"The Astonishing" was long? Well, wait until you get a load of THIS!
This madness of a record is Therion's 14th effort (not counting the compilation album "Crowning of Atlantis" and the cover album "Les Fleurs Du Mal"), and I know it has been 7 years since they released their latest original opus, but did they really have to release ALL of the songs they wrote during that time? "Beloved Antichrist" is a religious concept opera record that spans just over three hours, is divided into three acts, and contains a total of 46 songs. 46 SONGS! WHAT ARE THEY THINKING!?!? I can barely count to 46, and they decide to cram in every single one of these songs into a single record! Why not split it up into two or three records like a lot of other bands have done, like Blaze Bayley, Vanden Plas, Between The Buried And Me, or Scar Symmetry (btw, where is part 2 and 3 of "The Singularity" guys?).
With this amount of songs, it becomes incredibly hard to decipher what song is what, how it sounded, connecting the dots from hook to title. Let me make this clear from the get go, "Beloved Antichrist" has a lot of great ideas within it, solos that are fantastic, vocal harmonies that are exquisite, instrumentation that is very close to perfection, but when you have so much of it in one place, it is very easy to get lost among it all. Nothing in here truly stands out, so it all becomes an enormous blob of operatic prog metal that does sound pretty good, but you get tired of it pretty quickly.
As for the concept, it is kind of cheesy, but just as with "The Astonishing", there is a lot of work put into it, and it certainly is noticeable, so you kind of automatically respect it just for the amount of hours that has been spent on it. But while Dream Theater did an amazing job in creating a story that was original and well thought out, with dialogues within the album and a massive internet library they shared with the fans so that they could understand it more, Therion's concept is harder to take in, not only because you do not always understand what they are singing, but also because it is kind of more muddled in the shadows. It is based on "A Short Tale of The Antichrist" (short?) by Vladimir Soloviev, speaking about satanism and religion in itself, so you can get more information that way, but still, judging by the disc alone, it does not come through well enough.
The biggest problem with this record though is that it is just not as dynamic as it needs to be. Close to every song has sort of the same tone to it, being moderately fast and has a lot of symphonic elements to it, which just makes this album more confusing. Sure, some songs do turn up the speed and insert some heavier guitar work, and others slow things down a lot, but there is not enough variety or enough special moments in "Beloved Antichrist" to elevate it higher. The only tracks that I sort of remember from the top of my head is the epic power metal speed of "Anthem" and the main riff of "Night Reborn", that has some similarities to the classic Dio song "We Rock". Remembering 2 out of 46 songs is not very good, that is only 4,3% of the album.
This saddens me, because there is so much great stuff in here that would have gotten the credit it deserved if the band just would have had the common sense to split this album into three 1-hour pieces released around 2 months apart. Therion is an incredibly skilled band, they know how to handle their instruments and how to write engaging music, but their own vanity just takes over here ten fold. This is the most pompous, over bloated, overly long, excruciatingly boring album I have ever come across. It is incredibly frustrating to put a simple number to this album, because none of them makes it justice. Do I give it a high rating because the quality of the craft is fantastic? Or do I give it a low rating because the length completely kills it? In the end, I land somewhere in between, but maybe more towards the negative side, because an album is first and foremost supposed to be enjoyed in its entirety, and I simply do not have the patience or the strength to get through this brick wall of sound. If you decide to test out this album, make sure you have a snack and lots of beverage by your side, because you are gonna be staying for a while.
Songs worthy of recognition: Anthem, Night Reborn, Temple of Jerusalem, Shoot Them Down!
Rating: 4,5/10 Daggers of God