Therion (formerly Megatherion) is a Swedish symphonic metal band founded by Christofer Johnsson in 1987. The word "therion" comes from the Greek therion (θηρίον), meaning "Beast," i.e., that of the Christian Book of Revelation. However, the band's name is a homage to the Celtic Frost album To Mega Therion.
Beginning as a death metal band, they later turned to combining orchestral elements with their metal music, employing heavy use of choirs and classical musicians, not only as additions to but also as integral parts of the composition. Therion is the first metal band with fully live orchestra featured. It is also the band which originated, popularised and influenced the symphonic metal genre, cited as "the most adventurous metal band at present". Because of these extents they take in conducting their music, they have been dubbed as "Opera Metal".
Therion's music takes its themes from different mythologies and is based on concepts ranging from occultism, magic and ancient traditions and writings. The majority of their lyrics are written by Thomas Karlsson, head and founder of the magical order Dragon Rouge, of which Johnsson is a member. The band has seen many changes in line-up and style throughout its history.
Blitzkrieg and Megatherion (1987-1988):
Therion was originally formed under the name "Blitzkrieg" in Upplands Väsby, Sweden. The founder, Christofer Johnsson, was originally the bassist and vocalist, despite having only played bass for 3 months prior to the band's formation. Joining him in this new band were guitarist Peter Hansson and drummer Oskar Forss. Johnsson and Hansson had met in several musical groups, while Forss was an old school friend of Johnsson. Blitzkrieg's main influences were Metallica and Slayer, but their sound was similar to Venom and Motörhead. The band however never recorded any proper demos, and only did two concerts together. Blitzkrieg decided to split up in March 1988 due to problems with Forss. Only a few recordings survive to this day.
The band was reformed later in 1988 under the new name Megatherion and began to be influenced by the Swiss heavy metal band Celtic Frost. The new group name was originated by their album To Mega Therion. Johnsson switched from bass to guitar, P. Hansson was still guitarist, while Johan Hansson became a new bassist and Mika Tovalainen a drummer. The band name was soon shortened to Therion and the rhythm section was replaced by Erik Gustafsson of Dismember as a bassist and Oskar Forss returned as a drummer.
Debut releases and the first contract (1989-1993):
Therion recorded and released in 1989 the first two demos, Paroxysmal Holocaust (limited to 600 copies) and then Beyond the Darkest Veils of Inner Wickedness (500 copies). In 1990, the band released EP release, Time Shall Tell. It was still technically a demo, as it was only published by a local record store House of Kicks in a printing of 1,000. The record got the band their first record deal with Deaf Records. Through this company, they released their first full-length album, Of Darkness....
Of Darkness... consisted of songs Johnsson had written in the 1980s; despite having newer songs, the band opted to save them for their next full release. The album can be seen as a progressive death metal album in that it contained mainly influences that were not standard to death metal at the time. The lyrics were very political, in the vein of Napalm Death and other late-1980s hardcore punk bands. The deal with Deaf Records was only for one album, and the band had never had a good relationship with the label, so after the release, they moved to Active Records.
The band began to record a second full-length album, entitled Beyond Sanctorum, in 1991. Before the recordings started Erik Gustafsson decided to leave the band in order to return home to the U.S., but Therion continued as a trio with Hansson, Forss and Johnsson filling in on bass guitar. The record Beyond Sanctorum shows a more experimental edge to the death metal music, with keyboards and clean vocalists used sparingly.
After this recording, the band ran into a few problems. Forss decided to leave the band, Hansson quit the band after health problems. The shows in the Central Europe were played using a new line-up. Piotr Wawrzeniuk, from the band Carbonized in which Johnsson also played, took up drumming duties. The guitar was taken up by Magnus Barthelsson, another old school friend of Johnsson's, while Andreas Wahl took up the bass.
Musical metamorphosis (1993-1996):
With the new line-up, the band recorded the experimental less death metal stylish, but more doom metallic Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas in 1993. As Therion's first, and only, doom metal record it was very experimental, incorporating elements of jazz, industrial music, traditional 1980s heavy metal and religious chanting. This record sold more than the first two, but it was still only about 10,000 copies. Active Records then decided to scale down their operations and the band was switched to the new owners, Megarock Records.
