Around five years ago, German/Dutch Symphonic Metal band Xandria threw off the shackles of the Middle Eastern and Celtic romanticism prevalent on their first four albums, switched singers and promptly transformed themselves into Nightwish. Well okay, maybe not quite, but the similarities between the two bands recently are striking to say the least and on new album Theater of Dimensions (Napalm) it would now also appear they’ve absconded with Dutch compatriots Epica too.
Now, you might think this is a bad thing, but when some of the results are this enjoyable, you could be persuaded into forgiving them the occasional harmless abduction. ‘Where the Heart is Home’ and ‘Death to the Holy’ open the album strongly, the brilliant ‘Forsaken Love’ sounds like Nightwish stowed away on board James Cameron’s Titanic, and ‘Call of Destiny’ is nice and pacy, while the fast and thrashy ‘We Are Murderers (We All)’ features the first guest vocalist performance on the record, and suits Bjorn Strid of Soilwork fame perfectly. ‘Ship of Doom’, though, featuring Ross Thompson of German A cappella act Van Canto is a real disappointment, saved only by its chorus.
Things get back on track with the excellent ‘Burn Me’ which features a guest spot from Myrath vocalist Zaher Zorgati, and with its Middle Eastern flavour, is a welcome return for the old Xandria sound, and the album closes in ambitious style with a fourteen minute plus epic featuring several different sections, including a theatrical and rather melodramatic spoken word part, and a guest performance by Firewind vocalist Henning Basse. It’s never dull, but owes more to Imaginaerum (Nuclear Blast) than even they should probably be comfortable with.
Theater of Dimensions will keep them sitting nicely alongside or above a lot of other acts in the genre, only really in the shadow of bands like Nightwish, Epica, and Within Temptation.