Eloquent Emotions
CoC interviews Therion
by: Adrian Bromley
There is no denying that the power and strength within Therion mastermind Christofer Johnsson's music is an extraordinary feat. It's unbelievable how one man can make metal music so majestic and so grand, yet easily accessible to the metal buying public and beautifully draped with luscious melodies. His work is his craft. His craft is stunning.

While Therion (rounded out by guitarist Tommy Eriksson, additional guitarists Waldemar Sorychta and Siggi Bemm, drummer Wolf Simons and bassist Ian Kazda) has managed to pry themselves away from their death metal beginnings (i.e., _Of Darkness_, _Symphony of Masses_ and _Lepaca Kliffoth_) over the years, the band has emerged from the transition with powerful music that speaks volumes of creativity and renders the listener weak at the knees. Therion's _Theli_ record set the stage for the band (though _Lepaca Kliffoth_ did showcase some innovative ideas) with its massive use of symphonies, choirs and sheer brilliance masking the music with attractive melodies. _Theli_ was and is one of the most breathtaking LPs to emerge this decade.

Following the release of the band's cover/soundtrack mish-mashed LP titled _A' Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming_, the band returns to the metal scene with the hotly anticipated outing called _Vovin_. While much more subdued and sombre than past efforts, Johnsson's delicate ways of mixing sounds and ideas shines like the sun. His work tells plenty.

"I definitely think this is a big change for Therion since the _Theli_ record a few years back," begins Johnsson. "Of course we will never be able to do such a massive change to the music as we did with _Theli_. I basically stopped singing and created huge classical arrangements and choirs singing. If we were to do another such drastic change for Therion, we'd have to stop playing and introduce hip-hop into the Therion sound."

"We want every album by us to be different. We want people to get a lot out of what we do. It's important to have changes within our music. It's very important to myself to see us changing over each LP. On _Vovin_ there are more guitars and more mid-tempo and melancholic ideas. _Theli_ had a lot of soft guitars in the background. Here they are more up front. There is more attention for me to focus here with all the guitars and ideas coming together."

"I love this LP and how I worked the choirs on _Vovin_. With _Theli_ I used the choirs to kind of take the place of rock and guitar harmonies within a song. They were used to help guide the song. With this LP I used the choirs very conservatively and in the vein of an opera performance. I used the material and choirs effectively to sound like a real opera working within the music of Therion. As for the future, who knows, but at this point in time the use of choirs seems very effective for Therion's work."

He adds, "I can honestly say this now, I was very worried with the direction of the band when _Theli_ came out. I thought it was going to flop. I thought that was going to be the last record that we ever made. When I was making _Theli_ I was happy to have a big budget and be able to make a powerful LP that could have been our last recording. I thought it was going to sell nothing, which had always been the case 'cause people thought of us always as being a weird band, and it was the weirdest effort so far. I had to go out and sell the record even though I had my doubts. I was worried, but beyond my wildest dreams, the album took off and people really got into what we had done. I was pleased."

Does he miss the early death metal days of Therion? He says, "This is where we should be. I liked what we did before and I don't regret anything we did musically, but I have grown as a songwriter and now I am working with many different styles of music. We did try to play some of the older stuff live to satisfy old fans. We always try to play some old stuff, in respect to what we have done in the past. But as things go on, it just seems that Therion are getting further and further away from what we did in the past. And that's fine by me. I enjoy being creative with our music."

Getting more in depth about his songwriting process, Johnsson says, "Basically, with the way I work, everything I write and work on in the studio goes on the record. If it's left over, we hold onto it. The music doesn't go onto the next record either. We find something special to do. There are some songs from _Vovin_ left over and that may one day make it onto an EP. Who knows? The songs that were cut just didn't work into the feel of what we were doing with _Vovin_." While _Vovin_ is getting some pretty rave reviews, many critics and fans seemed to have been under the impression that _Vovin_ was going to act as "Theli Part II". What's Johnsson's take on the work within _Vovin_? "I think this is some of our best work. If I wasn't happy with it, I wouldn't put it out on record. I have this way of thought: 'If it ain't better than the previous record, I ain't putting it out.' There are so many bands out there that put out a record and reach the peak of their career and then go downhill from there. I don't want that. Even if our sales in records slip, I am still going to be proud with what we put out 'cause that is what keeps me going: good music. We have been around for eleven years with Therion and if we want another eleven years, then we have to think this way and make great records. If I don't think it is better than the last record, how can I expect someone else to think it is better?"

So what does make up a record worth putting out in Johnsson's mind? "I want the production to be far better than the LP before. I want the playing to be better than before and I want the songwriting to be different. I want to offer something new. Sure we used choirs on this LP as we did with the last one, but we used them in a different way. It's all about using what you have and making the best of it. Variety is key."

The thing that has always seemed to stand out from the music of Therion is the band's utter compassion and care for what they do. Each note and harmony is executed with a sincere and heartfelt direction. Therion is quite frankly a band that presents itself with as much respect as it does delivering its music. Honesty runs deep. "We are one of those bands that care deeply for what we do. There are many other bands out there that feel the same as we do. For example Amorphis, they don't give a shit. They play what they like. Many bands nowadays make music with the thought of, "What will people think if we play music like this?" And then they change. Myself, I always seem to concentrate on making music stand firm with my own ideas. Nothing ever affects what I do. When I hear back final results I wonder how things could have been changed, but I don't fuss over it. I'm just glad to have been able to create such work."

The ending topic turns to his past work with _A' Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming_ and the soundtrack/soundscape stuff he worked on for that release. Johnsson was pleased with what he did, but feels that his work in that style/genre is not much to his liking. Would he do such a bizarre project again? "I won't do anything like that ever again," states Johnsson. "It was great to be able to do that, I was offered a nice price to work on the soundtrack, but it just wasn't my thing. I always wanted to work on a soundtrack, but discovered it was something I wasn't really into. It was a great experience, but I wasn't really paid enough money for the time I had been working on it. The thing about doing this is that it puts a strain on what I am doing with Therion, 'cause I have to devote time to other projects. I won't do anything else like this unless it's worth it and doesn't take away too much of my time with the band. My band is all that matters to me. Always has, always will."

(article submitted 1/9/1998)


CHATS
1/7/2007 J Smit Therion: In the Nightside of Eden
12/31/2004 J Smit Therion: The Dragon Breaks Down the Temple Wall
3/5/2000 A Bromley Therion: Soothing Opera... to Kill by
8/12/1997 A Wasylyk Therion: Melancholic Musical Masters
ALBUMS
1/7/2007 J Smit 7.5 Therion - Gothic Kabbalah
5/31/2004 J Smit 10 Therion - Lemuria / Sirius B
1/14/2002 B Meloon 7 Therion - Secret of the Runes
3/5/2000 P Azevedo 8 Therion - Deggial
6/15/1999 A Wasylyk 7 Therion - Crowning of Atlantis
6/7/1998 P Azevedo 10 Therion - Vovin
8/12/1997 A Wasylyk 7 Therion - A' Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming
10/11/1996 A Bromley 10 Therion - Theli
9/2/1995 G Filicetti 10 Therion - Lepaca Kliffoth
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