The band, despite being popular with its hardcore fans, was still largely unknown. Sales were generally poor and the band members were having a hard time making ends meet. Despite the work they put in, there was no financial success for the band. Because of this, Barthelsson and Wahl were forced to quit the band. Fredrik Isaksson was brought into the band as the new bassist. After a few months break, in which Johnsson wrote a record as vocalist for Messiah, the band got an offer from the famous metal label Nuclear Blast. Despite the record deal, Megarock Records decided to let Therion go without any strings attached. The band signed a deal with Nuclear Blast in 1994 and remain with them to date.
The first record published with the new label was Lepaca Kliffoth, though a single entitled "The Beauty in Black" was released just before as a promotion for the new record. To Johnsson's surprise, this single sold 12,000 copies, just in Europe, but the record company suddenly stopped printing it. The album was very experimental, featuring classical sopranos and bass-baritone singers, and also Johnsson with a completely new style of singing - more hardcore, as opposed to death metal. These more melodic touches seemed to pay off, as the album sold around 15,000 copies in the weeks following its release. Current European sales figures are around 35,000 copies. Fredrik Isaksson left the band after some personal problems, and Lars Rosenberg, from the death metal band Entombed, took his place.
Metal and symphony era beginning (1996-2001):
In 1996 Jonas Mellberg was added to the line-up and Therion began recording their new experimental album, entitled Theli. The album heavily featured the vocals of two choirs, along with some vocals from Johnsson and Wawrzeniuk. Dan Swanö also contributed to the vocals on this album. The band used keyboards heavily, so many in fact that it was humorously called "Barmbek Symphony Orchestra" after the subway station next to the studio.Theli is considered to be the apex of Therion's career to date. The sales reached 75,000 copies in a month, more than doubling the sales of Lepaca Kliffoth.
After recording was over, the mixing and mastering period became stressful. Mellberg was suffering from severe alcohol problems and literally walked out of the studio, never to return to the band. Rosenberg was also having problems with alcohol, but the band survived these problems long enough to release Theli. Johnsson also had a problem with the band members; Wawrzeniuk was busy with his studies and could not go on tour so Johnsson got Tommy Eriksson of Shadowseeds to fill in on drums. Tobias Sidegard was hired to play guitar, while Kimberly Goss was hired as a keyboard player and vocalist. Rosenberg's drinking problems got worse and in result of that, he was fired from the band.
In 1997 Therion released A'arab Zaraq - Lucid Dreaming album. The record contains a few unused songs from Theli, a few cover songs the band had made, plus a full soundtrack Johnsson had made independently for the short art movie called "The Golden Embrace".
The next album, Vovin, was recorded using professional studio musicians and Johnsson's friend Tommy Eriksson helping out with some additional guitars. It featured, for the first time, a real string orchestra and a hand picked choir of considerable number. The Austrian singer Martina Hornbacher Astner and Sarah Jezebel Deva were chosen as the lead sopranos. Total sales were, in just two months, over 150,000 copies in Europe alone.
The band capitalised on this success and went on tour with the band Moonspell. The hired drummer, Sami Karppinen was offered a permanent place in the band. With this new line-up, the mini album Crowning of Atlantis was recorded. It was a short album fleshed out with several covers and live tracks that the record label and management insisted be placed on it to make it a full length album. Through Karppinen, Kristian Niemann joined the band on guitar, along with his brother Johan Niemann on bass.
Johnsson had already made material for the next release Deggial which is far more symphonic, employing far more complex orchestral scores, this time using a full orchestra as opposed to a simple string one. The record went on to sell more than Theli but never reached the high sales of Vovin. Therion then began a big tour to promote their new record. This was the band's first headline tour as before they had always been support acts to other bands.
