Xandria – “Theater Of Dimensions” (Napalm Records)
Now firmly ensconced with Dutch Ex Libris singer Dianne van Giersbergen, this German symphonic / power metal really step it up a gear on this 7th studio album – to say this lot are ambitious is an understatement as there are certainly some impressive tracks on this release – right down to the grand 14 minute theatrical closer of ‘A Theater Of Dimensions‘ with its clashing operatic style, big sound choirs, spoken words, wailing tremolo guitars and of course, passionate orchestrations ! With plenty of bands in their genre, what sets Xandria apart is just the sheer breath of their material and now with van Giersbergen, they really have a versatile soprano vocalist to make that dream come alive. Opening in typical style with the symphonic bombast of ‘Where The Heart Is Home‘, expect nothing less than superior musicianship on the 13 tracks here, complete with an excellent atmosphere throughout, capturing both the power and the emotions very much evident in Xandria’s material. From the neo classical splendor of ‘Call Of Destiny’ with its massive choral harmonies, it seems there’s nothing the band can’t do excellently from the medieval folk of ‘Céilí‘ with its catchy pipes and rich guitars to the flowing melodic bliss of ‘When The Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born)’ where van Giersbergen’s delicate vocals truly touches the soul, wonderfully contrasted by double bass drum work and dark, gothic choirs. They even manage a pomp rock flirt in ‘Burn Me’ with its uplifting heavenly tones – honestly, what show offs ha ha! But clearly the band want to make a point that boundaries hold little constraint to the talent of Xandria. Bold words certainly, but then they pull it off masterly on another 2 standout tracks – and which couldn’t be contrasted more! ‘Dark Night Of The Soul’ is virtually a solo piece by van Giersbergen, initially backed by soft piano and then with the other instruments subtly joining one by one to become an epic ballad, polished off stylishly by Marco Heubaum’s guitar work, climatically wailing in unison to van Giersbergen’s own femme highs. With demonic choirs heralding its ominous tone, prepare for hell as Gerit Lamm’s brutal drumming sets the speed trip of ‘We Are Murderers (We All)‘ – easily the album’s heaviest track and with its Slayer-esque whirring riffs probably the most malevolent they’ve done in while. Of course it doesn’t stop there – this is Xandria afterall – so expect dual vocals taking almost theatrical proportions as van Giersbergen’s anxious screams are pursued by the harsh, beastly roars of I’m guessing, Heubaum once more – excellent! A truly superior release that is sure to be appreciated by fans, connoisseurs of the genre, but equally anyone wanting to hear a high class symphonic rock metal release.