without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Another Therion live release, but I'm not complaining! 'Live Gothic' brings the show in Warsaw, Poland (February 14th 2007) to living rooms. There is no extra stuff on the DVD, except for a "drum battle" recorded in Holland on same tour. 2006 release 'Celebrators of Becoming' is the definite history session and package for every Therionist, so this newbie does not need any extras, to tell the truth. 'Live Gothic' also contains the audio version of the gig on two CDs.
The opening shot shows the good looking stage; candles burning, iron fences and cathedral background, bathing in beautiful lightning. The 16:9 picture is very sharp and camera drives and changes are very well thought out, usually showing exactly right person(s), but at times too hasty (basically, a generic problem with any show). The colourful lighting show is fantastically mood-setting and alternating, just like the music. The stereo-only sound is also sharp and very well balanced. So, I'm pretty satisfied with the technical side of this, but some of you might miss some surround sound shit, which in my opinion is not at all a live music DVD necessity. I mean I don't want to hear any crowd noises from back speakers. What's the point of that when a camera can also be positioned on the side of the stage. What would you expect to hear then? Some band crew babbling over how bad the dinner was?! Okay, stupid things aside, let's check out the songs.
There's plenty of 'em, 22 in total. Surely, loads and loads of the songs you want to hear are missing here, because of the band's huge and very varying discography. You really didn't expect to hear any death metal stuff, did you? Oldest songs on offer are from 1996 album 'Theli'. Anyways, you can get 'Celebrators of Becoming' for older stuff if that's what you want to see. Of course the setlist includes six songs from 'Gothic Kabbalah' (2007), and from all five albums between it and 'Theli'. The whole band performs incredibly, there is both energy and skill in play. The performance is truly capturing. It looks and sounds so bloody good. There's some small extra details throughout the show, e.g. a belly dancer appearing of two songs. It is also quite theatrical performance, especially by the vocalists, but not overtly so. Usual drum solo is spiced with a drum battle between Messieurs Levén and Shaw. Surely, a lot of backing tapes was used, so do not expect any violin, cello, flute or Hammond organ and such players appearing on-stage. In all, it's pretty different set-list when comparing to 'Celebrators of Becoming', and that's a big plus. I do not mean that 'Celebrators...' set-list is bad, no, but it is different.
The vocalists line-up is almost the same as on 'Gothic Kabbalah' album, only Aesma Daeva's soprano Lori Lewis replacing the other female lead vocalist. Mats Levén owns great heavy metal voice, which has so much edge and a hint of raspiness. He is one of the best heavy metal vocalist around at the moment. Snowy Shaw is one eccentric guy, let me tell you. He sings with both, low-toned and high-pitched voices. Lori Lewis is accompanied nicely by Katarina Lilja, whose voice isn't so symphonic-edged. This time there is no backing choir, but these vocalists themselves. Every vocalist gets his/her leading role, too.
New era Therion fans can't be but satisfied with this live experience. And one might become a fan if they see this, so well done is this. Surely, an interview with Therion leader Christofer Johnsson or something like that would have been a nice extra with the live show, but in any case the live show alone offers enough thrills. Sadly, the band have largely departed, leaving Mr. Johnsson with a big task to find equally good musicians around him (guitarist Kristian Niemann, his brother Johan on bass and skinsman Petter Karlsson, plus most of the aforementioned vocalists). So, this is one more reason for you to check out this fantastic act! By the way, there's a cheaper CD-case sized version available (which I have, and it is okay, coming with a bit lame booklet). I simply have no any kind of a con to point out about 'Live Gothic'. Junonisk!!!
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2008)
After having visited Ancient Greece (or, more prosaically, the United States) and Portugal, our little opera metal trip is now taking us to Warsaw, Poland, to hear the masters of the genre at work, of course under the patronage of the Great Red Dragon. Granted, it’s always very hard to comment on a live recording taken from a show you’ve been to – not this exact one, but one from the same tour – as this will inevitably bring back a pack of memories which will be of no use to the mere listener (I might mention I’ve never watched the DVD of the same name, though). Nevermind, let’s try.
