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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.