“Theater of Dimensions” by Xandria

Xandria’s seventh release, Theater of Dimensions, lives up to its name. It is a 75 minute opus of metal, classical, electronica and a dab of pop. The track “Death To The Holy” is a catchy hard rocker with a folk influence. That folk influence continues on the mournful ballad “Forsaken Love.” Dianne van Giersbergen’s soothing vocals complement the downtuned guitars and choppy string sample. Things take a turn for the heavy on “We Are Murderers (We All)” which features Soilwork vocalist Bjorn Strid. Guitarists Marco Heubaum and Philip Restemeier throw out some solid leads and the riffs are satisfactory, but a bit tame by metal standards. Of course, Xandria is not an extreme metal act so any hopes of blast beats and Slayer type riffing are pointless. “Dark Night Of The Soul” is a hidden gem on Theater. This haunting ballad begins with Van Giersbergen’s vocals accompanied by a piano, before the drums and guitar kick in. The track maintains a steady beat with a beautiful guitar solo for good measure. There is a doom metal influence at the start of “When The Walls Came Down.” The choir samples accentuate the sorrowful mood on this track before the band transitions into a mid-tempo groove. The 14 minute long title track concludes the record in grandiose fashion. The classical samples are again used to melodramatic effect, with van Giersbergen’s operatic vocals heightening the experience of this track.

Theater of Dimensions is ambitious, at times a bit too ambitious. Xandria are certainly a talented outfit, but sometimes the vocals and samples are just over the top. There is little restraint on this record, which is not good when things become comical. Symphonic metal is rife with pretentiousness and Xandria is guilty of it on this album. The album is still enjoyable and there are some good tracks. However, at times the quintet does too much. When the band is on point, the songs are dynamic and compelling. The production on Theater is top notch and the vocals are loud and clear on a stereo. The only setback is the drumming is bland and almost sounds programmed. However, the guitars and samples are present in the mix and are not drowned out.

Xandria did not hold back on its seventh album. Theater of Dimensions is certainly a listening experience, albeit tedious at times. Fans of the band should enjoy it as the 13 tracks average to 4-5 minutes in length. Thus there is plenty of music on this record. However, people new to symphonic may want to listen to something a bit more palatable.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s website:

http://xandria.de/

CD Review: “Moonbathers” by Delain

Delain’s latest release, Moonbathers, successfully blends crunchy riffs with symphonic flair. The opening track, “Hands of Gold” is replete with galloping riffs and majestic orchestral samples. The track is straightforward with a stronger emphasis on heaviness than sheer complexity. There is a nice groove on “The Glory and The Scum”, the initial single on Moonbathers. A harsh critique on humanity and our lust for violence and corruption, vocalist Charlotte Wessels’ angelic voice contrasts with the track’s cynical lyrics. The downbeat “The Hurricane” is notable for its use of pathetic fallacy, using nature to symbolize human emotions. The track lacks the impact of other songs on the record and takes a while to grow on the listener. However, the somber ambience on “Chrysalis-The Last Breath” tugs at the heart thanks to the electronic percussion and dissonant piano. The aggressive “Pendulum” has a hooky riff that gets the head banging and a couple of nice guitar leads.

Moonbathers is an accessible record that is neither too heavy or too orchestral. Delain does not make things too complex on this record. The guitar riffs are catchy and crunchy and complement the classical samples. The production is top notch which is no surprise as Ted Jensen mastered the album. Jensen is a Grammy winning master engineer that has worked with such bands as Behemoth, Down, Pantera and Trivium.

Delain’s fifth album is a solid symphonic metal album. Fans of extreme metal will probably avoid Moonbathers, but the album’s polished sound and accessible songs will draw a large diverse audience. There is much to appreciate about Moonbathers and Delain’s popularity will continue to grow with this album.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website: http://www.delain.nl/

CD Review: ‘I Worship Chaos’ by Children of Bodom

Children of Bodom are a four-piece for the first time in its 20-plus year career. Roope Latvala left the band this past May before the recording of I Worship Chaos. Well, the absence of a second guitarist has not hindered the band’s aggression. “I Hurt” kicks the album off in hard hitting fashion. The stomping guitar riffs and pulsating drums drive this track and remove any doubts that the band is “soft” now. “My Bodom (I Am The Only One)” combines elements of thrash and 80s sleaze rock. The band seamlessly shifts from Motley Crue to Slayer and back without a hint of awkwardness. Keyboardist, Janne Wirman, stands out on this track with some nice leads, while Laiho throws out a sick solo. The Gothic inspired “Morrigan” is atmospheric with a strong mid-tempo beat. Again Laiho’s masterful guitar work keeps the song interesting and unpredictable. There is a dreamlike feeling on this track with the eerie keyboard and frigid guitar passages. “Prayer for the Afflicted” is a somber dirge with weeping guitar and depressed keys. Fans of the band’s faster material will find solace in “Horns” and the complex “Suicide Bomber.”

I Worship Chaos successfully melds Bodom’s influences for easy consumption. The band’s death metal, thrash, classical, gothic and sleaze metal roots are out for the world to see. Alex Laiho and the guys do not force it, thus the album is never contrived. Bodom’s greatest strength is its ability to balance recklessness with musical dexterity. The band knows when to swing for the fences and when to relent. Production wise the album is top notch. Mikko Karmilla mixed and co-produced the band’s previous record Halo of Blood, and does a great job on this one. The recording process must have gone smoothly because Bodom have never sounded better.

I Worship Chaos should win over Bodom fans not fond of the band’s past few releases. The record has a good number of thrashers to tide them over, and a few cuts that could garner airplay. Here is hoping the band continues to worship chaos with reckless devotion.

Check out the band’s website for news and tour dates: http://cobhc.com/site/

 

CD Review: ‘Fire & Ashes’ by Xandria

Hot off the release of its 2014 release Sacrficium, Dutch symphonic metal outfit Xandria’s new EP, Fire & Ashes, is a mix of old and new. The mini-album features 3 new songs, two covers, and two re-recordings of older songs. Vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen is the focal point of this album. Her operatic vocals effortlessly soar above the classical riffs and pounding drums. This is evident on the opening track “Voyage of the Fallen.” The baroque inspired track is both dynamic and epic. Dianne’s soothing vocals contrast against the aggressive music making for an interesting listen. The band shows its diverse influences on “Unembraced” as it blends techno, classical piano and metal. The band pulls it off well and it does not sound odd or disjointed. This is attributed to the band’s simplified approach to the songs. Power and symphonic metal is often criticized for being pretentious and over the top. The criticism is often justified, which is why it is refreshing that Xandria does not tread the same path. The downbeat ballad “In Rememrance” stands out for its laid back drum beat, dissonant piano keys and somber guitar lead. The track is bound to become a fan favorite and will be frequently played at concerts. The re-recorded track “Ravenheart” does not deviate much from the original recordings and essentially shows the range of Dianne. However, the updated version of “Now and Forever” is heavier and bombastic than the original which may impress or disappoint fans.

The production of Fire & Ashes is strong and shows off the vocal power of the van Giersbergen. The vocals do not drown out the instruments, as the band’s heavy, powerful sound is not diminished. The pianos, strings, and electronic samples are very audible, allowing the listener to hear the nuances of each track.

In short Fire & Ashes is a good stop gap EP that should tide over fans until the next proper release. It is also a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the band. Fans deadset on owning everything Xandria should pick this up. However, casual listeners should still give the release a listen.

Learn more about the band at http://xandria.de/.