Symphonic Metal / Power Metal / Gothic Metal • Germany
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Xandria is a German symphonic metal band that formed in Bielefeld, Germany, in 1994. According to the band, Xandria unifies modern rock with mystic soundscapes into a soundtrack of a different, really characteristic world. In Xandria's world, everyone is allowed to be as vulnerable as strong, to show feelings and to live all beautiful dreams which seem forbidden in the cold reality. "We want to give our audience courage - on their way back to everyday-life - to manage to also there stand for their feelings and to be strong enough to get through all pains and obstacles."

The band was formed by Marco Heubaum (guitars, keyboards) and Niki Weltz (drums), drawing inspiration from Bands like Tiamat and Paradise Lost. Due to musical dissension between the founders, they parted ways in 1997.

In 1999 Marco Heubaum started working on new material together with Lisa Middelhauve (vocals; at that time Schaphaus). A year
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XANDRIA Kill the Sun album cover 3.75 | 4 ratings
Kill the Sun
Symphonic Metal 2003
XANDRIA Ravenheart album cover 3.86 | 7 ratings
Symphonic Metal 2004
XANDRIA India album cover 3.09 | 7 ratings
Symphonic Metal 2005
XANDRIA Salomé: The Seventh Veil album cover 3.28 | 5 ratings
Salomé: The Seventh Veil
Symphonic Metal 2007
XANDRIA Neverworld's End album cover 4.23 | 17 ratings
Neverworld's End
Power Metal 2012
XANDRIA Sacrificium album cover 4.34 | 13 ratings
Power Metal 2014
XANDRIA Theater of Dimensions album cover 4.38 | 8 ratings
Theater of Dimensions
Symphonic Metal 2017

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XANDRIA Fire & Ashes album cover 3.75 | 2 ratings
Fire & Ashes
Symphonic Metal 2015
XANDRIA Wolfsnächte 2015 Tour EP album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Wolfsnächte 2015 Tour EP
Power Metal 2015

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XANDRIA Xandria album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Gothic Metal 1997
XANDRIA Kill the Sun album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Kill the Sun
Symphonic Metal 2001
XANDRIA Kill the Sun album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Kill the Sun
Symphonic Metal 2003
XANDRIA Ravenheart album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Symphonic Metal 2003
XANDRIA In Love With The Darkness album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
In Love With The Darkness
Symphonic Metal 2005
XANDRIA Save My Life album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Save My Life
Symphonic Metal 2007
XANDRIA Sisters of the Light (Vs. Jesus On Extasy) album cover 0.00 | 0 ratings
Sisters of the Light (Vs. Jesus On Extasy)
Symphonic Metal 2007

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XANDRIA Now & Forever: The Best of Xandria album cover 4.25 | 2 ratings
Now & Forever: The Best of Xandria
Symphonic Metal 2008

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Symphonic Metal 2004

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XANDRIA Theater of Dimensions

Album · 2017 · Symphonic Metal
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Five years ago I heard an album that pulled off what I thought may have been impossible: Take the classic Nightwish sound and make slight tweaks to it, while also modernizing it just a bit, to create something even better and more exciting. That release was Neverworld’s End, by German band Xandria, and it ranks to this day as one of my absolute favorite symphonic power metal albums of all time. In between albums they made slight lineup changes, and the following album Sacrificium came across as a nice continuation, but it didn’t seem to add much new the way its predecessor did, so I was left wondering if the band would ever be able to approach the same level of brilliance again. Well, the band has retained the same lineup since Sacrificum and are now set to release their seventh full-length release Theater of Dimensions. Even though the previous album never hit me as hard as its predecessor, I still thought the current lineup had a lot of potential, and I was excited to see whether or not the band could release another masterpiece this time around and the answer is a definitive yes!