Secret of the Runes (2001-2002):
After Deggial, Johnsson began to compose again; he had idea to make a Nordic concept album. For the recording he built a recording studio, just used by the band, called "Modern Art". The new written songs were based on the nine different worlds of the world tree Yggdrasil from the ancient Norse mythology. This album was named Secret of the Runes and released in 2001. For a bonus, the band recorded cover songs of "Crying Days" originally performed by Scorpions and "Summer Night City" of ABBA. Piotr Wawrzeniuk returned as a guest vocalist for the bonus tracks of this album. The band's tenth album received very good reviews and scores including Allmusic editors' pick. Therion followed up this release with a tour with Evergrey and My Insanity as support acts. After the tour, Karppinen decided to leave the band, but he was responsible enough to find a replacement drummer for the band, Richard Evensand.
In 2001, the official fan club compilation Bells of Doom was released exclusively to paying fan club members. The album contained rare songs, including some original recordings from 1987, when the band was originally called Blitzkrieg. It also contained a few songs from demos, and rarities not found on other Therion records. The album was later put for sale on Therion's webstore when the fanclub was shut down and replaced.
A selection of the recordings from the 2001 Secret of the Runes tour was released on the band's first live album, a two-disc Live in Midgård, released in 2002. The album was released celebrating the band's 15th anniversary. and was mostly recorded in Budapest, Hungary.
Lemuria and Sirius B (2004-2006):
After the tour, the band decided to take stock and sort out what they had in terms of music. The seven songs that Johnsson had made had grown to a considerable number, and along with the Niemann brothers' contributions the band discovered they had 55 new songs. The band decided to record and release two albums simultaneously. 171 musicians were used in the recording of the new albums, a 32-member choir was recorded in Prague along with many lead vocalists. The results were the albums Lemuria and Sirius B, released together in a special twin pack, as well as individually, in 2004. Piotr Wawrzeniuk returned on this album to provide vocals, along with the singer Mats Levén.
In July 2005, an album entitled Atlantis Lucid Dreaming was released. As the name suggests, it is a mixture of tracks from 1997 A'arab Zaraq - Lucid Dreaming and 1999 Crowning of Atlantis. The tracklist is all the non-soundtrack songs from the first one (except for the Iron Maiden cover version), followed by the first seven Crowning of Atlantis songs, and additionally the live version of "Black Sun".
The Lemuria/Sirius B Tour would last for 106 live shows stretching over two years. The final concert took part at the ProgPower Festival in Cheltenham, UK on 21 March 2006 and that was the last Christofer Johnsson vocal stage performance.
Therion released their first DVD entitled Celebrators of Becoming on May 2006. The set contains four DVDs, featuring live video from Mexico City recorded in 2004 and other live video materials, bands' documentary from the 2004-2006 World Tour, art movie "The Golden Embrace", all band music videos to date and bootlegs with commentary, and two audio CDs with a live show recorded in Mexico City.
Gothic Kabbalah, classical shows and The 20th Anniversary Tour (2006-2007):
On September 2006 Christofer Johnsson announced that recordings of the new album Gothic Kabbalah had been finished and the album was subsequently released on January 12, 2007. In early 2007, the band began promoting the album with a World Tour, headlined together with Grave Digger and with support act Sabaton. The tour included North and South America, and for the very first time in the band's history, Japan.
Meanwhile the band's first live concert with a symphonic orchestra and choir took place in Bucharest, Romania on December 9, 2006, dubbed "Therion goes classic". Six months later another classical show followed in Miskolc, Hungary on June 16, 2007 in the framework of the Miskolc Opera Festival. Both concerts were played by members of local orchestras and choirs, including some soloists, while one of the soprano solos in Miskolc was sung by Lori Lewis. Each show has contained a full orchestral version of Clavicula Nox, and covers of pieces by Antonín Dvořák, Giuseppe Verdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Camille Saint-Saëns and Richard Wagner. The second part of the shows has contained the band's assorted songs, among them Eternal Return, Draconian Trilogy, Sirius B and The Siren Of The Woods. In Bucharest, an orchestra-only version of The Flight Of The Lord Of Flies, and the pure classical fragments of The Khlysti Evangelist and The Wondrous World Of Punt were played - together with Clavicula Nox as the first act of this show.
