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Therion, Gravedigger + Sabaton, Joy Eslava, Madrid (Spain), 26 January 2007;

The Madrid-based dance club Joy Eslava has turned into a very sought after venue for rock and metal shows. Years ago that would have been unthinkable, people who've been around this city for some time will agree. But that's great luck, because the Joy Eslava really is neither a club nor a venue, but an old theatre with a good stage and all the commodities a real 19th century theatre has to offer, and one of the few middle-sized venues (around 1000) in Madrid.

Doors were open at 19:30, and at the same time the first band, Sabaton, was already playing. Of course it took people longer to get in, so many missed the first few songs. I liked the little I could see, though. This Swedish band plays good old down-to-earth heavy/ power metal, with much entusiasm and dedication. Sabaton has excellent musicians, and enjoyed quite a good sound. Though I could only watch them during a few songs, it was a very good warm-up show and the audience reacted very well. Let's hope that we'll be able to see them doing a longer show next time.
Grave Digger had probably attracted as many fans as Therion, though of course many like both. Grave Digger are one of the most famous bands in German heavy metal, dating back to the early eighties. They haven't slowed down since then, and though according to some not all their releases are on the same quality level, they have been able to bring innovation to classic heavy metal while at the same time staying true to their roots. Their live shows are legendary, and this time they'd come to present their new album "Liberty or Death". In the end they didn't play so many new songs, but mostly classic ones which were what the fans demanded. The musicians entered the stage one by one, and the keyboarder was wearing a medieval tunic which reminded of the Grim Reaper which is displayed on the Grave Digger covers. The staging was great, with a perfect lightshow and of course a high dose of enthusiasm, which they passed on to the audience almost at once. Even those who where a little sceptical at first ended headbanging like crazy. They started their set with "Liberty or Death", the title track from their new album, which has proved to be a excellent song for playing live. Frontman Chris Boltendahl is a true heavy metal maniac, moving frantically around the stage. I don't know how he manages to look practically the same after so many years, and it can't be denied that he conserves all the energy and passion for the music. The audience sang along almost all songs, like "Excalibur", "Valhalla", "Lionhart", "Highland Tears" or "Morgana Lefay", all of them epic, majestic and very heavy tunes which seem to get magically alive live. They ended their show with "The Last Supper" and the super-classic "Heavy Metal Breakdown" from their first album. Heavy Metal heads of all ages where enjoying themselves like little kids, headbanging and feeling the wonderful music like on the first day - simply over the top.
Ater this, the question was: would Therion be able to top this? They did, in a way, though it isn't really fair to compair both bands, they're totally different from each other and pursue quite a different live show philosophy. Therion had already announced that they would appear with four vocalists on stage - two female (Katarina Lilja, Lori Lewis) and two male (Mats Levén, Snowy Shaw) voices. Christofer Johnsson had already quitted singing in the band (except for maybe some choruses) some time ago, so Therion has really no lead singer - quite a unique situation for a band. Therion's show is a masterpiece of choreography: nothing is random, nothing spontaneous, so it seemed one was watching an opera or a theatrical work rather than a rock concert. Katarina, Lori, Mats and Snowy sang sometimes as a chorus, sometimes duets, and sometimes they took turns as lead singers. Lori and Katarina are no doubt fabulous, but Mats' voice is really incredible, he has a very wide vocal range and still mantains a powerful yet harmonic timbre at all times. Snowy Shaw is quite a suprise as a vocalist and as an actor - he was the bad, sinister guy all the time, but had to return to his drums during the amazing drum duel with the regular drummer. Despite all these show elements, the acting, the lights and so on, the music wasn't in the background. Therion played songs from "Gothic Kabbalah" like "Der Mitternachtslöwe" (the opening theme) or "Sons of the Staves of Time", but also older material like "Schwarzalbenheim", "Blood of Kingu", "The Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah" and "Lemuria" among others. The audience was really going crazy by now, and though it had been (almost?) sold out and very crowded from the beginning, now the air was getting hot and moving was almost unthinkable. It was a pity that the visibility wasn't top-notch from all places; the sound was excellent throughout the whole concert though - in my opinion, for it seemed that depending on where you stood it was a little too low. Therion finished with "To Mega Therion" and "Thor the Powerhead" (a Manowar cover), and finished meant finished, as in this venue the shows must end punctually. Really a great concert, with a band - Therion - which (I think) had never played in Madrid before, and which received, same as Sabaton and of course Grave Digger, a well-deserved applause. And what's the most important thing, the fans had a lot of fun that evening.
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