Therion / Beyond the Embrace / Aesma Daeva The Opera House, Toronto ON - September 10, 2005

Therion's first-ever live performance in Toronto was sadly under-attended, but the band responded to their most fervent followers with the passion due an adoring throng. A monumental production greeted the audience, with a chorus of four classical singers backing a full-throated soloist, highlighting Therion's symphonic expertise. The choir looked a little spooky, standing mostly still as statues while the metal side of Therion thrashed around on stage like the possessed, but sonically the combination was both inspired and inspirational. Lead vocals - clean and growling - came from the dual powerhouse of Christofer Johnsson and guest Mats Leven, while Johnsson pulled double duty on guitar and as one of the primary hair-flailing focal points of the night. The set list mixed old and new, even including some early death metal material. But the emphasis was on Therion's classical/metal hybrid, taking full advantage of every musician, and the multiple encores (including covers of Mercyful Fate and Motörhead) demonstrated the appreciation surging to and from the Opera House stage. Openers Aesma Daeva set the right musical tone for the night with their soprano-fronted, flute-adorned atmospheric metal, and while their casual stage banter was a little off-key, their Mozart is impeccable. In between, Beyond the Embrace raised the energy bar, although their tight onslaught of melodic core-ish metal seemed to belong to a different event. A few sketchy sound issues cleared up as the evening wore on, and the opening sets, however good, paled into shady memories once Therion's magic had possession of all ears and eyes. Therion said good night with many promises to continue the dialogue next time. Hopefully the intensity of the crowd's response makes up for the lack of numbers and nothing deters the band from keeping those promises.