The biggest difference this time around is that while Sacrificium felt like a direct continuation of Neverworld’s End and seemed specifically focused on one aspect of the music, Theater of Dimensions retains many of the same elements but uses them in different ways at times, while also adding in some new elements and just overall being a much more varied and dynamic release. Stylistically, this album is much more grounded in symphonic metal specifically, with an ever increased focus on the orchestral elements and a heavy use of choir vocals, and compared to the previous release in particular, it feels like the band wanted to do as many different styles of songs as they could pull off while letting the symphonic elements lead the way, and so there’s a lot happening on this album. As a result, the power metal elements have been reduced a bit and aren’t as much of the main focus as before, though they still show up on quite a few tracks, most notably “Call of Destiny” and “Song for Sorrow and Woe”.

At the same time, while the symphonic elements dominate, there are a ton of other influences on display here, such as small traces of neoclassical metal on “Call of Destiny” (really, that track has a bit of a late 90’s Stratovarius sound to it with the guitar leads and is sure to be a crowd-pleaser) as well as an increased use of folk elements, most notably on the instrumental track “Céilí”. I also noticed some progressive elements, most notably on the monster length title track, which I will cover in more detail further into the review, but needless to say, it doesn’t disappoint. Perhaps most surprisingly, there’s also a more modern sound to the album, even sometimes hinting at extreme metal elements, with the guitars, in particular, having more of a harder edge than one would expect at times, and of course Soilwork vocalist Björn “Speed” Strid provides some growls on the track “We Are Murderers (We All)”. And of course, there’s some balladry as well, with some tracks having extended softer sections, and there’s one full ballad on the album, that being the outstanding “Dark Night of the Soul”. For all the album does, though, and for how varied the tracks are, the most impressive thing about it all is how consistently amazing everything is, and just how good a job the band does of making different sounding tracks that are equally amazing in different ways, and it’s in that area especially where the album manages to match Neverworld’s End.

A very important aspect of Xandria is their vocals, and they have one of the best singers in the genre in Dianne van Giersbergen. I was initially blown away by her performance on the Ex Libris album Medea, and while I thought she sounded very good on Sacrifium as well, I was left with the feeling the band hadn’t used her to voice to its full potential. This time around, that isn’t the case, though, as not only does Dianne still shine while delivering her smooth operatic vocals as before, this time around she gets to show her full range, sometimes singing very powerfully and more explosive, while other times using the more theatrical vocals she used a lot with Ex Libris, and the way she fluidly switch between styles is something I’ve always been impressed with, so it’s exciting to get to hear her do that on this album. Obviously, there are some excellent guest vocalists on this album as well, with the aforementioned “Speed” as well as current Firewind vocalist Henning Basse, Van Canto’s Ross Thompson and Myrath vocalist Zaher Zorgati, all of whom do an excellent job on their respective tracks.

Moving onto songwriting, and I already mentioned it as being a huge strong point, but let’s dig in a bit deeper. Opening track “Where the Heart is Home” begins with an extended orchestral opening, before the choirs join in and this serves as excellent intro to the album, until eventually, the crunchy, modern sounding guitars make their first appearance and the song turns into an epic, mid-tempo symphonic metal track with an outstanding chorus, great riffs and a really nice guitar solo in the middle. The track also serves as a great showcase for Dianne’s vocals, as she uses her huge operatic voice throughout the track, but the near end is a great softer section where she uses much calmer vocals and that section is an early highlight for sure.

Next up is “Death to the Holy”, an early album standout that has a slight folk feel with its guitar leads, and it’s a very upbeat, happy sounding track that moves along at a pretty fast pace, and is certainly one of more power metal based tracks on the album. It also has an extremely fun chorus, which is pretty much par for the course on this album. Other faster songs include the previously mentioned “Call of Destiny”, which feels like the band took a classic power metal track and gave it some modern touches, with some heavier guitars and using the orchestral elements and choir, and this results in an instant winner of a track that stands as one of my favorites. Along with that track, we also have “We Are Murderers (We All)” a track which gets very fast and explosive during the verses, though it’s hard to call it a full power metal track due to how heavy the guitars get at times and because of the chorus, which alternates between Dianne’s operatic vocals and the previously mentioned death growls. It’s quite the interesting track, for sure, and shows how the band has taken the sound they started on Neverworld’s End and evolved it to the point where they do some more unique tracks. Lastly, we have the more traditional symphonic power metal tracks “Song for Sorrow and Woe” and “Queen of Hearts Reborn”. The first of these is mostly fast paced and straightforward throughout, aside from one softer section in the middle where Dianne uses some of her more theatrical vocals, while the latter starts off with a nice softer section before speeding up for most of the track, and then Dianne does some great voice overs towards the end.

