Therion / Tristania / Trail Of Tears
16 November 2004
The Garage, London

A very early doors time meant I was expecting to have missed Norway`s Trail Of Tears, however as it transpired we did catch a portion of their set. I had only heard one song by the band previously, which wasn`t played tonight and the poor sound meant that music, fresh to these ears, was a little difficult to decipher.

The band chose to play three new songs back to back from their new album, Free Fall Into Fear, which is due for release in January 2005. The sound of this new material brought to mind Soilwork, mainly due to the melodic vocals of Kjetil Nordhus and the fact his bald head means he resembles Björn "Speed" Strid. Nordhus, who is also a member of Green Carnation, is a recent full time addition to the band who at the same time dispensed with the services of their female vocalist.

Nordhus shares the vocals with Ronny Thorsen, who has a more aggressive sound. The size of the stage and the packed venue meant beyond the two vocalists and guitarist Terje Heiseldal, it was difficult to get a sight of the rest of the band. Though if the stage was crowded for Trail Of Tears, it was only going to get busier for the following bands.

Expecting the band to be more gothic, this was presented as the band wrapped up the set with A Fate Sealed In Red. Not a bad set then, though one I found it difficult to get to grips with.

I was aware a good few people were here solely Tristania and based on the one album I had, World Of Glass, I had high hopes. Kicking off with Aphelion, Kjetil Ingebrethsen`s extreme vocals lead the way. Ingebrethsen for the most part took up centre stage foot on monitor snarling out the lyrics. To his right Vibeke Stene provided angelic female vocals. Vibeke looked very different to the pictures of her on Tristania`s website, having gone from blonde to raven black hair which made her look like a vampiric sister of The Corrs. Although the crowd mix tonight made it almost seem like couples night, there was a heavy bias of male members of the audience swooning to the left in front of Vibeke, who`s unblinking stare and the fact she was practically bursting out to the top of her outfit seemed to have them spellbound.

Second song World Of Glass saw a third vocalist Østen Bergøy take the stage to add deep male gothic vocals. That and Tender Trip On Earth from the same album contain a catchiness akin to a metalized Sisters Of Mercy circa Floodland.

Again with three vocalists taking up centre stage I was struggling to gain sight of the rest of the band and stranger still, with all three bands seemingly having keyboards I didn`t see a single keyboard player all night. For their part, Tristania certainly were using some backing tapes behind Vibeke, though this did not detract from the performance. Although, it would have been nice to see somebody physically playing the uplifting piano parts of Angina.

Tristania also have a new album out in January and Libre from that disc suggested it is worthy of purchase. A great deal of the weaving gothy guitar interplay was very effective and had me making a mental note to dig out my Fields Of The Nephilim cds.

I believe this was Tristania`s UK debut and they should certainly make a return visit on this performance.

Tristania set list:
Aphelion / World Of Glass / Equilibrium / Angina / Tender Trip On Earth / Beyond The Veil / Libre / Angellore

I had no idea what to expect from the Therion live experience and knowing it would be two hours long, I was concerned whether I would last the duration. Christofer Johnsson told us later in the set that Therion had now been about 17 years and have released 12 albums and owning less than half of them I was expecting a lot of unfamiliar material.

The immediate thing of note was the number of microphones being set up on stage. This revealed itself to be the requirements for a four piece choir (two male, two female) at the back of the stage, a female soprano in Karin Fjellander, a male lead rock singer in Mats Leven and a mic for Christofer Johnsson himself.

The set started with The Blood Of Kingu and Uthark Runa from the latest two simultaneously released albums. It would be difficult to find fault with the choir and Karin Fjellander throughout the set. It was apparent they were classical trained and for the most stood completely still staring straight ahead, save for choreographed arm waving from the ladies. Their abilities were particular evident during a rendition of The Crowning Of Atlantis.

Christofer Johnsson, who besides contributing rhythm guitar was the voice of Therion between songs, also provided some death metal vocals. Typhon was the first taste of these, seeing him trade off with Mats Leven. Leven himself was a revelation. I was only aware of him previously through his contribution to the Krux cd and his performance had me longing to see that band live. Despite the limited stage space, Leven somehow managed to cover every available spare space and was constantly egging the crowd on. His range was superb from a solid rock vocal to a Bruce Dickinson like siren on In Remembrance and Wild Hunt and even blending in with the choir.

The middle section of the set contained a lot of material I had not heard before, but Therion completely break the mould in what they do and how they perform it and rather than loosing interest I was become more and more enthralled. Mention should be made of Kristian Niemann who I had not realised how good a guitarist he was until tonight with some amazingly fluid lead work. Niemann, with bald head and platted string beard, spent much of the set grinning from ear to ear.

1995`s Lepaca Kliffoth was my introduction to Therion and Melez saw Johnsson take lead vocals for what was to be the oldest song in tonight`s set. Up until this point the crowd had remained pretty static during the songs, showing there appreciation between each with repeated chants of the bands name, however, The Rise Of Sodom & Gomorrah had them bouncing along.

My personal favourite across latest cds Sirius B and Lemuria is The Khlysti Evangelist which contains a to die for Ozzy style riff. For this the choir and Karin Fjellander departed leaving the band in a traditional rock set up. Up to this point I have not made mention of bassist Johan Niemann nor drummer Petter Karlsson, basically as although I could here they were spot on I hardly caught a glimpse of them and it would certainly be nice to see Therion accommodated with a bigger stage.

Half way through Siren Of The Woods however the venue suddenly was cast in darkness with all power going save for the exit signs. Immediately Petter Karlsson went into a drum solo following which roadies and Johnsson appeared with torches trained on Karin Fjellander whilst she sang a solo song with no microphone. Determined cried of shhh, brought a respectful silence for this unique performance followed by one of the biggest cheers of the night. The speed and professionalism by which this was all handled had me wondering whether the power cut had been staged, however, unfortunately we were then informed that due to safety reasons we would all have to leave the venue.

There`s a train of thought that it`s best to leave a crowd wanting more and knowing that the remainder of the set was to consist of Wine Of Aluqah, Cult Of The Shadow, To Mega Therion and covers of Black Funeral (Mercyful Fate) and Iron Fist (Motorhead), Therion certainly achieved that. I cannot imagine anybody going home disappointed, however, from the quality of performance that we actually got. Earlier Johnsson had noted it was 6 years since Therion last played the UK and that hopefully it will become a regular stop on the tour again going forward. I share his hope.

Therion set list:
The Blood Of Kingu / Uthark Runa / Asgard / Seven Secrets Of The Sphinx / Crowning Of Atlantis / Typhon / Schwarzalbenheim / Ginnungagap / In Remembrance / Wild Hunt / The Invincible / Melez / Rise Of Sodom & Gomorrah / The Khlysti Evangelist / Siren Of The Woods

Trail Of Tears