Christofer Johnsson of Swedish progressive/experimental metallers THERION has issued the following update:
“Ten years ago or something, I started to work on an opera, but I never managed to finish it. I wrote most of the highlights (the hit parts), but I never managed to write the bridges between them, the ‘boring’ parts needed to glue it all together and just serve as a background for the singers to sing and act the play.
“Some years ago, it suddenly struck my mind: ‘Why not just do what you do best? Re-arrange the opera stuff you’ve written and do it as opera metal instead.’ I already borrowed parts from the opera for ‘Blood Of Kingu’ earlier, so why not go all the way and make the worlds first REAL rock opera. What is otherwise referred to with that expression is rather some sort of rock musical, let’s do a rock/metal opera with only opera singing, with a synopsis, and perform it like that (with pre-recorded orchestra if needed for financial reasons).
“However, completing this rather gigantic project that involved writing music, synopsis/lyrics and designing scenery, clothing etc., will be taking quite some time. Years probably. I don’t want to work under pressure, things should grow naturally.
“Meanwhile, to entertain the fans and to do something I wanted to do for several years, there will be an art project in the spirit of celebrating our 25-year anniversary. Fact is this art project was already started in secret some time ago. It will be introduced right before the tour or on the day of the first show.
“The art project is mainly focused around music, but it also contains visual art and certain acts of art. As for the music, it will be released on a CD that will initially only be sold directly from the band. It will be available at the concerts and put into retail later. For those of you not being able to attend the shows, the THERION store will offer it.
“‘Flowers Of Evil’ tour: The concept of this tour is for it to be a bit of everything:
* Presenting the new project with a few tracks.
* Doing several massive songs like ‘Land Of Canaan’, ‘Via Nocturna’ etc. Many of these songs don’t make sense without a keyboard player, so as this time we have one with us, it’s a great opportunity to have a special focus on those type of tracks.
* Playing some never before played old songs. A new THERION concert should never be predictable.
* Doing a bunch of THERION all-time classics of course!
“This will be the last regular tour we do in a while, as we will be working on the rock (metal) opera and we will only do performances related to the art project (if there’s interest for it), the rock (metal) opera when it is ready, and maybe some acoustic shows, we have been talking about that for a while. We’ll, of course, play some festivals from time to time where we do regular (but much shorter) sets, but as there won’t be any new regular album, there won’t be any regular tours. Not until we have finished the rock (metal) opera, performed it live as much as we can, taken a break and then put together a regular album again. That will take a couple of years, for sure. So we are closing an era and opening a new period that will be quite different.
“Also, to celebrate the 25-year anniversary I would really like to meet properly with you guys who made it possible to get this far. I am normally quite shy and have tons of stuff do to on the laptop and rather hide in the tour bus or backstage most of the time (except in Latin America where we always have a tight schedule). Not this time around. I will be trying to hang at the merch booth as much as possible. So mostly there will be no organized one-hour lined up meet-and-greet/signing session. I’d rather hang there for several hours every day, so that everyone who wants to can get a personally dedicated CD, a photo and a chat without any stress.
“Ever wanted to ask something, complain about something, give congratulations for something or just drink a beer with someone who made music that meant something to you? There will be time for all that on this tour.
“‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’ CD: The CD has 15 tracks, but the edition sold at the concerts will have a bonus track and you will get a small poster with it. My aim is to sign and personally dedicate every single one of them at the shows.
“The CD itself is fully financed by me. Nuclear Blast thought it was a bit too spectacular and we have totally different visions about how we should work on such a project. I’ve had a fantastic relationship with that wonderful label over the years. I’ve had total artistic freedom and much patience from them in a way that most other artists at our level only could dream of at many labels. So rather than having disagreements and make compromises, I suggested I release it by myself instead and they generously gave me their blessings for it. So our relation has never been better than now.
“Financing a full THERION audio production mixing at ToyTown with the fantastic Stefan Glaumann, paying for orchestra and the band members and many, many other things isn’t cheap. To be more precise, it cost 75.000 euro. On top of that, I also carried costs for video clips, photo session and the costs for creating the art and stuff for the CD. I don’t have that kind of cash lying around in a drawer at home, so I had to go to the bank and take a loan.
“I have always bragged about how I never compromise and am ready to risk everything with each release. It’s easier to say that when you have a record label being a bank for you. This time I had to put my money where my mouth is. So if you buy the CD, you don’t just buy a record with music, you buy a share of an idea, the idea and concept of art where the artist really risks everything to be able to bring out what he wants.
“Some of you will like the CD, some maybe not. But if you feel that I’ve done something worth raising a toast to over the years, there will be no better way of showing your appreciation than buying this CD. It will be sold at 15 euros and I hope the majority of those going to the shows will walk home with it after the shows.
“I’ve been called risky and more crazy than usual with my ideas for this art project, by some of those very few who have been initiated into the mysteries of it. Even within the band, there has been quite some strong feelings about it. And clearly the record label didn’t think they had a smash hit in their hands. This pretty much reminds me about the feeling when ‘Theli’ was recorded. I recall the record label saying, ‘Do you really think we can sell this? What will your fans say?’ But they didn’t have much other choice than releasing it and hope for the best. They had just invested more money in the sound production than with any other band in the history of the label — on a band that didn’t sell many records. But there were people at the label who really liked it, too, and carefully believed in it. Like the boss, Markus Steiger. But in the band, the atmosphere was really bad. The bass player, Lars, hated it to the core. ‘Fucking opera shit!!’ The guitarist, Jonas, didn’t like it either. It was ‘too much classical stuff and opera, should have been just some small elements of it as a spice.’ Drummer Piotr kind of liked it, but thought it as kind of odd and didn’t have too much hope for it (just like myself, who thought it would flop too). But it turned out to be the album that made THERION a big band.
“This time at least half of the band thinks it’s great stuff and believe in it. But now I’m risking my own money and not the record label’s.
“When I took the decision of borrowing money and release it myself, I was officially declared out of order in the head by some people familiar with the matter. Well, we will see about that.
“When a fan buys a CD directly from a band, it counts as if they bought 10 CDs at the store released via a record label. With loyal fans buying many CDs at the concerts, a big part of the production costs will be recovered.
“Out of all session vocalists that THERION has worked with over the years, no one has come as close to the band as Snowy [Shaw], who has been a vital part of our records and live shows for the last number of years. Now when THERION is going into another phase and Snowy did not feel the same enthusiasm as we do for making this art project and rock opera, he has decided to work with his own projects instead. He did a smaller contribution to ‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’, which sounds awesome and we’re happy for that, but if he don’t feel this is what he is supposed to do, then we think his decision is the right thing and he has our full support. We are sure he will create some really amazing stuff with his own project! However, we would like to stress the fact that there are no doors shut. When we are done with our projects in a number of years and call to arms for the next regular album, we will see where things stand and what Snowy is up to at the moment. If he’s available and we feel inspired together, he is more than welcome to continue where we left. If not, we feel we had a great round off with him through our long co-operation with the 25-year anniversary tour we did in Latin America earlier this year and hope he will be successful with his own projects.”
Snowy released the following statement on the matter: “What can I say?! I’m truly grateful for the years I had with THERION where I’ve had the pleasure of touring the four corners of the world as a singer and frontman and meeting and making tons of new fans and friends for life, but over the last few years the urge to move on and do my own thing has become increasingly stronger and so far in my life I’ve always followed my heart and what makes me happy and I see no reason why I should stop now.”