Published on Monday, 28 April 2014 19:25
Album title: Sacrificium
Release date: 2 May 2014
Label: Napalm Records
05. The Undiscovered Land
07. Until The End
08. Come With Me
09. Little Red Relish
10. Our Neverworld
11. Temple Of Hate
12. Sweet Atonement
If Germans Xandria were in a rather decline in the period from 2004 to 2007, the band returned in 2012 with a marvelous album Neverworld's End. With a new energy, completely refined style and a new singer, they found a niche that was left open after Tarja and the rest of Nightwish didn't found a shared journey anymore. Yes, I know that there is no other band in the symphonic metal genre that had so many followers like afore mentioned Finns, but Xandria are in my opinion the only band which shows what could become if the chemistry in Finnish camp still worked out. With all this I don't try to say that they are just a mere copycat, no, they have a lot of individual qualities. They stunned in a big way the fans of female fronted metal with previous, before mentioned album and they are returning even more victorious.
I was a bit afraid when very talented Manuela Kraller said goodbye, she was with the band for three years and decided to leave them last year. In a short time they've found a replacement in gorgeus frontwoman of Ex Libris, Dianne van Giersbergen (in case you'll wonder, she claims not to be in any relationship with Dutch singer Anneke van Giersbergen) and yes, you know what most time happens when a band so often changes the main singers... Ok, not in the case of Xandria, they've had a fortunate hand this time as Dianne is one hell of a vocalist. She, like was Manuela, can be compared on many levels with Tarja, but Dianne's soprano is a bit more high pitched.
Not only the singer, but the whole instrumental side and song compositions many times remind to Nightwish, but on Sacrificium we got a bit more elaborated song structures than on its predecessor, there's more diversity and the whole thing is rather more dynamic. I won't be writing what kind of perfectionists are all of involved musicians, as everything is played with excellence. Xandria's sound enthuses with stunning melodies, many catchy refrains, bombastic symphonic orchestrations, some traditional celtic-folk insertions and sweeping vocal lines. You'll notice also some crushing cavalcading elements that will remind you to Therion's Secret Of The Runes, especially in the epic opener "Sacrificium", or in the "Temple Of Hate", just to expose some of them. Then the keyboards can sometimes remind to those of Dimmu Borgir's era Enthrone Darkness Triumphant, just listen to "Betrayer". Or again some of the folkish elements can smell of Skyclad. But still, let's not forget the main reference - Nightwish.
I was blown away by many vocal choirs and operatic insertions. Dianne really adds the right mood and character to each song up here, but hers and as well bands best qualities are shown in the first three mind-blowing tracks. Ten minutes long opener title track is a true masterpiece by all means, then I believe that "Nightfall" and "Dreamkeeper" will be on repeat for a long time by each and every fan of symphonic metal music. You won't forget so easily the main choruses in those two, such a marvelous combination of bombastic symphonic elements and catchy pop melodies is addictive by all means. Also the rest of the album has its magnificient moments, like the epic semi ballad, kind of Nightwish clone - era Once, "The Undiscovered Land", can't be ignored as its adventurous vibe is a fairytale on its own and can easily take you out of this time and space. Or "Come With Me" with its delicate melodies and tender closing, piano and viola driven song "Sweet Atonement", are all real beauties.
Sacrificium gave me back the faith in this specific genre, as I encountered many shallow releases lately. It once again shows that a good symphonic metal album needs a pitch perfect singer and excellent musicians. In Xandria's case the only questionable thing is originality, but since the fans of the genre lost Nightwish/Tarja almost ten years ago then I don't see a problem here by fulfilling this gap. Perfect arrangements of orchestral parts in symbiosis with metal music are crowned with a crystal clear production. Yes, Xandria have become in my opinion the true kings of symphonic metal. Well done Xandria!
Review written by: T.V.