Published on Thursday, 23 July 2015 17:24
Album title: Fire & Ashes [EP]
Release date: 31 July 2015
Label: Napalm Records
01. Voyage Of The Fallen
03. In Remembrance
04. I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That) (Meat Loaf cover)
06. Now & Forever
07. Don't Say A Word (Sonata Arctica cover)
After two marvelous albums, Neverworld's End (2012) and Sacrificium (2014) the German masters of symphonic metal Xandria established themselves as one of the leading European acts of the genre. Especially last year released Sacrificium with which Xandria presented the new lead singer Dianne van Giersbergen got my sympathies (read a review over HERE). Dianne added a special touch to the music of Xandria with her powerful soprano voice and catchy songs like "Nightfall" and "Dreamkeeper" were in my case on repeat for a long time. Now the band which in my opinion fullfiled with grace the space left empty when Tarja left Nightwish is back with this exclusive EP symbolicaly titled Fire & Ashes. Xandria who were formed back in 1994 and since then released six full-lenght albums, a couple of EP's, they even broke up for a short period between 1997-1999, though their debut album, Kill The Sun, was released in 2003, must be credited for their enigmatic version of symphonic metal which often expands into teritories of gothic metal, cinematic music and operatic metal, and the perfection those musicians present with each and every track is certainly high above average.
Now, the EP in question, Fire & Ashes, is a stylistical continuation of last years Sacrificium, just a quick look at the front cover confirms that before even hearing the first sounds. The EP offers seven tracks, three of them are completely new, two are reworked old hits of the band and two cover tracks. The first two new tracks, "Voyage Of The Fallen" and "Unembraced" are just examples of Xandria's potential, the sound and compositions don't differ that much from those on their latest album, you'll get dense and rich sound texture, bombastic elements, catchy melodies, cohesive symphonic orchestrations, everything is there, even Dianne's voice is now a bit more operatic. Then the magical, but to be honest a bit weak semi ballad "In Remembrance" for example surprises with its classical insertions and orchestral elements. Xandria then blows everything away with the incredible cover of Meat Loaf's hit "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)". This evergreen rock ballad gets another dimension with those new symphonic suits and what's on the original version sangt by male vocals is now by female vocals and vice versa. Then the cover version of Sonata Arctica's "Don't Say A Word",... what can I say, I never liked this band and neither does this version triggers any kind of sympathies from my side, even though it's much better than the original. But let's leave it with that... Then the two fan fave tracks, which were completely re-recorded showcase the band at its very best. Although I must admit that the new version of "Ravenheart" (originally from their breakthrough album Ravenheart released in 2004) doesn't reach my expectations I had for this one, I expected to get much more rich and dense sound, also Dianne doesn't seem to be on her best right here. The story with "Now & Forever" (originally released on the album India in 2005) is fortunately much better, maybe also the sole nature of the song allows it and the band kept that special gothic/symphonic catchy flow intact, but this time enriched it with more powerful production, everything sounds more bombastic and Dianne's vocals fit much better here.
Like I said in the first paragraph, Xandria is here to take the throne of the European symphonic metal, only if they'll continue this way. I believe that this rather special EP is just a conclusion of Sacrificium era and as well a teaser for something even greater that should come with their next album. It seems that the chemistry between those musicians is on the top at this moment and if they'll be fortunate enough the fans of the genre will cherish what they do with love and dedication. This EP is a must for everyone who finds in female fronted symphonic music some satisfaction, but as well it should be enjoyable for everyone who misses and is searching for some good female fronted metal with remarkable, talented and yet good looking vocalist.
Review written by: T.V.