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Xandria - Fire and Ashes

Xandria - EP Review
Fire and Ashes

Xandria - Fire & Ashes



EP Info
Napalm Records
7 Tracks
English Lyrics

Xandria, the Symphonic Metal Band from Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany is releasing their first EP with their new female vocalist, Dianne van Giersbergen. This EP is an exciting mixture of songs. Three songs are new and feature their new vocalist, who does an excellent job. In addition, there are two cover songs and two remakes of previous band songs. There is energy abounding with the collection of songs and it is refreshing to hear a vocalist who is able to hold her own with the instruments.

The band origins begin in 1997 as a project by Marco Heubaum. However, in `1999, after a reshuffling, Xandria, as we know it, was formed. There have been several changes in the lineup, especially vocalist until arriving at the present members. Besides Marco on guitar, keyboards, and vocals, there is Philip Restermeier, in 2001, on guitar. Gerit Lamm is the drummer, joining in 2001. The two newest members of Xandria, who both joined in 2013, would be Steven Wussow (Domain, Illectronic Rock, ex-Misfit, ex-Nick Hellfort, ex-Shylock, ex-Palace (live), ex-Fjuse, ex-Iridium), on bass, and Dianne van Giersbergen (ex Libris, , Karmaflow (live), Pathfinder (live)) , vocalist.

The band has released six full length albums beginning with Kill The Sun (2003), Ravenheart (2004), and India (2005). The other ones include Salomé: The Seventh Veil (2007), Neverworld’s End (2012) and Sacrificium (2014). Before this EP, which was recorded at Sandlane Recording Facilities, a tour EP was released that contained songs performed by other bands besides Xandria. In addition, there were six singles released of songs from the full length albums. Finally in 2008, they released a compilation titled Now and Forever. The cover art and design for Fire & Ashes was conceived by Felipe Machado Franco.

. A new song, “Voyage of the Fallen,” opens the EP and right away the listener can tell that Dianne is a great match for this band. The song shows that she is able to match vocally the power of the instruments and the song reminds me of something I might hear in a movie soundtrack. It opens with a chorus after a strong guitar chord. The chorus is strong and multi-voiced. The instruments play a short chord progression before giving way to the main vocals. Underneath her voice the guitars and drums provide a driving beat with vigor. The keyboards provide the interlude with some light guitar playing. Two-thirds of the way through the song, there is a neat back and forth between solo voice along with the chorus, against the instruments. Near the end of the song, Dianne’s strong voice floats effortlessly above both the chorus and instruments. The song fades away as the voyage has ended.

“Unembraced” opens with a light keyboard sequence that is repeated and then the bass and drum join. Following them are the two guitars playing in close harmony. This is a traditional metal song with a driving drum beat accenting the key beats with all the guitars. The vocals enter over the keyboard. A unique feature in the song is the instruments playing a counter beat to the vocalists. There is a sense of excitement provided by the vocals and instruments rising in the typical metal chord progression and dynamically. In this song there are times toward the end that the instruments “let their hair down,” so to speak. The vocals are crystal clear and strong throughout.

There are two covers on this EP which are the fourth and last tracks. “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), by Meatloaf, is the first of the covers. In this song, there is a reversal of the usual roles as Dianne performs the part sung by him. Additionally, it was interesting hearing a European accent on some of the words. This is not meant as a criticism, but a compliment. She provides the right amount of emotion to get the point of the song across. A nice balance is achieved between the vocalists and the band. Also, the instrumentalists seem to really enjoy themselves in this song. The song is performed very and the guitar solo is nicely played. Valerio Recenti (My Propane) provides the original female part of the song and matches well with Dianne. “Don’t Say A Word,” from the group Sonata Artica, is the other cover song. This song is the opposite of the Meatloaf song in that it is full of energy and driving from the opening notes. Her voice is very strong and soars over the instruments and in a way, makes the changes easier than the original. At the same time, in the song, she is able to show a soft side. This selection is an excellent choice for the vocal challenges, even though the instrumental parts are not a walk in the park.

Probably the hardest part for a new vocalist is performing songs that the band has previously recorded with another well- known vocalist. There are two trademark songs from their previous albums that have been reworked for this EP. I listened to the older versions of the songs just to get a starting point for comparison. I have to say that Xandria made good choices in their song selection. “Ravenheart” is the first re-recorded song with the Jeroen Goossens (Ayreon, The Gentle Storm) providing the whistle flute part. The instruments seem stronger in this version and Dianne’s voice has stronger, less fragile feel to it. She sustains the notes effortlessly and the duet parts are very nice. The choral parts are strong and the instruments provide punctuated parts when needed. Another re-recorded song is “Now & Forever,” a softer song compared to “Ravenheart.” Keyboards open the song along with some guitar and drums. The vocals, despite being softer, are still strong, whether solo, or with the chorus. This song also does not sound as fragile, as the original seemed. The part midway through the song, where the vocalist, chorus, and instruments, seem to take their own path, is strong and well played. I applaud Xandria on their two choices.

My favorite song from this EP is “In Remembrance,” a slower, new song. The song opens with a light guitar playing. There is a whistle flute solo that runs counter to the guitar as well. The melody is flowing and the piano takes over accompanying the voice. Dianne’s voice is soft and sweet, which shows the wide range of her voice. There are times when she explores the upper range of her voice and does it effortlessly. Later there is a very light drum pattern which joins. Some nice, soft harmony occurs halfway in the song. The texture gets heavier in the second half of the song as distorted guitars enter and leads to a nicely played guitar solo. Also with the guitar provides a counter melody with the vocals for a short period. An excellent instrumental interlude is played that is strong, staccato-like, and tight. The vocals get stronger in the end and matches well with the instruments.

I can understand why the band wanted to release some songs with their new vocalist. The fact that they have three new songs on this EP definitely showcases her voice. The two remake songs have a new life that seems to have a bit more energy to them. The cover songs also are nicely done. At first, I had my doubts about the Meatloaf cover because I grew up listening to his music as well as others. I was pleased with this version, though it took a moment for me to get use to Dianne’s voice in place of his. Even with only seven songs, there is a something for everyone. Followers of Xandria, as well as symphonic metal followers should definitely buy this EP. It is worth it and those looking for something to add to their library should give it serious consideration. For additional information on the band, please check out the following links:


9.75 / 10