On the slower side, we have the more folk influenced track “Forsaken Love”, which starts off feeling like a folk ballad for a while, though it does get heavier as it goes along, and the choirs show up later into the track to help make it more epic. The last run through the chorus, in particular, is just stunning. Another folk influenced track is “Burn Me”, a nice mid-paced track which has an extremely fun and catchy chorus, while musically it’s folk elements at times remind me of Myrath, which isn’t a coincidence, because it also happens to be the track with Zaher Zorgati, who does an excellent job as always and adds his unique flavor to an already insanely addictive track. But the most folk influenced track is probably the instrumental track “Céilí”, a very upbeat sounding track which uses a ton of different folk instruments and it has some very nice melodies. In fact, it stands out as quite the unique track in Xandria’s discography, both because it’s an instrumental and also because it just sounds so different from anything else they’ve done, and is certainly another highlight.

Moving away from the folk elements but still sticking to slower tracks, we have “When the Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born) and “Ship of Doom”. First up, “When the Walls Came Down” is a heavier track and has some excellent riffs as well as one of the strongest choruses on the album, and it also has an amazing explosive section towards the end where it speeds up and the guitars get even heavier. The second of these, ‘Ship of Doom”, is an interesting track in that the main riff is quite heavy and suggests a darker tone right from the start, but then the majority of the track sounds much lighter and there are some nice folk melodies during the verses, as well as some pretty cool guest vocals from Ross Thompson who also gives the track a bit of a folk feel, while the chorus is just beautiful as Dianne and the choirs sound amazing. Lastly, “Dark Night of the Soul” is an excellent piano driven ballad, that serves as an excellent showcase for Dianne’s vocals, and there’s also an excellent guitar solo in the second half.

In case the rest of the album wasn’t already impressive, the band saved their most ambitious track yet for last, that being the 14-minute title track. There is a whole lot of stuff happening on this track, though in many ways it feels to me like they took the kind of epic length track Nightwish has done in the past and gave it their own unique spin. It goes through all the twists and turns you’d expect, starting off feeling like a ballad, with some beautiful vocals from Dianne, before giving way to a huge, epic chorus where the choirs are in full force, and then this leads to a dramatic middle section, before the track eventually comes back to that epic chorus. Structurally, it reminds me a bit of something like “Ghost Love Score”, in how it starts calm, gets epic, calms down again, and then gets, even more, epic towards the end, but it’s that middle section where it manages to really surprise. The band brought in Henning Bass to do some guest vocals on this track and the middle section takes a surprisingly dramatic turn, at times feeling more like a musical than a metal track, and both Henning and Dianne alternate between voiceovers and some very theatrical singing, with Henning, in particular, sounding much different than anything I’d ever heard from him before, and this section is very epic and feels totally different from anything else I’ve ever heard on a metal album before. Then you add in those epic choirs and the beautiful ballad like passages from Dianne that bookend the track, and you have something truly special.

