CD Review: “Alba” by Sleeping Romance

Sleeping Romance’s sophomore effort, Alba, is prime with heavy riffs and soaring operatic vocals. “Where The Light Is Bleeding” is a crushing track with pounding guitar riffs interspersed with piano and strings that accentuates the somber mood of this song. “Lost In My Eyes” is a fast paced catchy tune with intricate guitar harmonies that are both beautiful and haunting. Vocalist Federica Lanna’s voice is so serene yet powerful as she sings of fighting to uncover the truth. “Touch The Sun” continues the theme of self-discovery and determination. Musically, the song is groove oriented and features horns during the track’s midsection. “Forgiveness” is one of the longest songs on Alba and the centerpiece. A song about a scorned former lover, the emotional content of the lyrics makes way for a musical roller coaster of baroque riffs and guitar virtuosity. “Across The Sea” is a placid ballad that paints a picture of a crew resting for the night as the ship sails to its next destination. The title track is the penultimate song and barges in like an army through the gates of its enemy’s castle. The rolling percussion crashes like a battering ram while the guitars are lockstep in the melee. The unorthodox rhythm changes on the song add to the chaos making this a thrilling track from beginning to end.

This record is notable for its superb musicianship and songwriting. I have stated numerous times that symphonic and power metal bands are infamous for crafting pretentious compositions that go nowhere. That is not the case on Alba, as the songs are catchy but maintain a degree of complexity. The duel guitar attack of Truzzi Federico and Fabrizio Incao is both pulverizing and grandiose. Lanna’s vocals are strong and coherent and complements the sonic assault backing her.

Alba is a very good record and perfect for the season. There is a cold, rigid emotion on this album which makes it suitable for the Autumn and Winter. The album is somewhat accessible for casual fans of metal, although some tracks are fairly heavy. That being said, fans of Delain, Xandria or Serenity should definitely check this album out.

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

“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:

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.

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