Things have changed a bit since the Lemuria/Sirius B tour. The core lineup may be the same, including Matts Leven, but gone are the four-persons choir as well as Karin Fjellander, all replaced by three immediately recognizable new singers, now turning the ever-changing Therion into a band with nothing less than FOUR LEAD SINGERS – indeed, that’s opera we’re talking about here! Some might however object the two female vocalists aren’t too recognizable. If there’s no doubt the contrast was stronger on Gothic Kabbalah (where some Hannah Holgersson sung in place of Lori Lewis), as both are excellent singers there’s no need to complain. Also, it shouldn’t escape anyone the busty Lori sings in a much sober fashion than with Aesma Daeva, while the same can’t apply to Snowy Shaw (who never sung with Aesma Daeva, but we don’t care). This guy is grandiloquence incarnate; all in turn shrill, imposing, tenebrous (what a low range indeed!) or totally ridicule. In comparison Matts Leven and his characteristic rock n’ roll screams would almost appear unobtrusive, that’s saying something. Perhaps the reason for him leaving the band soon after shouldn’t be looked for elsewhere. Oh, still the enormous Blood of Kingu is HIS song, and there he won’t let anyone, including Snowy, steal the show from him.
Of course as the voices work as the main attraction, the production will put the emphasis on them. I mean, will STRONGLY put the emphasis. To this respect the rendering is perfect, and all would be for the best if Therion wasn’t also about guitars. Granted, the guitars can undoubtedly be heard, and the sound is nothing near atrocious – besides I’ll still rank the production of our present opus, with all its little imperfections, far higher than a polished, overdubbed “live” recording sounding like a studio one with only token additional crowd noise – but let’s face it, they appear a bit weak. The solos just don’t shine enough, what’s a pity as Niemann (the Elder) is far from being the worst guitarist ever and, if the rhythm guitar usually benefits from a better treatment, some of the most subtle songs (Birth of Venus Illegitima...) will still suffer. Alright, the fan I am is probably a tad too picky here. Another constant of Therion live (see the Live in Mexico City ’04) is the bass being mixed far, far higher than on the studio albums, what might come on the nerves of a certain fringe of listeners more accustomed to the more melodic side of the band. Personally, I quite like it even if Niemann (the Younger) isn’t exactly Steve Harris. Also, please drop Ginnungagap from the setlist: first this song boasts the most horrible title ever, second the middle section will always sound like a tragic mess live regardless of how good it sounds in its original album version.
Precisely, the setlist, as we’re at it... It doesn’t matter much given such an ideal lineup would turn even St. Anger into a killer – though I’m happy they chose to cover Manowar’s Thor The Powerhead instead – but still a couple of remarks has to be done. First, the now complete absence of any pre-Theli song is highly unfortunate and disputable. The fact Christofer Johnsson has now officially stopped singing is little more than a poor excuse, as pieces like the shortened version of Symphony of the Dead, The Beauty in Blaaa-aaaa-aaack or Evocation of Vovin certainly wouldn’t have sounded out of place here, and they don’t really require Chris’s singing (Snowy Shaw could have easily taken the “shouted” parts of Evocation of Vovin for instance). Hell, who wouldn’t vote for any of those songs over the... Grand Finale of the Theli album, which mostly consists in SAMPLES? Or even over Muspelheim, one of the most obscure tracks from SotR and not exactly a piece of genius? Or over this drums solo which was, like most drums solo, unnecessary? No need to bitch too much however, all the classics are here, laced with a good amount of songs from the excellent Gothic Kabbalah as well as a couple of nice surprises: Nightside of Eden is a clever pick from Theli pleasantly changing from the worn-out Cults of the Shadow and In the Desert of Set, while a crystalline, much-lighter-than-the-original version of Deggial sheds a new light on this overlooked song from an overlooked album.
So, worthy? Of course, even regardless of the fact it’s Therion playing. However let’s be honest, on the band’s three live recordings so far it’s perhaps the least interesting. The Live in Mexico City ’04 is likely to remain the ultimate Therion live for long, first because of the top-notch songs selection, then because of a slightly better sound, and eventually because the interaction with the crowd is much better there. As for Live Gothic it’s above all a showcase for four not-so-well known, though truly exceptional singers we probably won’t see together again before long; later, it may even additionally become a nostalgic testimony from a now bygone era. Indeed the Johnsson/Niemann lineup wasn’t to last long after...
