- - - - - -

Xandria - Sacrificium

Xandria - CD Review




2014 Release
Napalm Records
English Lyrics
9 /10






Few bands in the female-fronted metal scene have had a history as rocky as that of Xandria, who have gone through 3 new singers since the 2007 departure of original vocalist Lisa Middelhauve, not to mention a huge one-eighty as far as the group’s musical direction is concerned. While the first four albums built upon the band’s original straightforward pop-metal with touches of gothic, industrial, and middle eastern influences, Xandria’s previous effort took a drastic turn toward fairly traditional symphonic metal, full of bombast and blast beats alike. And you know what? It worked. Neverworld’s End was one of the most enjoyable symphonic metal releases in years.

Now Xandria is back with a new record and another new singer, and it looks like this is the sound they’re sticking with. Admittedly, there’s nothing particularly original here, much as it was with the band’s last effort, and normally I don’t like comparing bands to one another in my reviews but it’s hard not to do so when comparisons are so blatantly invited to be made. While Neverworld’s End sounded remarkably similar to early Nightwish, Sacrificium sounds remarkably like Epica, spoken word passages, epic choirs, orchestration, and all (seriously, take one listen to “Temple of Hate” and tell me that “Quietus” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind). But here’s the catch: it’s really good! In fact, this is what I wish the new Epica album sounded like. No one makes symphonic metal like this anymore and it seems like Xandria have taken up that torch and run with it, and they certainly aren’t looking back. Sacrificium includes all of the big choirs and symphonic bombast one could hope for all while retaining some of the melodic catchiness, power metal influences, and inevitable bits of cheesiness that made the previous album so enjoyable. The 10-minute opening title track throws it all at you at once and is a perfect showcase of what Sacrificium as an album is all about, moving seamlessly from tracks like “Nightfall,” which wouldn’t sound out of place on a particularly epic Hans Zimmer score, to the heavy riffing of “Betrayer,” to the enchanting closing ballad “Sweet Atonement.” New vocalist Diane van Giersbergen plays her part flawlessly. Though her vocal delivery isn’t particularly unique either, she sounds perfectly pleasant throughout the album and fits the music like a glove.

So what if Sacrificium sounds more than a little bit like Epica without the growling? Frankly, I kind of wish Epica still sounded like this, as they’ve moved off in a direction I’m not particularly fond of. The point is that this album is everything a symphonic metal album should be and more. This is exactly what I wanted to hear from Xandria, and I am not in the least bit disappointed. It’s even better than Neverworld’s End, especially since the ballads are far less cheesy this time around and the whole album has a more cinematic feel to it than its predecessor. Needless to say, if you like what Xandria did last time, you’ll love this too. Actually, if you like symphonic metal at all, I’ll be shocked if you don’t like this album. As bigger names in the scene move on to bigger and not-necessarily-better things, I’m glad at least one band is sticking to the sound that made me fall in love with this genre in the first place.