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THERION

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Biography

Cited by many as the most adventurous Metal bands at present. Christofer Johnsson's THERION present a sound swathed with huge operatic choirs and oriental orchestral arrangements. The band has over the course of its labyrinthine career employed some of the most esteemed female vocalists in the Metal world such as Sarah Jezebel Diva, Claudia Maria Mokri, Kimberley Goss, Martina Hornbacher Astner and Marika Schonberg to lend their distinctive touches.

Although starting life as a run of the mill Death Metal band, THERION, hailing from the Stockholm suburb of Upplands Väsby, has with each successive release wrung every ounce of adventurism out of each record increasing their status in Europe along the way. The roots of THERION lay in the late 80s Swedish band BLITZKRIEG, which featured bassist / vocalist Christofer Johnsson, guitarist Peter Hansson and drummer Oskar Forss. The group reformed as MEGATHERION in 1988, with a line-up of Johnsson on vocals and guitar, guitarist Hansson, ex-CREMATORY bassist Johan Hansson and drummer Mika Tovalainen, shortly after the band shortened the name to THERION and replaced their rhythm section with bassist Erik Gustafsson and drummer Oskar Forss. Parallel to his THERION activities Johnsson was also holding down membership of Grind act CARBONIZED, recording no less than three albums with this group, 1991's 'For The Security', 1993's 'Disharmonization' and 'Screaming Machines' in 1996.

Initial THERION demos surfaced in April 1989, 'Paroxysmal Holocaust', completed with the temporary services of vocalist Matti Karki, now of DISMEMBER, and 'Beyond The Veils Of Inner Wickedness', seeing Christofer Johnsson taking back the lead vocal mantle. This line-up, minus Karki, recorded THERION's first mini-album, 'Time Shall Tell', at Sunlight Studios in Stockholm with producer Tomas Skogsberg. 'Time Shall Tell' was initially released as a limited edition of 1000 for sale through a local record store House Of Kicks. However, subsequent pressings have been made.

Bassist Erik Gustafsson left following the 1991 'Of Darkness' album, the band's first full-length opus again utilising the Thomas Skogsberg / Sunlight Studios combination. 'Of Darkness' saw issue through British based concern Deaf Records, a subsidiary of Peaceville, and whilst regarded as a commendable slice of Death Metal, gave little portent of what was to come.

THERION, having switched to another UK label, Active Records, took to Montezuma Recordings Studio as a trio to self-produce the 'Beyond Sanctorium' follow up of 1992. CD variants added an extra track in 'Tyrants Of The Damned'. Christofer Johnsson found himself unwittingly in the mainstream media that same year when, on July 26th, an eighteen year old girl, Suuvi Mariotta Puurunen, claiming to be the girlfriend of BURZUM leader Varg Vikernes, attempted to set fire to his house whilst he was sleeping inside.

For the 'Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas' album, released through local imprint Megarock in April 1993, only Johnsson remained, adding ex-CONSPIRACY guitarist Magnus Barthelsson, the HEXENHAUS credited bassist Andreas Wahl and CARBONIZED drummer Piotr Wawrzeniuk. Revisiting Montezuma Recordings, THERION had co-produced with the aid of engineer Rex Gisslén. With a whole new cast, Johnsson employed a full arsenal of experimentation, layering the traditional Death tones with sumptuous keyboards and even the audacity of a bass solo. Lyrically, the THERION frontman's well documented occult persuasions came to the fore with passages of Aramaic and Hebrew interlaced with the expected Death grunts and growls.

Wahl and Wawrzeniuk, guitarist Johan Lundell and ENTOMBED bassist Lars Rosenberg also forged a 1993 side project titled SERPENT. The industrious Wahl also operated another side band CONCRETE SLEEP. Barthelsson subsequently formed Industrial band GRAIN.

Quite surreally Christofer Johnsson became embroiled in the machinations of the burgeoning Scandinavian Black Metal scene in rather an unusual way when a girl, claiming to be Count Grishnackh of BURZUM's emissary, tried unsuccessfully to burn his house down. When apprehended the female apparently informed the authorities Johnsson was "not a true Satanist"! Johnsson took himself out of Sweden for a time to ally himself temporarily with Swiss Death Metal merchants MESSIAH, touring with the band and participating in sessions for their 1994 album 'Underground'.