Business-wise, it seems like a bad idea, releasing another live DVD and album so shortly after the release of the extremely extensive box set 'Celebrators Of Becoming'. But when I saw Therion live in Tilburg, Holland on the tour in support of the surprisingly great 'Gothic Kaballah', all I could think was: "Why didn't they wait until this tour?" With Mats Levén, Snowy Shaw, Lori Lewis and Katarina Lilja on stage, the static performance of the former choirs was completely gone, there were acutally moving singers on stage! This animated stage presence, combined with Mats Levén's amazing voice (I have to point out that he's the best Metal singer at least once every review about his releases), the beautiful stage props and the fact that I liked the more guitar orientated approach of the last few albums a lot more than what Therion did before, was enough justification to me that this is Therion in optima forma.
Apparently, band leader and guitarist Christofer Johnsson also realized the enormous charisma that both the people around him and his music had on that tour and the show in the Polish capital Warszaw was captured for DVD and CD release. 'Live Gothic' is the title he had chosen to give the release, probably due to lack of imagination. But that is truly the only bad thing about this DVD. Sound technician fetishists will probably complain about the lack of a 5.1 mix and although I must admit that surprised me as well, it went by mostly unnoticed. Probably because Therion's music itself sounds rather surround-ish.
Visually, the DVD is one of the best ones I own. The light show is beautiful and very functional to the music and the interaction between the singers is just very entertaining. The way Mats Levén and Katarina Lilja sing towards each other at the end of 'The Perennial Sophia' (one of the best songs on 'Gothic Kaballah') is goosebumps-material. Lori Lewis is visibly enjoying her role on stage and Snowy Shaw is a born - albeit maybe slightly exaggerating - stage persona. It's beautiful to see how much the singers get absorbed into the music. Lewis and Lilja apparently realize that they are attractive women and especially the latter seems to exploit that into her stage act, which probably has its apotheosis in 'The Falling Stone'.
Speaking of 'The Falling Stone', that is probably the finest moment of both of the female singers on this DVD musically. In my review on 'Gothic Kaballah' I already pointed out that I was impressed by the vocal delivery of that song and on this version, that may be even better. Snowy Shaw especially shines when he sings in the lower regions. Funny thing is that in 'Thor (The Powerhead)', the Manowar-cover which is the encore of this show, he is completely outsung by drummer Petter Karlsson, who sings the second chorus. And Mats Levén...what can I say about him what I haven't already said in previous reviews about him? When it comes to power, range and that raw edge, he is unmatched. He has quite a few moments of glory on this DVD. His powerful Metal voice is best present in 'Blood Of Kingu' and 'Son Of The Staves Of Time' (the latter of which he penned the music himself), while his more introspective vocals in 'The Perennial Sophia' never cease to amaze me. And my fear that his quite dominant vocals wouldn't work in a choir is completely taken away by this show.
When compared to the Mexico show on 'Celebrators Of Becoming', I have the idea that the guitars are much more present in the sound of 'Live Gothic'. This may be caused by the fact that most of the songs have a bigger role for the guitars. There's actually MORE guitars as well, as Christofer Johnsson and breathtaking solo guitarist Kristian Niemann are sometimes accompanied by a third guitar, played by Levén. But whatever the reason, it suits the DVD just fine! It even gives the older songs a bit of a needed edge. And let's not forget the brilliant drumming of Petter Karlsson. Somehow, the drum work goes by much more noticed than on the Mexico show. And Johan Niemann is of course a brilliant bassist. His subtle, but genius fills come out really well. If I understood well, Petter Karlsson was responsible for the sound and he did a great job doing so.
In addition, the set list is brilliant. Many older fans may be disappointed by the large number of newer songs and I would have loved to have heard the guitar frenzy known as 'T.O.F. - The Trinity', but this is as close as it gets to perfection. Some of the older songs that were missing are in fact on this DVD ('The Birth Of Venus Illegitima' and 'Deggial' are the first ones that spring to mind) and most of the great newer material is there as well. I even think most of the songs from 'Secret Of The Runes' profit from the more guitar-orientated approach. 'Schwarzalbenheim' sounds killer in this version and 'Muspelheim' is much heavier this way. Hell...I even like the drum solo, although I usually tend to hate them!
Once again, Christofer Johnsson and his crew released a great product. The risk ofthis DVD and the accompanying entire album on 2 CDs is that I will hardly ever play 'Celebrators Of Becoming' anymore, as this show is better in every aspect. If you missed out Therion on this tour, this will almost be good enough to replace the experience. Believe me, I was there too. 'Live Gothic' is simply one of the very best music DVDs I own. Visually, it's probably even the very best. A must-buy for basically anyone who likes good music.