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Xandria - Theater of Dimensions
Written by Eastcoaster   
Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Xandria - CD Review
Theater of Dimensions

Xandria - Theater of Dimensions 

CD Info
2017
Napalm Records
13 Tracks
English Lyrics

Xandria, the Symphonic Metal Band from Germany, is releasing its seventh full length album at the end of this month. Theater of Dimensions is a delight for the listener, who gets to experience, besides Symphonic Metal, a wide range of Metal sub-genres, which include Folk, Thrash, and even Opera. Also included, as a bonus, is a Sea Chanty. This album has plenty of energy, instrumentally and vocally, whether it is the band, choir, orchestra, or guest vocalists. Dianne’s voice is as strong and flexible as ever, and there is great interaction between her, the band, and the guest vocalists. Her addition has enabled Xandria to raise the bar musically. It will also be a treat for concert goers, because this album is a theatrical production, on a grandiose scale. As the music is performed, one can visually see it playing out on the stage, especially the final song.

For information concerning the origins of the band, please check the band’s website (link is at the bottom of the review) or my previous review that can be seen here. Overall, the band released five full length albums, before Diane joined the band. They include Kill the Sun (2003), Ravenheart (2004), and India (2005). The other ones include Salomé: The Seventh Veil (2007), Neverworld’s End (2012). Wolfsnächte 2015 Tour EP was released that contained songs performed by other bands besides Xandria. In addition, there were six singles released of songs from the full length albums. In 2008, they released a compilation titled “Now and Forever.” Besides Theater of Dimensions, Xandria released, since Dianne joined the band, the full length album, Sacrificium, an EP, Fire and Ashes, and two singles from the new album, “We are Murderers” (We All) (2016) and “Call of Destiny” (2017).

“Where the Heart is Home” opens the album. There is a soft drum beat that gradually crescendos to bring in the other instruments. The orchestral strings softly enter with a four note staccato pattern, along with a rolling drum beat underneath, which also gets louder. Against this are horns and winds playing a countermelody. This leads to the choir entering with the melody against the orchestra. The choir gives way to the band entering with driving guitars and drums. Over the band is the orchestra playing in a staccato manner. Diane enters with the melody, very sustained and some vocal harmony. Both she and the choir sing the chorus in unison, with Diane at the upper range of her voice. The interlude is a nice drum solo and the second verse has her singing over the drums with the staccato played by the guitars before the choir enters again. This song has an operatic sound at times. There is a section with driving guitar with orchestral counters that give way to an extended guitar solo. Diane enters softly with the melody, while the choir chants the older lyrics, and then she soars. This leads to an acoustic guitar playing the melody before Diane comes in with the same pattern. Behind her, singing softly, is a female chorus providing a counter melody. The song end with a grand finale similar to the previous choir parts.

The next song, “Death to the Holy,” is interesting musically. A drum solo introduces the song, giving way to an Irish sounding melody played by guitar and synthesized keys. Before the vocals there is a driving guitar and drum beat. The vocals come in on the offbeat, giving a syncopated feel to them, along with the drums, which seems to propel the song along. Diane sustains her parts with ease and many times both she and the choir are singing in unison. Midway through, the song becomes very symphonic with the choir and orchestra playing. In the middle of this is a blazing, guitar solo, with the choir. The Irish sound re-enters with the melody before Diane sings it. She then switches to a counter melody while the choir sings the melody. A surprise is how the song ends suddenly.

“Forsaken Love,” “Dark Night of the Soul,” and “Song for Sorrow and Woe” would be considered ballads, despite having moments of metal mixed in. The first song opens with piano and a whistle flute for an Irish lilt. Dianne’s voice is very soft and expressive, with a counter melody played by the flute. The second verse has some vocal harmony, and the bass and drums become more prominent. As the song progresses, it crescendos with more of the orchestra and band playing. Halfway through, there is a back and forth between her and the choir, that leads to a short guitar solo. There are times when her voice shows vulnerability, and then the song ends strongly with both her, and at the very end, the choir. “Dark Night of the Soul” uses the piano quite effectively at the beginning, and throughout the song with Dianne. In the second verse, a cello plays a very effective countermelody to her and the piano. The third verse adds the drums, bass, and the wind section of the orchestra, which leads to the next part with vocal harmony. Midway through, the choir and Dianne sing in unison that gives way to a nice and pretty long guitar solo, supported by the band and choir at the end. Dianne renters quite strongly and the song soon involves the orchestra, choir and band in full force. Her voice toward the end has a gritty side to it before the piano ends the song. The third one, “Song for Sorrow and Woe,” opens with Dianne singing “ahs” over the orchestra, and then the band joins in with that four note staccato pattern. Next, it breaks into a standard metal beat with her singing the melody. At times she sounds operatic with her voice soaring with the “ahs.” A guitar solo provides the interlude and then the song has a small part that is played with heavy, distorted guitar. A Middle Eastern sound starts with an instrument that provides that flavor. Dianne’s voice, for this section, has a wailing aspect to it, and as the song nears the end, the “ahs” return and the guitar mimics the voice until they fade.