It’s still very early in the year, but I can say now I’ll be extremely surprised if I hear a better symphonic metal album this year than Theater of Dimensions. It takes what Xandria started on Neverworld’s End and expands on that sound, adding in new elements and exploring different styles, all while delivering the kind of epic symphonic metal the band has become known for on recent albums, and while still maintaining some of their power metal elements. The album is one of the most varied yet consistently entertaining albums I’ve heard in quite a while and I’d highly recommend it to all fans of symphonic metal, looking to hear the absolute best in the genre. I said last year I didn’t think Epica could possibly be matched, and while their track record speaks for itself, if anyone else in the genre can challenge them at this point, it’s Xandria.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2017/01/21/xandria-theater-dimensions-review/

XANDRIA Theater of Dimensions

Album · 2017 · Symphonic Metal
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It's fair to say that the line-up of German symphonic metal band Xandria has been a bit unstable in the last decade, at least regarding their lead vocalist role. While they were fronted by Lisa Schaphaus-Middelhauve for their first four records, up until Salomé: The Seventh Veil (2007), the next two albums Neverworld's End (2012) and Sacrificium (2014) each featured a different vocalist. However their line-up seems to have finally settled down now as the band's seventh album Theater of Dimensions (2017) marks the first time in a decade that a new Xandria album features the same vocalist as the previous one, Dianne van Giersbergen. The album features a number of guest vocal appearances, from Björn "Speed" Strid (Soilwork), Zaher Zorgati (Myrath), Ross Thompson (Van Canto) and Henning Basse (Firewind, MaYaN).

Having performed a brand of symphonic power metal akin to that of Nightwish circa the albums Oceanborn (1998) and Wishmaster (2000) on the two previous albums, Theater of Dimensions sees Xandria diversifying their sound. Keeping their epic symphonic elements the main part of their music, they still have some pretty strong power metal in them as tracks like the excellent Death to the Holy demonstrate, but they also shake things up a lot with others influences. Both previous albums also used some Celtic folk influences and that's true here too, but there are also influences from genres such as progressive metal creeping in, especially during the finale epic A Theater of Dimensions. The guitar lead during Call of Destiny is additionally decidedly neoclassical. Björn "Speed" Strid adds his growl and thus an extreme touch to We Are Murderers (We All), which features such pretty heavy and fast guitar as well.

The album still feels like the Xandria who made their last couple of albums, but it shows a lot more growth as band than they did going from Neverworld's End to Sacrificium, where the latter felt like more of the same as the former, while not being quite as good (though it was still an excellent follow-up). Theater of Dimensions feels like a step up for the band. Producing a varied symphonic metal album isn't actually done that often, but I'd say Xandria have pulled it off here, as track after track they manage to change the tone and feel of their music, while keeping the album coherent and flowing. Considering that at 74:25 in total length it's a long release, pulling this off was doubly important.

I'd also say that Dianne van Giersbergen sounds more settled into her role as the band's lead singer here too, and outshines her previous performances with the band, which were great to begin with. In fact I dare say this is one of the best vocal performances on a symphonic metal album I've ever heard, right up there with the best performances of Tarja Turunen, Sharon den Adel, Simone Simons and Floor Jansen (who I tend to think of as the Big Four of all the female symphonic metal vocalists). It's just a very well done album all round, by all involved including the guest vocals who each add yet another different aspects to the songs they appear on. I especially enjoyed Henning Basse's parts on A Theater of Dimensions. I'd say that this is definitely one of the album's highlights, along with Death to the Holy, Call of Destiny, We Are Murderers (We All), Ship of Doom and Queen of Hearts Reborn.

Given that Epica delivered an album last year I can't see Theater of Dimensions being topped as the best symphonic metal album of 2017, despite it's January release date. I usually use Epica's work as the standard these days that all other symphonic metal bands have to beat but this album actually proves that I should stop doing that for Xandria as with their last three albums they've shown themselves to be of the same calibre as the Dutch band. Those who wish Epica wouldn't use so many growls will probably even like Xandria more. Highly recommended stuff.

XANDRIA Sacrificium

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
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Sacrificium (2014) is the sixth full-length album by German symphonic metal act Xandria. It features the debut performance of new vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen (Ex Libris), who takes over from Manuela Kraller after just one album, Neverworld's End (2012), making Sacrificium the third album in a row for Xandria to feature a different vocalist. The band also has a new bassist in Steven Wussow (Domain), who replaces the longer standing Nils Middelhauve.

