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Weststadthalle, Essen, Germany
17th January 2007
Therion, Grave Digger, Sabaton

Both, GRAVE DIGGER and THERION just released their new albums a few days ago. GRAVE DIGGER are some kind of heroes in the German Metal scene and are called as co-founders of True-Metal. More than ten studio albums mark their successful way. The recent album ‘Liberty or Death’ was released on 12th January.  Also THERION can look back to a long band history with numerous releases with ‘Gothic Kabbalah’ being the newest one. Third band of the evening was Swedish SABATON. As you can guess, this was an evening of powerful Metal performances.


The Swedish band SABATON was founded 1999. Just in 2000, the band started recoding in the Abyss Studios and soon produced the first promo CD ‘Fist for Fight’. The band signed a record deal with the Italian label Underground Symphony. Soon, the debut album ‘Metalizer’ was produced and the new recorded version of ‘Fist for Fight’ released. Even though there were positive critics, the debut was remaining unreleased because the label did not want to take the risk. The band returned to the studio to record another demo – ‘Panzer Battalion’ – which was sent out to labels worldwide receiving positive echo. The band recorded the album ‘Primo Victoria’ on own risk. The band tried hard to find a label and sent out copies of the new album to each label which showed interest before. At the end, the band decided to sign at Swedish label Black Lodge and finally in March 2005, the album ‘Primo Victoria’ was released. SABATON immediately climbed up to number one of Swedish Hardrock charts. In January 2006, the band returned to the studio to record ‘Attero Dominatus’ which was released in summer of the same year. SABATON are Oskar Montelius (guitar), Daniel Mullback (drums), Pär Sundström (bass), Rikard Sundén (guitar), Joakim Brodén (vocals) and Daniel Mÿhr (keyboards). /

As you might know it from MANOWAR Nordic battle hymns are very typical for SABATON. But they developed their own style nevertheless which sounds more bound to the ground. Remarkable is the strong and dark voice of Joakim. SABATONS Power Metal is a combination of heroic lyrics, fine adjusted use of keyboards and powerful guitar play. The set of SABATON was quite short; just six songs besides the intro where from four were out off the latest album ‘Attero Dominatus’. The music was very powerful, especially Joakim’s voice sounded very well. Lyrically, the recent album deals more or less with the Second World War. With ‘Attero Dominatus’, ‘Nuclear Attack’ and ‘Metal Crüe’, three of the fast songs were well chosen while ‘In the name of God’ was a bit more melodic. ‘Metal Crüe’ deserves a closer look. The band let its creativity flow in a humoristic way and created homage to all the Metal bands out there. So, this song was also announced as the “number one party tune”. The remaining two songs – ‘Purple Heart’ and ‘Primo Victoria’ – were taken from the ‘Primo Victoria’ album. The whole set was just fast-moving Powermetal without lots of embellishments. Pushing drums, virtuous diversified guitar play and restraining keyboards fascinated the audience. I must say that musically I liked SABATON most on that evening.

The Swedish six-piece presented a great and quite funny show. Singer Joakim’s favorite during the evening was definitely his beer. He several time announced ‘Noch ein Bier’ (One more beer) and the audience chanted these words loudly. One beer later one became two… or even more beers. The mood was very good right from the start. People were head banging a lot – especially in the first row where there was lots of room to shake ones hair. Metal performances are always marked of posing band members. And SABATON were no exception. Especially guitar and bass players were posing together. Keyboarder Daniel took lots of pics from the audience and filmed the people with his video camera. Do get especially nice shots he pushed people up to scream and clap. When Joakim wanted to see all the “fucking hands” up, people raised their fists into the air. The show was just a very good start for that Metal evening.