Having signed to German label Nuclear Blast, an introductory single release, 'The Beauty In Black', delivered promising sales. April 1995's Harris Johns produced 'Lepaca Kliffoth' album, recorded by the core of Johnsson, bassist Fredrik Isaksson and CARBONIZED drummer Piotr Wawrzeniuk, featured a cover of CELTIC FROST's 'Sorrows Of The Moon'. The album also saw contributions from vocalist Claudia Maria Mohri, who appeared on CELTIC FROST's 'Into The Pandemonium' album, and baritone Hans Groning. 'Lepaca Kliffoth' introduced ambient passages for the first occasion, marking the band's steps into a new realm of sound. THERION gigged across Germany partnered with Canadian Thrashers ANNIHILATOR and toured South America during 1995, during which Rosenberg, also holding CARBONIZED credits alongside Johnsson, opted to leave his then act ENTOMBED and join THERION on a permanent basis. In November the group added ex-UNANIMATED guitarist Jonas Mellberg. Wawrzenuik and Rosenberg also released the debut SERPENT product 'In The Garden Of The Serpent' to round off 1995.

As 1996 began THERION contributed a track to a Japanese IRON MAIDEN cover album on the Toys Factory label and entered a new stage of their career with the 'Theli' release in August, an ambitious amalgam of Metal and Middle Eastern influences all overlaid with choral vocals. This record, recorded at Impulse Studio in Hamburg, Germany, marked a pivotal career juncture for the band as Johnsson relinquished his main vocal role and THERION began to rely much more heavily on heavily orchestrated massed choirs. Those participating included EDGE OF SANITY's DAN SWAN?, soprano soloists Anja Krenz and Constanze Arens, tenor Stephan Gade, bass baritone Axel Pätz, pianist Jan Peter Genkel and keyboard player Gottfried Koch as well as the full complement of the North German Radio Choir.

With the release of 'Theli' THERION undertook an extensive tour of Germany, supporting AMORPHIS. For these shows the group introduced AVERNUS keyboard player Kimberley Goss with former NECROPHOBIC keyboard player Tobias Sidegård acting as sessioneer. Although the record was hugely expensive to produce, at that stage the biggest budget ever granted by Nuclear Blast, initial sales proved positive and within a month 'Theli' had doubled the sales of its predecessor. An eight minute edited version of the mournful dirge 'The Siren Of The Woods' saw release as a single. This EP would be snapped up by ardent fans as it contained an exclusive track entitled 'Babylon'. Composed by Lars Rosenberg, 'Babylon' was actually in contention for recording by ENTOMBED, although the bassist included it here in order to lay first claim.

Further dates saw the band, with bass player Andreas Wahl having returned and two professional classical singers employed, as part of the 'Out Of The Dark' festivals on a bill alongside MY DYING BRIDE and SENTENCED. Demand for the band was such that a third European tour, ranked alongside CREMATORY and LAKE OF TEARS was undertaken, the first to feature the CRADLE OF FILTH credited Sarah Jezebel Deva on vocals.

The May 1997 album release, 'A'arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming', originally planned as an EP, featured versions of RUNNING WILD's 'Under Jolly Roger', fronted by singer Tobbe Sidegård with HYPOCRISY's Peter Tägtgren on guitar, JUDAS PRIEST's 'Here Come The Tears', SCORPIONS 'Fly To The Rainbow', with lead vocals from drummer Piotr Wawrzeniuk, and IRON MAIDEN's 'Children Of The Damned'. The main construct of the work, commencing with 'Theli' outtakes 'Into Remembrance' and 'Black Fairy' sung by Dan Swanö, hinged on an oratorium comprising six segments of music commissioned for a Per Albinsson directed movie 'The Golden Embrace'. Significantly, this amalgamation of sources put THERION into the national German album charts for the first time.

For touring purposes the band morphed once again down to a core duo of Christofer Johnsson and Piotr Wawrzeniuk joined by soprano vocalists Joanna Holmgren and Sandra Camenisch ranked alongside session players guitarist Tobias Sidegård, bassist Andreas Wahl with Tommy Eriksson on the drums. To commemorate the bands 10th anniversary the band in conjunction released a limited special two disc edition of, 'A Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming'. It featured extensive liner notes from Johnsson. The first disc included an extra cover tune, a version of the IRON MAIDEN song, 'Children Of The Damned'. Touring in Europe during March 1997 saw the band forming up a package billing alongside MY DYING BRIDE, SENTENCED, ORPHANAGE and DARK for the 'Out Of The Dark III' festivals.

The equally ambitious 'Vovin', issued in May 1998, would be the first to feature female lead vocals from former DREAMS OF SANITY singer Martina Hornacher Astner. For the first time the band relied upon the services of a full orchestra in the studio whilst session musicians bass player Jan Kazda and drummer Wolf Simons were taken on for the rhythm section. Also participating would be Ralf Scheepers of PRIMAL FEAR on the track 'The Wild Hunt' and producers GRIP INC. guitar player Waldemar Sorychta and Siggi Bemm both supplying guitar.

