The German/Dutch symphonic metal band Xandria has been a fixed value within the scene since 1994. After the departure of the original singer Lisa Middelhauve the outfit focused on a more bombastic and orchestral sound. After their 2015 album Fire and Ashes they return with a similar, but more dynamic album; Theater of Dimensions. With this record, they prove that they belong to the top bands of the symphonic metal world. Admirers of the genre will certainly enjoy this one!
Opening track Where the Heart is Home has a pretty epic and mysterious intro that makes you crave for a powerful explosion of sound, which you will eventually get! Pumping guitars, pounding drums and dramatic vocals by Dianne van Giersbergen lead you into their adventurous yet fierce theater. The album also contains some extremely catchy and joyful songs. Death to the holy is one of them. It’s a very playful track that includes male choirs that give the song a Rhapsody of Fire touch. Flutes and string instruments add to the catchiness and the only thing you’ll do when this is performed live, is smiling and dancing. Another song that’ll stick in your mind is Call of Destiny. The band clearly has a very good ear for catchy choruses. I instantly fell in love with the playfulness in Dianne’s voice. What a range, that woman can sing! Burn Me is the final ABBA-like song. Well, heavier as you can imagine, it’s just that the catchiness that’s similar. On this one, you get to hear a male voice and some eastern elements. Sounds very refreshing!
A song that die hard Xandria fans will have heard in the meantime is We are Murderers (We All). If you haven’t, you can find the lyric video below! The tune is a pretty good representation of what Theater of Dimensions stands for. It’s versatile, to say the least. You’ll hear the vocals of Soilwork’s Björn Strid. His singing during the chorus makes a nice counterweight for the heavy and pounding intro. Dianne also adopts a lighter singing style which makes the song easy to digest. The choir plays once again a prominent role. Something that struck me was the heaviness of the outro. If I were strolling around at a festival and if I would hear this, I’d think that Cannibal Corpse was tearing the place down. If I didn’t know better, of course.
Another song that struck me was Ship of Doom. The leading motive throughout the song is a counting rhyme accompanied by Irish pipes. The sailor force is strong in this one! The instrumental Céilí has a similar atmosphere. It’s pretty folky and adventurous but it’s heavy enough if you want to spin-dry your hair from the salty seas you seem to find yourself in while listening to this album. There’s also two ballads on Theater of Dimensions. Dark Night of the Soul and Forsaken Love are the slowest songs on the album, but also the weakest ones. They sound quite forced and cheesy, especially the lyrics. The title song Theater of Dimensions on the contrary is more impressive. It’s a versatile 14 minutes’ song that will remind you of theater shows and musicals. The track starts very sober with Dianne singing but the sound will get bigger and bigger. After a while you’ll get the feeling that you’re listening to a story because of the spoken passages by a male voice and Dianne. An interesting element are the wind instruments. They sound very playful, troll-like and hasty. Reminds me of Finntroll instrumentals and a passage from Ghost Love Score by Nightwish. You’d think that you’re in the midst of a circus/theater performance.
All in all, good album! But I must say, that many interesting things on this album have been done before. The symphonic metal scene seems to lack innovation and most bands just seem to copy each other. That’s unfortunately something I noticed on Theater of Dimensions. But it’s done in such a way that it still sounds interesting. They’re great musicians. Xandria does present with this album some elements that are actually unique. They do really well with their catchy seamen songs! There’s a very adventurous touch to them that could set the band apart within the symphonic metal scene. On top of that, Dianne van Giersbergen proves with this album that she’s one of the best female metal singers. Xandria holds a lot of potential, as long as they just do their own thing! I’ll definitely go see them at Metaldays 2017 with my GRIMM buddies and so should you! It will be a true spectacle – or should I say theater?! 78/100
Release date: January 27th, 2017
Label: Napalm Records
1. Where The Heart Is Home
2. Death To The Holy
3. Forsaken Love
4. Call of Destiny
5. We Are Murderers (We All)
6. Dark Night Of The Soul
7. When The Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born)
8. Ship Of Doom
10. Song For Sorrow And Woe
11. Burn Me
12. Queen Of Hearts Reborn
13. A Theater Of Dimensions