01. Intro
02. In the name of God
03. Attero Dominatus
04. Nuclear Attack
05. Purple Heart
06. Primo Victoria
07. Metal Crüe

Music 8
Performance 8
Sound 8
Light 7
Total 7.9

Grave Digger

Founded 1980, the band released the first songs on the compilation ‘Rock from Hell’. Just from the beginning – with the first album ‘Heavy Metal Breakdown’ – the band uses keyboards. After the album ‘Stronger than Ever’ the band split up. But 1991 Christ started writing new songs, signed a deal with G.U.N. Records and released the album ‘The Reaper’. The come back worked very well and 1994 the next album – ‘Symphony of Death’ – was released. Over the years, the band members changed permanently, but the sound remained the same with the love for 80s Metal. Next big step for GRAVE DIGGER was the trilogy about Scotland starting with ‘Tunes of War’ and ending with ‘Excalibur’ in 1999. The band changed the label and signed to Nuclear Blast where the first record on this label was ‘The Grave Digger’. In 2002 it was finally time for a live CD and DVD – the recording of the Wacken Open Air 2001 was released. The next studio album was ‘Rheingold’ in 2003. It was a bombastic album followed by an extended tour. Mid of January 2005, the next album ‘The last Supper’ was released which presented twelve pure Metal songs. In autumn 2006, the band released the EP ‘Yesterday’ including another live DVD. The latest album ‘Liberty of Death’ was finally released on 12th January 2007 on the Locomo (Soulfood Music) label. GRAVE DIGGER are today Chris Boltendahl (Vocals), Manni Schmidt (Guitars), Stefan Arnold (Drums), Jens Becker (Bass) and Hans Peter Katzenburg (Keyboards).

GRAVE DIGGER is somehow a phenomenon. Without changing their style at all they are present in the Metal scene since the beginning of the eighties. With their Teutonic powerful Metal they still reach the hearts of lots of Metal heads. The current setlist was a representative cross-section through all years of GRAVE DIGGER’s producing. The songs of the current album ‘Liberty or Death’ fitted very well into the set of older songs. All presented songs were quite catchy – if you can say so when speaking of Power Metal. But not only guitars dominated during the show – there were also very nice little keyboard lines that had their effect as well as bag pipes tunes. Chris’ voice was quite good – remember his age – just for the higher passages it was not loud enough for my taste. But that could also be a reason of the sound mix because I several times had the impression that the music is too loud compared to the chant – or the other way round.

GRAVE DIGGER’s songs are epic and dramatic. This mood was musically very well brought to stage. Special and highly demanded from side of the fans were surely songs out of the Scotland trilogy. And so, songs like ‘Excalibur’, ‘Scotland united’ or ‘Morgane Lefay’ were welcomed with huge applause. But also very new songs mage a good impact. There were several people who seemed to know the new album quite well and were singing along to songs like ‘Liberty or Death’ and ‘Shadowland’. What I found very interesting was the fact that you could sing along the refrain of ‘Silent Revolution’ just after some minutes when the song was performed. The show ended with a fan favorite: ‘Heavy Metal Breakdown’ from the album of the same name.

When the intro sounded through the hall, Hans Peter entered the stage wearing a black cowl and the hood drawn deep into his face. One after another, the rest of the band entered the stage to start a real Metal firework. As you could expect before, there was a lot of posing on stage. But you saw that the band had fun. Especially Chris was smiling a lot, running over the stage playing air guitar and pushing up the audience over and over again; he made them scream, bang their heads or sing alone into his microphone which he reached out widely into the audience. Impressed by the good mood he stated: “I see, you want to sugar our tour launch”. The mood was very excited. In-between the songs, loud “Grave Digger” speaking choirs flooded though the venue. It was quite impressive how Metal heads in their middle ages can rock an audience which mainly consisted of people of same age. But there were also several very young fans who banged their heads like there is no tomorrow. The light show was very well adjusted to the mood of the songs – be it dark purple light for songs like ‘Heart of Darkness’ or fast moving colorful spots with different graphic elements for the high-tempo songs. The audience liked it a lot and made GRAVE DIGGER the star of the evening even though there was one more band to come. When the band left after the main set, they soon were begged to come back for encores. GRAVE DIGGER said goodbye with the song that anything started: ‘Heavy Metal Breakdown’.

