Xandria
Sacrificum
(Napalm Records)

I must admit that I’m not very familiar with Xandria, but noticed the Nightwish influence instantly. Apparently this is the band’s sixth album and their last one sounded something in the vein of Nightwish’s Oceanborn, (which I’ll have to check it out, because that sounds far too amazing to be true) but they’ve gone through some big line-up changes and the album suffered for it. But I can’t really be sure of any of this, as it’s from a short review I read of the album earlier. But you don’t want me to paraphrase some other guy’s review, so let me give you my own thoughts.

From the very first track, (which just happens to be the title cut) I was struck with wonderment. If the last album sounded like Oceanborn, then this one sounds like Once. There’s a great deal of heavy riffs being thumped about on the album, complete with some ultimately memorable solo sections. Newcomer and sultry siren, Dianne Van Giersbergen (not related to Anneke) is an absolute dead ringer for Tarja Turunen, so I think that fans who miss the supremely operatic vocals of Nightwish’s earlier work will find something majestically powerful in her mesmerizing vocal harmonies. As one might expect for the music, there is certainly quite a bit of orchestration to back these power-metal hymns; so nothing has changed on that front. And if Once had its hit in “Nemo” then surely Sacrificum has it’s hit in “Dreamkeeper.” Oddly enough, both songs even share the same vibe and riff melody combinations. But then you’ll get a thrashing about the head with “Stardust” which also finds time for some keyboards amongst its Helloween and Sonata Arctica style theatrics. For some reason, I’m also a little reminded a bit of “The Song Of The Lonely Mountain” from The Hobbit when I hear “The Undiscovered Land.” It also contains a share of Celtic flute and the sort of building grandiosity that one might expect from the band. ”Betrayer” throws in the thrash, as “Come With Me” brings the sort of theatric that we’d certainly expect from Nightwish’s classic work. Clearly all of the classic Nightwish albums have been in some way regurgitated in the form of Xandria, which proves that with time, great things can indeed reformulate themselves. You’ve also got the bizarre “Little Red Relish” which features a definite mound of thundering down-tuned riff melodies that help to give the track a bit of groove amidst the grandeur. The album closes off with the piano-laden ballad, “Sweet Atonement” which seems a welcome sendoff for the disc. There are no bonus tracks to speak of, leaving this to be the final note for the album; but yet again; there really don’t need to be umpteen million extra remixes and cast-offs and instrumental versions of the tracks on this album. It’s fine just the way it is and that’s how you’ll be getting it. Xandria may have changed quite a bit from the removal their longtime frontwoman Lisa Middelhauve and then from the removal of her replacement Maneula Kraller, (who only performed one album with the band) but with Dianne Van Giersbergen they show that they’re not going down without a fight. Some say this is the best album in the band’s career, while others say that it’s just sub-par. So give Sacrificum a chance and decide for yourself as to whether or not this phoenix flies high, or crumbles into ash. As for me, I’m still looking up into the sky with wonderment.

Purchase Sacrificum here: http://shop.napalmrecords.com/xandria

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