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Xandria - Theater of Dimensions

Label: Napalm Records
Format: CD Download
Released: 2017
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 7.5/10

The Elsa Metal sub-genre* has swelled in numbers in recent years, building a strong core of artists and audiences, in spite of very little attention from mainstream channels. These bands have built a base of players and fans, borrowing from the Prog and Power metal worlds, and maybe occasionally attracting Pop-Metal listeners. With 2017's "Theater of Dimensions," Xandria could assert themselves into a leadership position in this world of symphonic/theatrical, classically-trained, Disney-Princess-sounding, female vocalist-led Metal (That's a mouthful; hence my suggestion for the "Elsa Metal" moniker). Xandria's lead Vocalist, Dianne van Giersbergen, absolutely dazzles; she could land leading roles with just about any opera house in the world. Her voice shines over the foundation of strings, power guitar and bass, upon a mantle of Power/Death Metal double-bass drums. All due respect to the others in Xandria, their fortunes will go as far as she can take them. This is the kind of band who could surge in renown, if they could land an airing of a PBS concert. Their appeal is generally for an older Metal crowd, but I could see young music geeks - - especially girls with vocal training - - connecting with their sound too. They share a number of commonalities with their sisters and brothers in this sound, e.g. Amaranthe or Delain, using the orchestral and Metal scales and instrumentation to evoke sounds and tones of film scores, putting the listeners on the Medieval European battlefields, the rolling hillsides, or the deck of James Cameron's Titanic, through rockers and ballads alike. One of the best tracks on the album, "Call of Destiny," is a perfect representation of the band; part "Carmina Burana," part "You Are a Pirate," part "That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates," part "Let It Go," part Dragonforce's "Heart of a Dragon." Much of the rest blends together in a wash of violins and horns, with some occasional uncomfortably cheesy spoken voice-acting - - especially egregious in the title track - - but there are also some standouts: "Where the Heart is Home" is an attention-grabbing first track, and the James Horner-esque "Forsaken Love" is a pretty ballad. They take an interesting turn with "We Are Murderers," which, in spite of its silly title, delivers the goods, bringing a bloody, meaty Death Metal riff, and sporting male DM growls to accompany van Giersbergen.


*The Elsa Metal sub-genre isn't a recognized thing, just my silly shorthand label; but there are plenty of contemporary bands out there with a Metallized Disney Princess sound. -Jack


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