01. Liberty or Death
02. Scotland United
03. Grave in the no man’s land
04. Excalibur
05. Shadowland
06. Valhalla
07. Lionheart
08. Heart of Darkness
09. Maidens of War
10. Silent Revolution
11. The dark of the Sun
12. The Roundtable
13. Raven
14. Highland Tears
15. Morgane Lefay
16. Knights of the Cross
17. The last Supper
18. Rebellion
19. The Grave Digger
20. Heavy Metal Breakdown

Music 7
Performance 8
Sound 7
Light 9
Total 7.6


THERION started in 1987 under the name BLITZKRIEG, changed it to MEGATHERION and finally found the present name in 1988. They released some demos and a MLP before the debut ‘Of Darkness’ came to light in 1991. Originally, the band was a Death Metal band, but they developed over the years to become an avant garde act. Following albums were quite experimental. Over the years, there were also several line-up changes with Christofer Johnsson as remaining founding member and major song writer. The 1996 released fifth album ‘Theli’ is usually called THERION’s breakthrough album. ‘Theli’ is symphonic opera metal with several new influences like 70s progressive rock or even oriental music. Later albums were recorded with a real orchestra and still, the band’s music is a mix of catchy metal music and opera music. To celebrate the 15th birthday, THERION released the live CD ‘Live in Midgard’ in 2002. The next album ‘Lemuria/Sirius B’ was released in 2004. At the beginning of 2006, I giant box set – ‘Celebrators of Becoming’ – including four DVDs and two CDs saw the light of day. ‘Gothic Kabbalah’, the new record of THERION, was released on 12th January 2007. THERION are Christofer Johnsson (Guitar, Keyboards, Organs), Kristian Niemann (Lead & Rhythm Guitars, Keyboards), Johan Niemann (Bass, Guitar, Acoustic Guitar) and Petter Karlsson (Drums, Guitar, Keyboards, Solo/Choral Vocals, Percussion). SESSION MUSICIANS: Mats Leven (Solo & Choral Vocals, Guitar), Snowy Shaw (Solo & Choral Vocals) and Katarina Lilja (Solo & Choral Vocals). TOURING MUSICIAN: Lori Lewis (Vocals). /

After GRAVE DIGGER had finished, lots of fans were leaving because their idol was finished. And so, THERION had the hard task to play for a much smaller audience. And audience, which permanently was screaming for old stuff and even booing for the new songs from ‘Gothic Kabbalah’. And there were several songs from this album, first being ‘T.O.F.’ on that evening which can be called one of the better songs of the album. And in fact, the recent album is no easy food for the old-school fans. It seems to be uninspired and boring as a whole even though there are some interesting ideas on it.

On the evening in Essen, for the pleasure of the fans of course lots of older songs have been played. Mats and Snowy (partly on two smaller drums) were doing a quite good vocal job supported by the two female singers Katarina and Lori. Drum rhythms and guitar play was fast as you expect it from a Metal act. The Metal sounds were also underlined by symphonic and orchestral elements like you know it from the releases what created a bombastic mood on stage. Songs like ‘Blood of Kingu’ i.e. were clearly guitar driven, but within other songs – like ‘Arrow from the Sun’ or ‘Son of the Sun’ – bombastic choirs and classical solo voices dominated. Musically, the band was good, but they did not reach the level of SABATON and GRAVE DIGGER.

When GRAVE DIGGER had finished, the whole stage was re-built and enlarged towards the back. Some metal fences were built up where later the singers were standing. Four big black flags were placed on stage, two on each side, which gave a bombastic feeling. The mystic mood was created with chandeliers with lots of burning candles besides the drum set. The show was powerful with fast guitar play, posing and banging musicians. The dramatic part was added with the female singers and Mats as well as especially Snowy looking pretty dramatically when holding a silver hammer or hitting the smaller drums. The mood within the audience was not was good as before – just a reason that there were less people I guess and that the others mostly wanted to hear old stuff. Quite experienced show anyway.

01. Rise of Sodom and Gomorrah
02. Schwarzalbenheim
03. T.O.F – The Trinity
04. The Flesh of the Gods
05. The Klhysti Evangelist
06. Wand of Abaris
07. The Falling Stone
08. An Arrow from the Sun
09. Deggial
10. Wine of Aluqah
11. Blood of Kingu
(12. Son of the Sun)
13. Tuna 1613 + Drum Solo
14. Muspelheim
15. Son of the Staves of Time
16. Ginnugagap
17. Grand Finale
18. Lemuria
19. Nightside of Eden
20. To Mega Therion
(21. Thor the Powerhead)

Music 6
Performance 9
Sound 7
Light 6
Total 7.1

More pics at Black-Cat-Net

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