Just as I predicted, this is – yes, already – my favourite album of the year. I tried to keep this review short, but failed.
The best release of the new XANDRIA yet!
After XANDRIA parted ways with their original singer Lisa Middelhauve, the band also started to take some distance from the genre that had defined their music for many years: Gothic. Almost ten years later, the band has established its sound in the realms of Symphonic Metal and has now released the best album from this new XANDRIA-era – “Theater Of Dimensions”. The second full length album and third release with classical soprano Dianne van Giersbergen explores the limits of the band’s comfort zone for sure and may hint to greater development of their sound and songwriting for the future.
The record offers the listener 75 (!) minutes of new music, divided in two parts by a folky, instrumental piece called ‘Céilí’: the first part displays a progression of the characteristic sound of their last few releases with catchy choruses and melodies, while the second part feels like stepping into a different dimension – a dimension of theatre, tragedy and progressive metal. If that’s not pushing boundaries, I don’t know what is!
The opening track ‘Where The Heart Is Home’ features a lot of classical instrumentation, with a long intro, as we have gotten used to from “Neverworld’s End” and “Sacrificium” but the choirs fit the rest of the music much better than on those albums. The order of the songs strikes me as somewhat defiant, as it takes a little while to hear the previously released singles on fourth and fifth place, respectively. Before that there’s the memorable ballad ‘Forsaken Love’, which screams XANDRIA from the very beginning and reminds me of older tracks, like ‘The Dream Is Still Alive’ and ‘Until The End’. The new element, however, is the lead singer’s use of her lower range, stronger and clearer chest-voice. And then the latest (and only official) single hits, for which the band recently released a music video:
I have a little bone to pick with this video though. While we’ve come to accept metal bands performing in the woods as recurring theme, just as the exploration of medieval fantasy, it is not clear to me what exactly the story of a female warrior walking up to a tower to have a sword duel with another female warrior has to do with the ‘Call Of Destiny’. Oh, if only all album press-copies came with lyric booklets…
The best of this album comes long after the singles.
It is nevertheless a great choice for a single and for a music video – it has a catchy chorus with great choirs and will probably make a fun, interactive live song. The appearance from SOILWORK’s Björn Strid on ‘We Are Murderers (We All)’, for which the band released a first (lyric) video, fits the heavier nature of the track, in contrast to the front woman’s melodic vocals.
The second ballad of the album, ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’, is a deeply melancholic one, with beautiful orchestration, a film-soundtrack-feeling and overwhelmingly well performed vocal lines. As the album goes on, we can hear more and more of the new vocal styles the lead singer has explored for this release. ‘Ship Of Doom’ for example reminds me strongly of THE BIRTHDAY MASSACRE’s ‘Lovers’ End’ with its number-rhymes in a dark whisper by Dianne and Ross Thompson from VAN CANTO.
After the instrumental ‘Céilí’ takes me to a pirate ship, the ‘Song For Sorrow And Woe’ brings back Dianne’s very operatic vocals singing a melody very reminiscent of the NIGHTWISH-classic ‘Deep Silent Complete’. The two songs are very similar, except for the tragic bridge that XANDRIA added to the success-recipe. Another guest comes in at this point: MYRATH-singer Zaher Zorgati nails the oriental-sounding duet ‘Burn Me’.
The last two songs are my favourite of this record, since Dianne shows off her wide vocal range and different styles of her singing in ‘Queen Of Hearts Reborn’, including some exciting spoken parts. The album ends with one more guest playing a part in the 14-minute-epic ‘Theater Of Dimensions’: FIREWIND’s Henning Basse makes an entrance with his characteristic raw-melodic singing, embodying another character in this play. The title-track also includes some very progressive keyboard parts followed by a guitar solo, which leads to a playful orchestra and dialogue, peaking with Dianne’s evil laughter, before the choirs come into play again. The song ends with some soft lullaby by the band’s front woman.
One word: wow! XANDRIA totally outdid themselves on this record! The music is impeccable throughout the whole album. Philip Restemeier can be proud of his impressive soli in several songs, drummer Gerrit Lamm has done some of his best work here. The songwriting, arrangements and production are obviously impressive, but the vocals on this album are the best part in my opinion. Alone the last track makes the whole release absolutely worth it.
“Theater Of Dimensions” – Tracklist:
- Where The Heart Is Home
- Death To The Holy
- Forsaken Love
- Call Of Destiny
- We Are Murderers (We All)
- Dark Night Of The Soul
- When The Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born)
- Ship Of Doom
- Song For Sorrow And Woe
- Burn Me
- Queen Of Hearts Reborn
- A Theater Of Dimensions
XANDRIA – Upcoming shows:
- 28/01/2017 “Theater of Dimensions” Release Show – Bochum (Matrix), Germany
- 29/01/2017 “Theater of Dimensions” Release Show – Hamburg (Bahnhof Pauli), Germany
- 02/02/2017 – 05/02/2017 – 70000 Tons Of Metal, U.S./Caribbean Sea
- 11 Feb 2017 – Origins Fest Tunis, Tunisia
Are you getting XANDRIA‘s new album? How do you like the first singles? Tell us in the comments and don’t forget to share this review!