Therion / Arkona

O2 Academy Islington, London on Friday 20 December 2013

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Symphonic metallers Therion are the band responsible for closing 2013's selection of gigs for many attendees tonight. This tour is a particularly enticing one for Therion fans seeing as the Swedes plan on playing all of 1998's 'Vovin' release in its entirety as well as debut new material from their upcoming Rock Opera project.

Support comes from Arkona, a folk/pagan metal band hailing from Russia. This is an unusual choice of support for Therion given the disparity between the types of metal the two bands play but Arkona's live appearances are so infrequent in this country (this being their second show in London) that it is certainly a good decision regardless. The five-piece begin with the instrumental number 'Az' before launching into 'Arkaim' from their most recent full-length 'Slovo'. Their take on folk metal unsurprisingly draws from Russian folk music, weaving bagpipes and taped folk instruments to black metal passages. The music is divided between the celebratory and the chaotic, with vocalist Masha Scream alternating between a unique singing voice and a throaty growl where appropriate in addition to rallying the audience into raising their fists in the air. Very quickly, a mosh pit full of Arkona die-hard fans erupts, knocking over surprised Therion fans.

The setlist draws exclusively from the later section of their discography, fixating on 'Goi, Rode, Goi!' and 'Slovo'. Songs 'Goi, Rode, Goi', 'Arkona' (both tracks clocking in at over six minutes) and the jumpy 'Stenka Na Stenku' get heads banging and the pit flaring up, the latter track seeing Scream orchestrating the audience to make a wall of death. Although Therion's drum kit limits the amount of room available on stage, these pagans provide an energetic display, particularly Scream who appears both playful and passionate about her music, moving with boundless energy while draped in a wolf skin. Closer 'Yarilo' is probably Arkona's both popular track and goes down with a storm of appreciation from the crowd. For a support band, Arkona leave behind them a fantastic performance that marks them worthy as a headliner.

Opening with the beautiful 'The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah', Therion ignite the audience with an air of the grandiose. The departure of vocalist Snowy Shaw has taken Therion's male vocalist count from two to one. Remaining vocalist Thomas Vikström is newly joined by his daughter Linnéa Vikström alongside the operatic Lori Lewis. With Shaw's departure, Therion mainman Christofer Johnsson leads the band, clad in steam punk-style glasses and a top hat. The subtraction of a male voice on occasion does not particularly detract from the music, although the depth that another male voice adds to Therion is appreciated. Linnéa Vikström is a highly capable singer with a charismatic and involving stage presence that suits the theatricality of the band.

The 'Vovin' play-through is executed without any issues, with the exception of 'The Draconian Trilogy' missing its first part 'The Opening'. Opera, classical and symphonic metal combine to create a masterpiece. With keyboards providing a sublime atmosphere for the dazzling vocal arrangements and the progressive metal guitar work painting gorgeous melodies, the musical sophistication of Therion is unlike any other metal band. Besides 'Vovin', the band entreats the audience to selections from their forthcoming Rock Opera project. These five songs feel more straight-forward than the standard Therion fare with less dimensions, probably due to portraying a unified narrative, and a darker texture. Nonetheless, it is mistakably Therion and the audience reacts positively to the preview.

A handful of miscellaneous classics follow, a particular highlight being the particularly metal rarity 'The Flesh of the Gods'. 'Wine of Aluqah' goes down a storm and surprisingly incites a few attendees to partake in a mosh pit. Closing with the beloved 'To Mega Therion', Therion rather quickly close the set with Johnsson apologising for the venue's suffocating curfew. Nonetheless, the members reclaim the stage stating they actually have time to squeeze a couple more songs into the set. 'Asgård' and popular ballad 'Lemuria' are served up for dessert to the crowd's appreciation.

This was a highly eventful showcase that sees out this year's of gigs majestically. As per usual, Therion put on a dramatic and arresting showcase, glowing with outstanding talent and illustrating the dynamic nature of metal. Arkona were a fantastic choice of support and hopefully they will return soon to the capital with a headlining slot.

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article by: Elena Francis

published: 24/12/2013 07:56

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