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  XANDRIA
'Fire And Ashes'
(Napalm Records)
Release Date: 31st July 2015


Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland



xandria

German symphonic power Metallers Xandria have come a long way in the last year or two. After going through a period where they seemed to be changing singers every album the addition of Dutch soprano Dianne van Giersbergen seems to have played a major part in the rejuvenation of their career.

Her debut album with the band, 'Sacrificium', went down very well indeed with the fan base and beyond and was followed up with some hard work on the touring front. Having some momentum on their side right now the band, no doubt encouraged by their record company, have decided to release a seven track EP to capitalise on that success.

Fans of the band will of course be most interested by the three new songs on offer here. Opening track 'Voyage Of The Fallen' carries on exactly where 'Sacrificium' left off and is a suitably supercharged mix of chugging Metal riffs, sweeping keyboards and lots of choral vocals topped by that distinctive pure soprano tone Ms van Giersbergen is famous for.

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'Unembraced' is a more straightforward, stomping Metal affair lightened by some nice melodic guitar lines and a more restrained chorus section while 'In Remembrance' is one of those "symphonic Metal does power ballads" tunes full of tinkling keyboards and some lovely vocals sung in a 'normal' tone of voice before the inevitable big chorus section, soprano vocals and emotive guitar solo.

Filling out the rest of this EP are two re-recordings of a couple of pre-van Giersbergen Xandria tunes and two cover songs.

'Ravenheart' is one Xandria's best known songs from their most successful period with the charismatic Lisa Middelhauve providing the vocals. Here these Germans with their new Dutch voice have stayed pretty faithful to the original and I have to say it works really well. Surprisingly I find I prefer this to the original. The same formula is repeated on another Middelhauve period tune 'Now And Forever' which also sounds fresher and more modern in this guise although they have tweaked the arrangement more than on 'Ravenheart'.

xandria

Personally I have never quite understood the fuss about Finnish power Metallers Sonata Arctica but they have a lot of fans, including Xandria apparently as 'Don't Say A Word' is a pretty much note for note cover of one of their songs. An improvement on the original for me but this is a lot less interesting than the other cover tune here.

Female fronted Metal bands do throw up occasional bizarre cover versions (the Nightwish obsession with Aled Jones and 'Walking In The Air' springs to mind) and here we have another oddity. Have you ever wondered what the female fronted symphonic Metal take on Meat Loaf's 'I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)' would sound like? Me neither! Yet here it is!

I've listened to this version a few times now and I still can't make up my mind whether it is a ludicrous mis-step or enjoyable lunacy. The song is taken on pretty much head on with the guitar being a little heavier than the original and there is no doubting the talented Dutchwoman has the vocal chops to handle the song. The duet section with My Propane's Valerio Recenti holds up well too. However it is so different in vibe to the rest of the songs here I'm really not sure it was a good idea to include it.

I think this EP will keep the Xandria fan base happy although the reaction to the Meat Loaf cover tune will be interesting. That one song apart they are building on a new life and energy in the band and while I personally find they still sound a little bit too much much like Epica's little brother/sister for comfort at times there is much to enjoy here.

Line up:
Vocals: Dianne van Giersbergen
Guitar: Marco Heubaum
Guitar: Philip Restemeier
Bass: Steven Wussow
Drums: Gerit Lamm


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