Three years after the release of Sacrificium (2014) and an extensive world tour with over 150 shows under their collective belts (and corset), Germany’s symphonic powerhouse Xandria has returned with its most cohesive, colorful, heaviest, and catchiest album of their careers titled Theater of Dimensions. The band comprised of founder/guitarist Marco Heubaum, drummer Gerit Lamm, guitarist Philip Restemeier, bassist Steven Wussow, and lead vocalist, the charming and alluring Dianne van Giersbergen. This time, on Theater of Dimensions the band enlisted some very special guests to (pardon the pun) add another dimension to several tracks.
Guest vocals can be heard by mighty Henning Basse (Firewind) on the epic 15 minute title track, Zaher Zorgati(Myrath) adds a middle-eastern flavor to Burn Me, Björn Strid (Soilwork) lends his aggressive growls to We Are Murderers (We All) and Ross Thompson(Van Canto) is brought about the Ship of Doom. Renowned producer Joost van den Broek provides keyboards and narration on the sprawling epic Theater of Dimensions, and his production gives Theater of Dimensions orchestrations a lush and theatrical edge which never overpowers the instrumentation or vocals. Other special guests include Valerio Recenti on backing vocals, Ben Mathot on violin, David Faber on cello, Johannes Schiefner on villean pipes, and the PAdam Chamber Choir.
For the better part of their career and through no fault of their own, Xandria has always been thrown into the Nightwish clone category. But to be fair to the band, they have grown as a band and as songwriters through their seven album history. One of the reasons that the band has finally been able to stand out from the pack of fellow ‘female-fronted” orchestral symphonic metal bands is the addition of Dianne van Giersbergen after the departure of Manuela Kraller. Dutch soprano van Giersbergen (Ex Libris) adds the dramatic sophisticated flair that the bands sound has been desperately searching for to bring their music to the next level. Not only is van Giersbergen a skilled vocalist but she is also a remarkable front-person who can hold the audience in the palm of her hand throughout the bands energetic and theatrical performances.
Theater of Dimensions runs the gamut from the bombastic pomp and circumstance of Where The Heart Is Home, Lamm’s pounding drums are a highlight on the unrelenting Gaelic sound and symphonic power of Death To The Holy. Forsaken Love is a beautifully crafted folk metal ballad with one of the catchiest choruses Xandria have ever produced. Call of Destiny turns up the aggression levels with an uptempo speedy headbanging anthem. The albums first single, and possibly the heaviest song the band has ever recorded, We Are Murderers (We All), has a fierceness and power thanks to the heavy guitar rhythms and of course Bjorn Strid’s death growls which fit perfectly in the context of the song. The band switches gears to the orchestral power ballad, Dark Night Of The Soul, which really showcases van Giersbergen’s haunting dramatic and stirring vocals.
The bands doom metal influences are revealed on When The Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born) with huge riffs, dark choir melodies, and van Giersbergen’s ethereal vocals soaring to the stratosphere. Ship of Fools is another folk metal inspired classic in the making with powerful vocal melodies and razor sharp guitar riffs. Ceili is a instrumental that combines folk, symphonic, and power metal influences to create a perfect balance and a bridge to the next track Song For Sorrow And Woe, another uptempo metal anthem with melody, heavy guitars, and van Giersbergen’s transcendent vocals. Next up is my personal favorite song on Theater of Dimensions, Burn Me, featuring the skilled vocals of Zaher Zorgati of Tunisia’s progressive metal masters, Myrath. The song combines symphonic orchestral theatrical metal with middle-eastern, oriental melodies to create something truly unique and special. Queen Of Hearts Reborn is another strong symphonic metal track with bombast and a theatricality storytelling to van Giersbergen’s incredible vocals.
The albums last track is the sprawling epic title track that clocks in at almost fifteen minutes in length and takes the listener on an aural cinematic journey of symphonic orchestral metal with soaring highs and a strong guest appearance from Henning Basse of Firewind/MaYaN. While I hesitate to make the comparison, on the title track, the band stray close to Imaginaerum era Nightwish combined with the progressive rock opera theatricality of Ayreon. This is the perfect crescendo to end the finest album of Xandria’s career. I was lucky enough to see the band perform their new material on 70,000 Tons of Metal this year and I can definitely say the new songs translate perfectly to a live audience. For the uninitiated fans of symphonic and orchestral metal who are unfamiliar with Xandria’s extensive catalog, I would ask you to pick up Theater of Dimensions, you will not be disappointed.