'Vovin' would take the band to new heights of success, selling over 150,000 copies in Europe alone. THERION's band line-up to promote 'Vovin' on the road, co-headlining in Europe alongside MOONSPELL, comprised Johnsson, Tommy Eriksson, this time on guitar, Kim Blomkvist on bass and Sami Karppinen on drums. Singers were Sara Jezebel Deva on soprano, Martina Hornbacher and a girl called Cynthia. UK gigs in September saw THERION packaged with ANATHEMA and MOONSPELL.

The band would indulge in yet more covers with the June 1999 release 'Crowning Of Atlantis' with a guesting Ralf Scheepers making his presence felt on the bands version of 'Crazy Nights', originally by Japanese Metal band LOUDNESS. Also included were takes of MANOWAR's 'Thor (The Powerhead)' and ACCEPT's 'Seawinds', the latter seeing a return for Sarah Jezebel Deva. GRIP INC.'s Waldemar Sorychta again donated lead guitar. Drums were on supply from Wolf Simons excepting the title track, which featured Sami Karppinen. Once again Martina Hornacher Astner made her presence felt on the album and on promotional videos for 'Wine of Aluquah', 'Rise Of Sodom And Gommorah' and 'Birth Of Venus Illegitima'. Falling pregnant, but still managing to tour with the band in 1999, she would subsequently depart to create a new act in partnership with MORBID ANGEL's Erik Rutan entitled ALAS.

THERION maintained their standing and scored impressive European chart returns with the January 2000 offering 'Deggial'. Lavishly orchestrated at the band's own newly constructed Woodhouse Studios, 'Deggial's core of guitar, bass, from new member Johan Niemann, and drums would be overlaid by a wealth of instrumentation including violin, viola, cello, contrabass, oboe, flute, tuba, sousaphon, French horn, flugelhorn and trumpet as well as no less than eight operatic solo vocalists. From the Metal world, BLIND GUARDIAN's Hansi Kürsch guested as singer on the song 'Flesh Of The Gods'. Nuclear Blast invested heavily in the album, even issuing digipacks wrapped in an expensive velvet overlay. These limited edition versions of 'Deggial' also hosted an exclusive rendition of Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna'.

Members of the band's fan club would be treated in 2001 with the rarities album 'Bells Of Doom', this release compiling archive tracks tracing as far back as the formative BLITZKRIEG days. In the present, and keeping with their left field character, THERION contributed a version of 'Summer Night City' to a 2001 Death Metal ABBA tribute. The track would also turn up on their October 'Secrets Of The Runes' album alongside a further cover, the SCORPIONS 1976 track 'Crying Days'. For this outing Operatic female vocals would be delivered by Marika Schonberg.

'Secrets Of The Runes' advanced distribution techniques into previously uncharted methods when the album was presented as a package with author Thomas Karlsson's 'Uthark' treatise on professor Sigurd Agrell's rune theories.

Road work for THERION in 2001 had the band unit bolstered by LUCIFERASE singer Risto Hämäläinen, SHADOWSEEDS vocalist Petra Aho, the LION'S SHARE credited Anders Engberg, MORTIIS' and SILENT RITES Suvi Virtanen plus the voices of Jari-Petri Heino, Johanna Mårlöv and Maria Ottosson. Tour support in Europe was supplied by EVERGREY and MY INSANITY before a full round of Latin american dates was undertaken. Newly installed on the drum stool would be latest band member Richard Evensand, a seasoned campaigner having experience with DOG FACED GODS, EBONY TEARS, SOILWORK, SOUTHPAW and DEMONOID amongst many others.

THERION bassist Fredrik Isaksson would form part of the reconvened GRAVE during September 2001. The band would part ways with drummer Sami Karppinen during March of 2002. The band would cut a rendition of 'Fight Fire With Fire' for a Nuclear Blast METALLICA tribute collection. In September THERION's first official live album 'Live In Midgard' arrived as a double CD set recorded in Colombia, Hungary and Germany. October found the THERION triumvirate of guitarists Kristian Niemann and Johan Niemann with Sami Karppinen on drums performing as part of TIAMAT bassist Johnny Hagal's LITHIUM project. Johan Niemann also busied himself as part of the melodic Metal act TEARS OF ANGER.