Despite the change in vocalist, it's sometimes difficult to tell that this isn't the same line-up who recorded Neverworld's End. Sacrificium is most certainly a more of the same release following the slight reinvention from symphonic gothic metal to symphonic power metal that Neverworld's End was and Dianne van Giersbergen is certainly pretty close to Manuela Kraller in terms of vocal ability and singing style on the album. None of this is a surprise to me as I do seem to recall reading a quote somewhere in the run up to the album's release that Sacrificium would bring more of what everyone loved about Neverworld's End and that is exactly the end result of the album, although it is perhaps because of this that it has something of a lesser impact than its predecessor had on me.

For those who haven't heard Neverworld's End, it had a sound that was somewhat comparable to Nightwish circa Oceanborn (1998), that is to say a symphonic power metal sound which also drew on some folk elements. As a minor detail I'd say that the presence of folk is very slightly increased on Sacrificium compared to Neverworld's End with songs like The Undiscovered Land, Until the End and Temple of Hate, which is definitely more than Nightwish had on the aforementioned album, and it remains a defining feature that sets what the two bands did/do apart. But in short, if you've been at all dissatisfied with what Nightwish have done in recent years in 2012 Xandria showed themselves as an act ready to step up and usurp their crown. I honestly think they did it back then with that album, as Neverworld's End is a masterpiece to my ears, but with Sacrificium the band have produced a worthy follow-up.

The bottom line is though that Sacrificium isn't a second masterpiece for Xandria. It's a high quality symphonic power metal album but where Neverworld's End never veered away from perfection Sacrificium only hits that mark with certain tracks such as Nightfall, Betrayer, Little Red Relish and the epic ballad The Undiscovered Land. It also has a couple of lesser songs in Dreamkeeper and Come With Me. Still, the quality is high enough that a 4.5 star rating is deserved. It's a step down sure, but anyone who enjoyed Neverworld's End is sure to enjoy what Sacrificium has to offer too.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/xandria-sacrificium-t3447.html)

XANDRIA Neverworld's End

Album · 2012 · Power Metal
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Gothic metal and symphonic metal - the two most corset-heavy subgenres of metal - fuse in Xandria's sound and rather always have done, and new vocalist Manuela Kraller doesn't shake the boat on her first studio album with the band. Nightwish comparisons seem inevitable in any discussion of the album, and there's an extent to which the band and their label bring this on themselves (as others have noted there's a mild power metal flavouring to their brand of symphonic metal which puts me in mind of Nightwish, and for that matter the cover art for this one looks like something Nightwish would be glad to put on one of their releases). Xandria do have their own personality here - there's a bit more melancholy in the mix than I tend to hear in Nightwish - but at the same time I think they're close enough to Nightwish's style that if you particularly like or dislike Nightwish you can fairly easily guess whether you'll enjoy what Xandria have to offer.

XANDRIA Neverworld's End

Album · 2012 · Power Metal
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Out of all the female fronted symphonic metal bands out there, there was one band I always managed to overlook: Xandria. This German band is most known for playing symphonic gothic metal which is more or less why I overlooked them, as I typically prefer my symphonic metal to be regular symphonic metal (like Within Temptation) or symphonic power metal (like Nightwish).

However Xandria, after a large break between albums which saw them acquire a new vocalist, released Neverworld’s End in 2012, and changed their style into symphonic power metal. I was sold by the new sound after hearing the song Valentine, which the band has made a music video for. As good as Valentine is though, if I were to rank all the songs on the album in terms of favouritism, it would be on the lower end.

The sound of the album is quite like the sound Nightwish used to play, but Xandria doesn’t directly copy the Finnish band due to Neverworld’s End having a lot more folk influence in it than Nightwish’s Oceanborn ever had. It also has a few touches I’d consider progressive. I should probably also mention it’s a better album too.

I think symphonic metal with operatic female vocals can be an acquired taste among metalheads, but I recommend everyone to give Neverworld’s End a go as the album is affair bit more aggressive guitar wise than most of the bigger names of the genre have ever been (Epica may be an exception), and it is also very epic, and most definitely one of my favourite albums of the year.

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