And for three and a half hours’ worth of music to feel incomplete feels like a failure.