Another song in which the band created a video is “Call of Destiny.” This is another song where the band exhibits a lot of energy. There is the sound of wind, which introduces the song before the vocals and heavy guitars enter with a driving beat. The melody seems choppy, yet it works quite effectively for the song. Along with Dianne, the choir enters with the melody in unison. This gives way to a nicely done guitar solo, and then Dianne takes over the story, along with some nice vocal harmony. The choir joins in for the chorus. Another guitar solo leads into the next verse and her vocals become stronger. After a chorus, there is a heavy part with heavy metal guitars, drums, and an extended guitar solo. The female vocals and choir enters again, before the choir takes over the melody, and Dianne soars vocally over everyone. Unison vocals ends the song. A video that the band created for this song may be viewed here.

“When the Walls came Down” opens with a heavy metal beat played by guitars and drums. This leads to the choir’s entrance, who emphasis parts of the melody played by the guitar. Dianne then sings over the driving guitars and drum. Her voice is very strong and sustained throughout the song. The melody is interesting in that it has several smaller phrases put together with slight pauses between. After the second verse, there is a return to the opening instrumentation, with the choir entering once again. The song changes as the guitars take on a driving beat and her voice is gritty, and there is a short call and response with herself, before the earlier melody returns. At the end of the song, Dianne vocals are strong and emphasized singing the title of the song.

A very interesting song, whose message should cause us to reflect, is “We Are Murderers (We All).” This song is a strong statement by the band about how mankind is responsible for how we are treating one another and the earth. Guest vocalist Henning Basse (Firewind, Mayan) is almost evil in his vocals. The song opens with many voices making statements over four staccato drum strikes that are repeated. Then the choir enters with the title of the song over the drum strikes and bass. Next, distorted guitars enter with a metal beat. The drums are very driving and the heavy guitar enter again with short riffs added. Dianne’s voice has a sense of urgency in the lyrics and tone over the driving drums. With the choir, we have the chorus of the song, in unison. The second verse is similar to the first, with urgency and the choir joining for the chorus. Guitars take over driving the song along, with, snippets of strings and piano added. A solo guitar leads into the next section which is similar to the beginning. Next, the choir takes over chanting the chorus, and over this, Dianne sings “We are, We are,” stretching it over the chants. All the voices join in unison for the chorus, and then we hear Henning in snippets, before he enters with growling, over the driving guitars and drums. We hear a slight cacophony of sound before the song suddenly ends. There is also a video, some may find disturbing, for the song, which may be viewed with this link.

“Ship of Doom” and “Céili” are two Folk Metal Songs, even though the second one is purely instrumental. The first song opens with the choir singing four part harmony, with much expression, before the band enters. The guitar is distorted and heavy sounding with a second guitar joining later. Then guitar plays along with the choir for a short time. Next, with a folk instrument playing underneath, we have the guest vocalist, Ross Thompson (Van Canto/ The Display), narrating a numerical countdown that is chant-like. Dianne enters with the melody that is strong and sustained. A short choir entrance leads to another countdown by Ross, and Dianne repeats her previous part. Next, a long instrumental part is provided by the band and a guitar solo. The choir enters and provides short, staccato phrases, with the band providing the driving beat, especially in the drums. Dianne’s next entrance has her sounding like a siren calling out to sailors, sweetly and sustained, for a brief time, before the choir enters again with the original melody. The ending has Dianne joining the choir for a repeat of the chorus. Over a driving guitar, the short phrases are sung emphatically by the vocalists. “Céili” is lively, and melodically, a continuation of “Ship of Doom.” The instrumentalists sound like they are really enjoying themselves and the song flows smoothly. Some of the instruments that do not get recognized as melodic instruments get a chance to play the melody at times during the song. A really nice feature of the song is a semi-fugue that occurs around the middle of the song, and a special treat was hearing an accordion.