The Romanian Television has recorded and broadcast the entire Bucharest concert (except some Wagner pieces, The Siren Of The Woods and Draconian Trilogy), and the Miskolc concert was also recorded. The latter was released on May 2009 under the name The Miskolc Experience as a DVD + 2CD box set. The CD's are divided upon Part 1 (Clavicula Nox and classical covers) and Part 2 (Therion songs with orchestra and choir - except The Siren Of The Woods, which is also missing from the DVD), and the DVD also contains a "Making of" footage, and the first act of the Bucharest show.
In May 2007 the 20 year anniversary tour of the band was announced. It was limited only for 16 gigs, exclusively in Europe. As an integral part of the shows the entire Theli album was played as the second act of the gigs, and ended with the main piece of the Gothic Kabbalah album: Adulruna Rediviva. The rest of the show has included The Wisdom Of The Cage, but the rest of the songs were chosen upon the fans' voting. The only exception was Kali Yuga Pts. 1-2. which was played, with the special occasion of playing Kali Yuga Pt. 3, which is a song of the new album, seen below.
The tour took part in November and December 2007, and included several guest musicians. The keyboard parts were played at every gigs by Ferdy Doernberg, and the first tour legs also included Piotr Wawrzeniuk and Messiah Marcolin. In this part of the tour some songs were accompanied by a belly dancer on stage. All these guests returned, with Mats Levén, for the final show of the tour, which took part in Paris.
Lineup changes and Sitra Ahra (2008-2011):
In April 2008 it was announced on Therion's official site that the core group of musicians were parting ways. Christofer also noted that he was in no way ending Therion. Four months later Johan Koleberg, as the new drummer, and Nalle Påhlsson as bassist, were announced as the new band members.
On August 5, 2008, Therion released their third live album - a double CD and one DVD set -entitled Live Gothic. The album was recorded in Warsaw, Poland on February 14, 2007 and featuring 22 songs spread over the two discs, and the DVD is the visual version of the same concert.
As promised by Christofer, after the busy year of 2007, the band did not plan any tours until 2010, nor were there any concerts scheduled, except a single open-air festival show in Płock, Poland on 6 September 2008, which included the new rhythm section, and as a guest the band's former guitarist Magnus Barthelsson.
On May 10, 2009, it was announced that Thomas Vikström had become a full-time member. This makes Thomas the first official vocalist Therion has ever had besides Christofer Johnsson. It happened just days after the releasing of the The Miskolc Experience DVD. In November of the same year the making of the new album was announced, which obtained the title of Sitra Ahra in February 2010. Several festivals, Mexican gigs, and a complete European tour have been scheduled.
On June 4, 2010, guitarist Christian Vidal joined Therion, but on July 15, 2010, Snowy Shaw (Gothic Kabbalah, Sitra Ahra) left the band after problems with his throat, and having joined Dimmu Borgir. However, he rejoined Therion, and left Dimmu Borgir, on August 25, 2010. Sitra Ahra was then released on September 17, 2010, although selling a mere 800 copies in its first week of release in America. One day after, a new design for the official home page was released. The tour for the album started in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a 17-day tour around South and Central America, on 1 October 2010. There was also a European tour for the album, from 29 October 2010 to 11 December 2010.
In March 2011, Katarina Lilja, one of the singers from Gothic Kabbalah, left the band for a second time to "re-join the boring civil world and not be a cool rockstar anymore". Linnea Vikström, daughter of Thomas was announced as her replacement in June 2011. Linnea will be unable to take part in the band's French festivals in June, but will be in the band for their appearance at Bloodstock Open Air 2011 and onwards.
After the Sitra Ahra tour Therion have been confirmed as acts for other festivals in 2011, including Hellfest Summer Open Air, ProgPower USA., and also for the 2012 70000 Tons of Metal.
In an interview conducted by Onslaught Radio at Bloodstock, Snowy Shaw announced that the band are starting work on new material, but it is unlikely that they will start to work on it before the end of the year. In September 2011, Lori Lewis was announced as only the third ever permanent vocalist of Therion, after 4 years of close collaboration and session work with the band. The band has also released in Autumn 2011 a board game called 011. Its theme is closely related with the current band members and the Sitra Ahra album.
