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Friday 9th February 2018
Corporation in Sheffield, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Kicking off the evening's four band bill are New York's Midnight Eternal. Living up to their nocturnal-oriented moniker, it seems kind of apt they perform this evening's half hour set more or less in the dark, with minimal back-lighting and only brief front flashes illuminating their presence. Their brand of easy listening symphonic pop metal, while unchallenging and derivative, is catchy and likeable enough to get the night off to a congenial start. Raine Hilai's appealing vocals are perhaps the only clear sound cutting through what is, unfortunately, a pretty muddy mix. Everything has been cranked up way too loud through the PA, considering the tiny confines of the Corporation's smallest room. Guitarist Richard Fischer widdles away with a few decent solos, although their nuances are lost in the subpar sound. All in all, a nice way to start the night's proceedings, albeit a far from mindblowing one.
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Therion at the Corporation in Sheffield, UK, 9th February 2018
Photograph copyright © 2018 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
In stark contrast to Midnight Eternal's pop-swayed convivial sympho-metal, Null Positiv hit the stage fifteen minutes later with all the sonic fury of a band who are evidently fired up for the occasion. Relative newcomers, this German quartet can already put on a slickly professional live show, full of raw passion and boundless energy. The evidence is here tonight, in Sheffield. Mixing up idioms from Marilyn Manson, Rammstein, Nine Inch Nails and even Godflesh and PAIN, these are only tenuous points of comparison. Null Positiv feel like a refreshing blast of darkened aural delights all on their own terms.

All musicians give it their all, and their painted visages add a touch of menace to their stage presence, although it's frontwoman Elli Berlin who commands all the attention. I do not say this lightly, when I assert she delivers one of the greatest, most dominant performances of anyone fronting a band in recent memory. Not just in terms of energy levels, but through both her growls and clean vocals, where she can seemingly switch from demonic to angelic in the blink of an eye.

It seems the audience adore Null Positiv, too, as they receive a fantastic reaction from those present. And also in stark contrast to Midnight Eternal, Null Positiv have an incredible sound through the PA. Loud, but not overly so, and a perfectly balanced mix. A ton of heavy grooves, hard-hitting rhythms and riffs and incredible vocals, Null Positiv are sexy, scary and scintillating.
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Main support on Therion's European tour are Russia's Imperial Age. With three albums already to their name, including the just released third opus, 'The Legacy of Atlantis', these symphonic metallers sound pretty decent on record. However, this evening, all is not right in Sheffield. After a lot of faffing on the stage, with drummer Max Talion tapping away on a laptop by the side of his kit, frontman Alexander "Aor" Osipov eventually announces they're ready to commence. Commence they do, albeit they cease playing after a few bars of music. More faffing ensues, a restless crowd natter away, and it's a few minutes before Imperial Age start their set good and proper.

But everything sounds a tad messy through the PA. Vocals can be heard with great clarity (which is not a positive for Aor's voice, as his frequently monotone delivery becomes a little grating at times). Jane "Corn" Odintsova and Anna "Kiara" Moiseeva have way more palatble voices, so it's not all negative on the vocal front. However, backing tracks and live instruments do not blend well for Imperial Age this evening, and the instrumentation for each of the tracks sounds all over the place. I'm guessing this is not a good representation of just what Imperial Age are capable of in a live context. So I'll reserve judgement and put it down to sound problems rather than a bad performance per se.
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With several regional UK dates booked for Therion's 2018 European tour, I'd previously wondered whether promoters had been overzealous in anticipating their draw on these shores. Sure, Therion are, and have been for over two decades, symphonic metal pioneers and hegemonists, and indubitable legends within the metal scene. But their popularity in the UK is perhaps not as far reaching as other countries around the globe. It seems my concerns are confirmed, as tonight's show in Sheffield's Corporation has been downgraded from the venue's sizeable main room, to the far smaller confines of its 180 capacity space. Still, those who do show up fill out that space very nicely indeed, so it's a healthy turnout for the size of the room.

And, around 9pm, when Therion hit the stage, those present greet the band with rapturous cheers, and no time is wasted as they launch straight into 'Theme of Antichrist', the closing dramatic and climactic number from the newly released triple album, 'Beloved Antichrist', the soundtrack for a planned operatic rock/metal musical. Mid-song, the three vocalists make their appearance, and are also greeted by loud, enthusiastic cheers - enter scene stalwart Thomas Vikström, his daughter Linnéa, and Chiara Malvestiti. All in fine voice, and in fine costumes, the theatricality of Therion, both aurally and visually, is in full flow.

With 'Beloved Antichrist' released on the very same day as this Sheffield show, tonight feels like something of a release party and celebration. The intimacy of the venue and the convivial atmosphere within, brings with it discernible party vibes, as both band and audience look like they're enjoying every moment of the show. And what a setlist it is that Therion mainman Christofer Johnsson and his musical brethren have put together for the tour. 'Sirius B' track 'The Blood of Kingu' is aired second, followed by a quick burst of 'Sitra Ahra' heaviness in the form of 'Din'. Then we have two further new album tracks, with 'Bring Her Home' and 'Night Reborn' sounding every bit as amazing in the live environment as they do recorded.

A duo of 'Secret of the Runes' tracks arrive, with fantastic renditions of 'Nifelheim' and 'Ginnungagap', before a cut from 'Lemuria', with an airing of 'Typhon'. The variety in the setlist tonight is sheer Therion bliss, and fans in the Corporation reciprocate with all the buoyancy of a crowd who are lapping up and enjoying every second of this fine performance. And the party continues with another new track, 'Temple of New Jerusalem', before they dip back into the past for a rousing rendition of the emotionally charged 'An Arrow from the Sun' (Christian Vidal's opening guitar leads sound particularly heartfelt tonight).

Then it's time for 'Vovin' number 'Wine of Aluqah'; followed by the title track from 'Lemuria' and some 'Theli' magnificence with 'Cults of the Shadow'. After some intermittent sound problems throughout the night for a couple of the support bands, Therion, it must be said, have a flawless sound through the PA. Kudos to their engineer on the desk. Playing variable sized rooms on the tour, and with different desks in each venue, it's the sign of a seasoned and professional sound engineer to adjust and adapt to achieve a perfect sound each and every night. In Sheffield this evening, this is emphatically achieved. To mix so many elements to perfection, and to get the overall levels just spot on, with the perfect volume for the size and acoustics of the room... just amazing.

Linnéa and Chiara are in fine voice throughout the entire show, and Vikström senior impresses as ever, with not just a commanding vocal performance, but also a commanding presence with all kinds of dramatic poses. In fact, Johnsson himself casts a striking presence on the stage, in his latest theatrical attire. But, at the heart of Therion, is their rather awesome music, and that continues with a further 'Sirius B' track, 'The Khlysti Evangelist'; another new song, 'My Voyage Carries on'; 'The Invincible' from 'Deggial'; and the night's first outing of 'Gothic Kabbalah' material, with 'Der Mitternachtslöwe' and 'Son of the Staves of Time'.

But it's not over yet. Two encore airings end tonight's party with heightened symphonic metal merriment, as virtually everyone present can be seen bouncing up and down to the majestic sounds of 'The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah' and 'To Mega Therion'. What a show... what a party... what a set... and what a legendary band Johnsson and co. are. Magnificent.
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