In keeping with their grandiose reputation THERION issued not one, but two albums in May of 2004 - 'Sirius B' and 'Lemuria'. Christofer Johnsson's vision required no less than 171 people to embroil themselves in the recordings. Instruments included the traditional fare of guitar, bass and drums as well as balalaikas, domras and mandolins. Also part of the mix would be a full symphonic orchestra, grand piano, harpsichord, opera soloists and a 32 strong choir all recorded in Prague. THERION also utilised an organ recorded at the oldest church of Copenhagen and finally they entered the Sun Studio with Denmark's producer Lars Nissen to craft additional recordings of hammond organ and mellotron before reaching the final mixing stage. New members installed for live work would include drummer Petter Karlsson (a.k.a. Petter Khraft) of MASTER MASSIVE, ARGENTO and KAJARR, and soprano vocalist Karin Fjellander. The group would also rehearse with the TREAT, SWEDISH EROTICA, ABSTRAKT ALGEBRA and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN credited vocalist Mats Leven.

In addition to THERION activities Kristian and Johan Niemann made time to activate the Death Metal project DEMONOID. Former drummer Sam Carpenter (a.k.a. Sami Karppinen) re-emerged in 2004 with his new band MURGHATROID, a union with EBONY TEARS and EYETRAP singer Johnny Wranning. Meantime, THERION themselves hooked up with TRISTANIA and TRAIL OF TEARS for a mammoth Euro tour throughout the Autumn, taking in Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Holland, Austria, Slovenia, Hungaria, Italy, Switzerland, England and Spain.

THERION's 2005 live campaign comprised Summer European open air dates at Spain's Granada 'Vega Rock' event, the Sölvesborg 'Sweden Rock' show, Mühlheim in Germany's 'Castle Rock' festival, Tolmin in Slovenia's 'Metal Camp' festival and Abtsgmünd in Germany's 'Summer Breeze' show. The band then headed out on North American headline dates in September. Selected dates saw support from BEYOND THE EMBRACE. On the release front, Nuclear Blast combined A'arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming' and 'The Crowning Of Atlantis' to form the compilation 'Atlantis Lucid Dreaming'.

In March 2006 Christofer Johnsson announced that he was to retire from singing lead vocals, also relinquishing his role in DEMONOID, and that his last performance in such a role would be at the UK 'ProgPower' festival. THERION issued the mammoth 'Celebrators Of Becoming' set in June, a four-DVD and two CD package featuring over ten hours of video footage and two hours of live audio.

Fresh studio album mixes were completed in mid October. On December 9th THERION, at the invite of the Swedish Embassy, scheduled a one off concert of note at the Palace Hall in Bucharest, Rumania. The group, along with conductor Markus Stollenwerk, was joined onstage for this event by musicians of the Academic Radio Choir, 100 instrumentists of the Romanian Radio Orchestra and guest classical singers from Vienna to perform works by Wagner, Mozart, Saens-Saen, Dvorak and Verdi. The concert was organised as a benefit for 'Ars musicae, ars medicinae â?? music against cancer' and developed by the Aquarius Foundation to aid Rumanian child cancer patients. Special guest at this concert would be former SCORPIONS guitarist ULI JON ROTH.

In a surprise move, multi-instrumentalist Snowy Shaw (a.k.a. Tommy Helgesson), best known as drummer for MERCYFUL FATE, KING DIAMOND, ILLWILL, MEMENTO MORI and DREAM EVIL, was named the new lead singer in THERION in October. The following month Lori Lewis from Minneapolis, Minnesota act AESMA DAEVA was drafted into the touring line-up.

On the live front, Shaw was also active, in alliance with Kristoffer Göbel of FALCONER and DESTINY plus Michael Åberg, of NOSTRADAMEUS, in covers band METAL FÜR ALLE, performing gigs locally in the Gothenburg area. Shaw was also operational as live drummer for Glam band LOUD 'N' NASTY and session studio vocalist for Doom combo ADONIZE VITA. Announced in December 2006, Stockholm Punk band FUKK comprised Snowy Shaw on drums, singer Jensara Swann plus guitarist Irina, ex-MARDUK vocalist Legion's wife, and bass player Gothness.

In anticipation of the new release, 'Gothic Kabbalah', THERION announced concerts with GRAVE DIGGER and SABATON for a European tour beginning on January 17th in Essen, Germany. 'Gothic Kaballah' impressively registered across the European national charts in Sweden, Poland, France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Greece and Hungary.

In mid 2008 OPETH performed five songs at the Nova Rock festival in Austria with THERION bass player Johan Niemann acting as stand in whilst regular four-stringer Martin Mendez and girlfriend Sandra Artigas welcomed the birth of their son Noak Mendez Artigas on the morning of June 14th.

Christofer Johnsson re-shaped the band in May 2009 by drafting singer Thomas Vikström, holding BRAZEN ABBOT and CANDLEMASS credits, and new live rhythm section comprising Johan Koleberg, of RANDY PIPER'S ANIMAL, ZAN CLAN and LION'S SHARE, on drums and Nalle Påhlsson, from TREAT, ZAN CLAN and VINDICTIV, on bass guitar.

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