Present and future plans (2012-):
On 14th February 2012 the release of a new studio album for September 2012, followed up by the 25th Anniversary Tour (with the title "Flowers of Evil") was announced
The release of a DVD about the 20th Anniversary Tour, which was expected for 2011 is still unscheduled. It will contain the recordings of the Budapest gig of this tour.
Therion frequently uses visual symbols on its album covers. Most of them are based on magick, occult, and Dragon Rouge themes.
Hendecagram, the star of Qliphoth, an eleven-pointed star also called Star of Seth, is the most commonly-used symbol by the band. The star symbolises the night side of the Qabalah. The hendecagram is important to Christofer's magick and his lyrics, and has been admitted as a band symbol. There is also a connection between the eleven points of the star and the Dragon Rouge's Draconian initiation, since its 1 + 9 + 1 levels together constitute 11 steps. The symbol appears on all the album covers (not only front covers, also in back and/or inlay) since Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas (1993).
Other symbols used include:
Pentagram, closely Pythagorean pentagram (one point down), is shown on the Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas cover on the dragon's head.,
Runes shown in the Secret of the Runes front cover (and also in the booklet) are Nordic runes with Elder Fuþark alphabet.,
Celtic cross appears on the Secret of the Runes booklet on the page with the lyrics to the song "Helheim.",
Clavicula Nox, a magickal symbol, one of the key symbols in Dragon Rouge, is shown on the Crowning of Atlantis, Vovin (inlay), and "Eye of Shiva" covers.,
Mjölnir, the Hammer of Thor appears on the Secret of the Runes inlay cover.,
Three astronomical symbols are shown in the The Early Chapters of Revelation box-set covers: Venus (♀), first quarter Moon (☽), and Sun (☉).,
Christofer Johnsson - guitars, keyboards (1987-present), vocals (1987-2006),
Christian Vidal - guitar (2010-present),
Nalle "Grizzly" Påhlsson - bass guitar (2008-present),
Johan Koleberg - drums (2008-present),
Thomas Vikström - lead vocals (2007-present); live only, (2007-2009), studio (2009-present),
Lori Lewis - vocals (2011 - present),
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Therion_members
Paroxysmal Holocaust (1989)
Beyond the Darkest Veils of Inner Wickedness (1989)
Time Shall Tell (1990)
Of Darkness... (1991)
Beyond Sanctorum (1992)
Christofer Johnsson, Peter Hansson
Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas (1993)
Andreas Wallan Wahl
Lepaca Kliffoth (1995)
A'arab Zaraq - Lucid Dreaming (1997)
Crowning of Atlantis (1999)
Secret of the Runes (2001)
Lemuria & Sirius B (2004)
Christofer Johnsson, Mats Levén, Piotr Wawrzeniuk
Gothic Kabbalah (2007)
Mats Levén, Snowy Shaw, Katarina Lilja, Hannah Holgersson,
Anna Nyhlin, Petter Karlsson,
Jonas Samuelsson Nerbe, Lori Lewis (tour)
The Miskolc Experience (2009)
Sitra Ahra (2010)
Thomas Vikström, Snowy Shaw,
Mika "Belfagor" Hakola, Petter Karlsson, Lori Lewis
Nalle "Grizzly" Påhlsson
Collaborators and session members:
Tobias Sidegård - guitar, vocals (1996-1997),
Kimberly Goss - keyboards, vocals (1996-1997),
Sarah Jezebel Deva - vocals (1997-1998),
Martina Hornbacher - vocals (1998),
Waldemar Sorychta - guitar (1998-1999), bass (2010 Sitra Ahra tour),
Wolf Simons - drums (1998-1999),
Jan Kazda - bass, acoustic guitar (1998-2000),
Anders Engberg (ex-Lions Share) - vocals (2000-2004),
Karin Fjellander - vocals (2004-2006),
Mats Levén - vocals (2004-2008),
Snowy Shaw - vocals (2006-present),
Katarina Lilja - vocals (2006-2007, 2008-2011),
Lori Lewis - vocals (2007-present),
Linnea Vikström - vocals (2011-present),
Thomas Karlsson - Thomas has written most of the lyrics on albums since 1996.