Therion was formed in Upplands Väsby (a suburb to Stockholm, Sweden) in 1987 by Christofer Johnsson, under the name "Blitzkrieg". Chris was at that time playing the bass and did the vocals. The line-up consisted besides him of Peter Hansson on guitar and Oskar Forss on drums.
Peter and Chris had been jamming together in another group (a "jam-group" rather than a band would be correct to say) earlier that year and Chris had been trying to put something together with various people earlier, before Blitzkrieg finally became a reality. Oskar was an old school mate of his.
Blitzkrieg had influences such as old records by Slayer and Metallica, but sounded maybe more in the direction of Venom and Motorhead. Not many know, as they never recorded any demos and only did 2 concerts before they decided to break up in early 1988. Chris however never gave up the idea and during a few months he switched to guitar, started to be influenced by bands like Celtic Frost and reformed the band with Peter under the name Megatherion. After a while also Oskar returned to the band and there they were, same band again, but with a new name and a new death metal oriented sound. After some time they found the bassplayer that was the first one you can hear on their recordings; Erik Gustafsson, who was just leaving another young Stockholm area death metal band; Dismember. Shortly after the name was changed to Therion.
With this line-up the band recorded 2 demos (the first one had the later Dismember singer Matti Kärki on vocals in a short attempt where Chris wanted to focus on the guitar), one mini-LP and one full length LP/CD, that would make the band known as one of the most promising upcoming death metal underground bands.
The early years as recording artists.
In 1990 the vinyl only release "Time Shall Tell" was released by a local record store in 1.000 copies. This was actually the third demo recording that got released as a record instead of cassette. It got the band the attention from labels and they signed to Deaf Records for one album, something that resulted in the debut full length release "Of Darkness" in 1991.
The music on this record was a compilation of songs written by Chris during the 80's and even though the band had newer songs, they choose to save it for the new release, thus indicating that this was both a debut album as well as an end of an era. The sound on "Of Darkness" is (for that time) progressive death metal with certain influences that was back then considered to be unorthodox. And the lyrics were the political type that bands like Nuclear Assault and Napalm Death were known for in the late 80's. Being especially influenced by Celtic Frosts "Into the Pandemonium", Chris wanted to take the band way beyond the limits of death metal, however at this point he never in his wildest dreams would have realized how far it actually would go just 5 years later.
On "Of Darkness" there were a few small attempts of incorporating keyboards into the songs and this would be one of the main changes along with some female vocals and some clean male voices. The trademark of this new sound was the song "Symphony of the dead" that was a highly appreciated song in the live performances back then and who have found its way back a few times even in live performances in later years.
The deal with Deaf Records was only for one album and the co-operation between band and label was never really good, so Therion went on and signed to Active Records.
Before the recordings started, the bass player Erik had left the band (to move back to his native country USA) and Therion recorded their second album "Beyond Sanctorum" (released 1992) as a trio with Peter and Chris playing the bass. The lyrical concepts had now changed to an occult direction.
This record received extremely good reviews and the band got offered their first shows in central Europe, which was focused around Holland and Belgium.
As Oskar was awaiting his second child he now took the choice of becoming a responsible family man rather than a touring low paid musician. Also Peter was here choosing to take a step back and resign from the band - in his case due to health and musical reasons. So those shows were performed by a new line-up consisting of Piotr Wawrzeniuk (band mate to Chris in his other project Carbonized) on drums, Andreas Wahl on bass and Magnus Barthelsson (a school mate of Chris who had been playing in other bands in Upplands Väsby) on guitar.
Years of wild experimentation.
After the departure of the old band mates that had been the companions of Chris since the start, he was uncertain if he should continue under the name "Therion" or not. Especially, as he had felt the taste of blood with experimenting musically and wanted to go much further. There were already some people asking why the band didn't change their name when releasing the (at the time) very innovative and new thinking "Beyond Sanctorum". What would people say if the step was taken again and this time even bigger?
Chris decided to keep the name on the basis that he was still the main songwriter and that the band would anyway continue to play the songs from the first two records, so it would have no practical use in changing the name.
The band gathered together and was making some highly experimental songs and in 1993 "Symphony Masses: Ho Drakon Ho Megas" was the results of their efforts. To fully understand just how wild was this record for a band labeled as death metal, one needs to listen to dozens of other death metal releases from that time and earlier. What was considerably small experimentations on the previous albums with keyboards and Persian scales, here went totally wild at some points and Therion also experimented a bit with jazz, industrial music, religious chanting (today you would say "gothic" and 80's heavy metal inspired by Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
01 Poupée de cire, poupée the son
02 Une fleur dans le coeur
03 Initials B.B
04 Mon amour, mon ami
06 La Maritza
07 Soeur angelique
08 Dis moi poupée
10 En Alabama
11 Wahala manitou
12 Je n'al besoin que de tendresse
13 La licorne d'or
14 J'al le mal de toi
15 Poupée de cire, poupée the son
16 Les sucettes