Arjen Lucassen, the mastermind behind Ayreon, has been hard at work again. In this year full of turmoil and unexpected events, he has bestowed upon us a new multi-media project called Transitus (Mascot Label Group). You see, this is not merely an expertly composed progressive rock-opera with a cast of famous and talented performers. No, this time, we have a visual! Illustrated by Felix Vega, the 25-page comic complements the music and lyrics of the double album and gives the characters more personality. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
With the EP Fire & Ashes (Napalm), German Symphonic Metal band Xandria releases their second work to feature vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen.
Only the first three songs on the EP are new and original works. Opening number ‘Voyage of the Fallen’ is impressive with its use of orchestra and choir, but it lacks features that set it apart from other symphonic bands. In fact, it sounds like After Forever, Epica, and Nightwish rolled into one. ‘Unembraced’, however, has a much more unique feel with some guitar riffs and synths that feel more like NDH (Neue Deutsche Härte). This is new and interesting, and is something they should pursue if they want to really stand out from the crowd as the prospect of more high operatic vocals over NDH is very exciting. The final original song, ‘In Remembrance’, is very pure and small, and coupled with the theme and classical style this brings to mind ‘When I am Laid in Earth’ from the opera Dido and Aeneas.
The EP also features two re-releases of old songs, namely Ravenheart, previously on Ravenheart and ‘Now & Forever’, previously on India (both Drakkar). They are both good songs, but neither have enough individuality to really set them apart from other Symphonic Metal bands.
Then there are the two covers. One is Meatloaf’s ‘I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)’, and that actually works really well once they really immerse it in their own style. The other shows a serious lack of judgement, because it is Sonata Arctica’s ‘Don’t Say A Word’. Since this is the same genre of music, everything but the vocals is identical to the original. And the operatic vocals miss the sting that Tony Kakko gives to a line like “Open your blue eyes, tell me that you love me, whore!” Only the bridge is done in a very original manner. This would have been great as a live performance, because Xandria fans are bound to know Sonata Arctica, but it doesn’t have enough that’s recognisably Xandria – or at least, that’s not Sonata – in it to earn its place on an album.
With only three new songs, two old songs, and two covers, it is not clear to me why the band actually made this EP. The new material is good, and has a little more individuality than the older material, but it would be much better suited to an album of its own.