Christofer Johnsson, Peter Hansson and Oskar Forss formed THERION in 1987 under the name BLITZKRIEG, originally playing noisy, heavy thrash metal.
One year later Johnsson would swap over to guitar from his previous position of bass, with Erik Gustafsson taking over the role – this period also saw the band change their style into death metal earning themselves the title of one of the early Swedish pioneers in this genre, making two demo tapes in 1989.
Their debut album ”Of Darkness” was released in 1991 and the band would continue experimenting and progressing from album to album. They would go on to pioneer in various areas such as keyboard use, symphonic elements, clean vocals, female guest vocals, Middle Eastern influences as well as singing in languages other than English. All of this was unique, or perhaps even never attempted before in the death metal scene of that era.
After four innovative albums (that saw line-up changes) and having signed with Nuclear Blast Records, the band had achieved a strong underground cult status, but not yet seen widespread success. Thinking that the band had reached a creative dead end due to this, on top of not having the money to record a new composition requiring operatic choirs and expensive studios, Johnsson was about to disband THERION. Miraculously, the record label would offer the band the huge resources needed to complete their ground-breaking album ”Theli” (1996), which is not only considered a milestone musically, but would also finally break the band and give them far-reaching success. The album would also become the spark that lit the fire for a new genre and generation of metal bands using operatic vocals. The band used a huge number of different rock singers and one of their trademarks became them no longer having a permanent singer. Instead, there would be a variety of hired singers for records and live performances. Johnsson, who up until “Theli” had been the main singer using a growling voice, would start to only do occasional vocal lines on the album and later give up singing entirely.
THERION would distance itself from its death metal roots entirely starting with “Vovin” in 1998, which in fact should have been labelled as Johnsson’s solo album released under the name THERION, given that Johnsson not only wrote the entire album, but was also the only member left in the band at the time. The album was recorded at Woodhouse Studios in Germany with the help of various studio session musicians and singers, a choir and a small orchestra. “Vovin” would become the biggest success of the band to date, with over 140.000 copies sold.
In 1999, THERION would establish themselves as a band with a classic line up, with the young virtuoso brothers Johan and Kristian Niemann on bass and guitar. This would remain in place for their upcoming five studio albums, which would cement the band as one of the most innovative metal acts of their time, exploring a variety of musical styles such as classical, opera, prog, 70’s rock, and all sorts of metal and several types of folk music.
In 2004-2007, the band undertook some extraordinary lengthy tours and especially focused a lot on Latin America. THERION on several occasions would be the first established international metal band ever to tour there. The extensive touring schedule exhausted the band, which in combination with personal differences on how to work on future albums, would lead to the rest of the band splitting with Johnsson in 2008.
A new line-up with Swedish bass legend Nalle Påhlsson, drummer Johan Kullberg, star tenor/rock vocalist Thomas Vikström and the American soprano Lori Lewis as permanent members was established and for the 2010 release ”Sitra Ahra”, Argentinian guitar virtuoso Christian Vidal would complete the new line up.
The coming years would be slightly less active seeing an obscure self-released cover album called ”Les Fleurs Du Mal”. Consisting of covers of mainly 60’s French female pop artists, it was a part of an art project Johnsson wanted to undertake to mark the 25 year anniversary of the band in 2012, before starting to work on the next project, which would be the band’s most ambitious yet.
In 2018, the rock musical ”Beloved Antichrist” was completed. Inspired and partly based on Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov’s ”A short tale of Antichrist” from 1900, the opera deals with the life and death of Antichrist in a dystopian future.
The musical mixes rock and metal with opera and symphonic orchestration, and is written for a theatrical stage performance in three acts. A triple CD with the soundtrack to the musical was recorded and widely toured, performing some of the scenes as regular songs. Since 2019, efforts to stage the musical as intended with a theatrical performance has been ongoing.
Throughout the years there has been a variety of session vocalists touring with THERION, and the band now has both Lori and Nalle as members performing only as studio members, thus more or less returning to the late 90’s concept of Therion using different people live and in the studio.
In January 2020, the band started the recording process for their first regular studio album in ten years, with drummers Snowy Shaw (KING DIAMOND, MERCYFUL FATE, SABATON, DREAM EVIL) and popular session drummer Björn Höglund (Easy Action, 200 Volt, Hoven Droven) sharing the duties. Due to the travel restrictions of the corona virus pandemic, this album is being recorded at 10 different locations in 8 different countries (Malta, Sweden, Germany, Israel, Spain, Italy, USA and Argentina). Entitled ”Leviathan, it’s the first time that the band decided to capture the essence of the most popular Therion sound over the years rather than exploring new grounds.