Therion - Beloved Antichrist
Nuclear Blast
Operatic Metal
Disc 1: 17 songs (1:05:28) Disc 2: 15 songs (1:02:55) Disc 3: 14 songs (0:54:27)
Release year: 2018
Therion, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Goat

There's something downright perverse about releasing a triple-album metal opera in 2018, this modern era where streaming dominates and listener attention can be so quickly stolen away, yet Christofer Johnsson has done it, the madman. Beloved Antichrist is without any doubt whatsoever a slog to get through in one sitting (this review was written over a number of sessions) and yet isn't really a better experience when you're dipping in and out of it. As good as lengthy Therion releases have been in the past, particularly 2007's Gothic Kabbalah, Beloved Antichrist is about as powerful an argument against artistic freedom as you'll ever hear! Gothic Kabbalah, and indeed most past Therion albums, excelled in the mixture of styles and almost playful approach to songwriting that led to memorable songs like The Wand of Abaris. Beloved Antichrist is painfully straightforward in comparison, with none of the prog and twice as much arrogance. It's completely driven by the operatic vocals, which although perfectly performed by a list of talent too long to go through in full (but with names that fans might recognise like Lori Lewis, Karin Fjellander, and Linnea Vikstrom) and a full Russian choir, it's pretty much the dictionary definition of limited appeal.

For one, this isn't divided into individual songs, but chapters of an overriding storyline inspired by the suitably obscure Vladimir Soloviov's "A Short Tale Of The Antichrist". It works as a story, if you're up to reading along with the lyrics and are fond of wives pleading with their husbands in song, yet fails as a cohesive rock opera thanks to the lack of variety in vocals or riffs, which are mostly pretty standard heavy metal chugging and there solely to back up the vocals and orchestration. There's no sense of humour or listener-friendly playfulness, no attempt to soften the impact of over three hours of what is absolute a metal opera, with none of the fun of the likes of Avantasia or Ayreon. Hell, Dream Theater's absolutely painful The Astonishing double-album is far more fun to listen to! From what I understand, actual opera has far more variety and rarely hits the three-hour mark too, so Therion would be pushing at the limits of acceptability even if their music wasn't this... well, boring.

There are highlights, somehow - the riffing in The Crowning of Splendour is a little more distinctive, Anthem has a nicely energetic speedy section, the booming orchestra in Morning Has Broken suitably epic. Hail Caesar! stands out most on the first disc, the choir sections working well as a chorus while the surrounding individual performances don't drag as much as elsewhere, as a whole a rare track that feels more like a song than a snippet of a three-hour long single piece. Temple of New Jerusalem is the sole example of this on the second disc with the operatic performances really coming together as a song, and although disc three kicks off with the surprisingly energetic rocking of Shoot Them Down, it can't hold it up for long and is soon back to the same old same old. Disc three is worst of the three, in a way, bearing the longest tracks like the eight minute Burning the Palace and nine-minute Forgive Me, both of which drag as badly as you'd expect. Otherwise, most tracks are so similar that actually distinguishing between them is hard, and remembering any downright impossible. Even those aforementioned tracks rarely function as 'killing songs' when you go back to listen to them individually, and moments like the galloping riffs of Time Has Come/Final Battle over far too soon.

In Therion's credit, this is about as ambitious a project as you can get. Most operas have visual elements, of course, and listening to this without them is getting only part of the experience, yet Johnsson is planning on a production of Beloved Antichrist as an opera, quote: "as soon as they have found a way to finance the larger-than-life-performance designed to be presented in selected opera houses". Sounds confident, doesn't it? Yet Johnsson is adamant that this is written for the stage, to be performed live, subtly damning the aural experience presented here as fatally flawed immediately. Compared to other multi-disc releases, such as Swallow the Sun's Songs from the North or hell, Iron Maiden's The Book of Souls makes Beloved Antichrist look even worse due to the lack of variety. Therion fans have put up with a lot in recent years, not least that the album before this was a set of covers of 60s French pop; expecting those who love the band's earlier works to enjoy this is out of the question. Definitely not recommended, and almost certainly the biggest failure of the band's career.

Killing Songs :
Sort of: Morning Has Broken, Hail Caesar!, Temple of New Jerusalem, Shoot Them Down
Goat quoted 30 / 100
Other albums by Therion that we have reviewed:
Therion - Vovin reviewed by Jared and quoted CLASSIC
Therion - Les Fleurs du Mal reviewed by Olivier and quoted no quote
Therion - Of Darkness.... reviewed by Goat and quoted 79 / 100
Therion - Sitra Ahra reviewed by Goat and quoted 75 / 100
Therion - Gothic Kabbalah reviewed by Adam and quoted 93 / 100
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