The song “Burn Me” opens with the choir, singing before the drums enter, and then the orchestra plays a short interlude. A short guitar riff precedes Dianne’s entrance for the first verse and then guest vocalist Zaher Zugati (Myrath) sings the second verse. Both vocalists sing the chorus in unison, and the next verse in sections. After that there is some vocal playing back and forth between the two of them. Following the next chorus, there is an instrumental interlude, where Zaher enters with a Middle Eastern sound similar to a wail (chant). Next, over the instruments, mainly guitar, Dianne vocalizes with a mixture of syllables, which leads to the chorus once again. Some of it is in unison and the phrase “never let me go” is repeated several times until the end of the song. Zaher’s vocals are strong, sustained, and with emotion, especially in the part that sounds Middle Eastern. “Queen of Hearts Reborn” opens with a very nice, acoustic guitar solo, and Dianne’s voice enters sweetly, near her upper range. Next, the choir enters, with the band providing the accompaniment. The melody is in short phrases and emphasized. Then her voice is much softer and sustained, with some nice female vocal harmony. Some neat interplay occurs between Dianne and the choir, and she sounds like she is enjoying her part. After she has a spoken part, there is an extended guitar solo that is played well. The next section has more vocal interplay between Dianne and the choir, along with a key change. Over a light orchestral sound, she provides more narration until the end.

The songs are so well composed and performed that it is truly difficult to choose a favorite. Even so, I have to choose “Theater of Dimensions,” the final song, and also the longest, as my pick. This song is a microcosm of the whole album, a sort of mini-opera, in a way. It has multiple parts, yet the transitions are so smooth and good, that one is sad that it has to actually end. Guest vocalist Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork) is superb in his role as an antithesis to Dianne. The beginning is interesting in that it is triple meter, a little unusual for Metal bands. The feeling of a waltz gives a nice beginning to the song, and the vocals play well against it. A piano playing the melody, and a cello playing a countermelody, start the song before Dianne enters with the melody, with a soft and expressive voice. The cello plays a counter melody and she reminisces about conversations with her father in verse one and mother in verse two. Then the song changes meter, which comes from the orchestra that is quite lively. All families of the orchestra are used and the guitars have a heavy metal sound. Dianne vocally matches the melody started by orchestra, which is choppier. This leads to her vocally soaring over the choir that comes in with the melody. An extended guitar solo precedes a repeat vocally of Dianne and the choir. Then Bjorn enters with narration. A softer section of the song is partially sung, some a cappella and spoken by her. We are surprised, next, by a much rougher sound from Dianne, where she is almost shouting, and this matches Bjorn’s vocals in this section. Enter the choir and we segue into the next section, which is played by keys and includes a nice guitar solo. The guest vocalist enters once again, and he continues with narration explaining how he has gained control of her. Next come a circus-style instrumental interlude, and then the Bjorn begins a vocal round, with first two parts, then another part is added. Dianne enters with short snippets in an attempt to respond to his vocals. They both come together in unison for a short time, before it becomes a back and forth between the two of them. It accelerates and crescendo, with maniacal laughter added to a maddening end. The tone softens with more expressive lyrics and vocals from Dianne, before a drum solo leads to the choir entrance, with Dianne again soaring over them. This continues in grandeur before ending up in unison vocally. Right before the end, there is a change back to triple meter and Dianne returns with the opening melody, both softly, and with expression, singing the story to her children.

I can count on one hand the number of times that I have experienced an album that has pleasantly kept me attuned aurally like this one. Despite the length of most of the songs, there is so much activity and changes musically; that as one listens to the story, it causes one to forget the length. The scope is so theatrical, that I, for one, would love to see this album performed in all its splendor. Also, the songs are musically diverse, whether, a Sea Chanty, Symphonic Metal, Folk, Thrash, or Opera. The guest vocalists, orchestra, and choir all combine to bring Theater of Dimensions to life. This is definitely an album that Symphonic Metal Fans will not want to miss. But be warned, you will not be able to listen to this album only once. For additional information on the band, please check out the following links:

www.xandria.de
www.facebook.com/xandriaofficial

9.95/10

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