Xandria was formed in Germany in 1994 by Marco Heubaum, now the only remaining original member. After recruiting Lisa Middelhauve (also known by her maiden name Lisa Schaphaus) in 2000, the band had four successful albums and became well-established in the symphonic metal scene. Lisa then left the band in 2008 for personal reasons and is now pursuing a solo career. In 2010 they recruited soprano Manuela Kraller, and released Neverworld’s End in 2012, an immense album that rebooted their popularity. Manuela left to pursue other projects, and Xandria is now fronted by Dianne van Giersbergen, a Dutch vocalist from the band Ex Libris.
- Marco Heubaum - Guitars, Vocals, Keyboards
- Gerit Lamm - Drums
- Philip Restermeier - Guitars
- Steven Wussow - Bass
- Dianne van Giersbergen - Vocals
- The Undiscovered Land
- Until the End
- Come with Me
- Little Red Relish
- Our Neverworld
- Temple of Hate
- Sweet Atonement
Sacrificium opens with a 10 minute long epic song of the same name. This pure symphonic metal piece is a great start to the album, and is certain to get listeners hooked – though it may be hard to live up to. The old-Nightwish influence is once again very evident – though Dianne’s softer voice has more in common with Lisa’s, whereas Manuela’s was reminiscent of Tarja Turunen. Nightfall follows, the first single, which demonstrates that the band are very much sticking to the style of Neverworld’s End with plenty of choirs, operatic singing and symphonic flair. Then there’s Dreamkeeper; this song was released as a lyric video and raised concerns from fans that it wasn’t quite the grandiose Xandria that they had grown used to. However, nestled in amongst the faster and heavier songs on the album it emerges as a really lovely ballad.
Stardust (not to be confused with the songs of the same name by Amaranthe and Delain) is a stand-out track, since it tries something a bit different with a sci-fi theme and more prominent guitars and drums. 'The Undiscovered Land' is also great, using epic Eastern-flavoured music to tell a story. Betrayer is a lot like Soulcrusher on the previous album, a faster and angrier (but still rather fun) song. An addendum here – after a trend towards shorter songs lately, it’s nice to see a band giving us a full 12 tracks of decent lengths. It really feels like you’re getting your money’s worth.
At this point the album suffers from a little bit of mid-way lag. Until The End is pretty, with a soft start that turns heavier, but it’s a little forgettable. Come With Me is more of the same, nice enough but perhaps unlikely to be anyone’s favourite. Luckily things are roused a bit by Little Red Relish, another more unique track that retells a more racy version of Little Red Riding Hood – Dianne sounds like she’s having fun on this one, and her vocals are stronger.
Our Neverworld is another sweet song that fails to really grab your attention. It seems like it may be about the band’s past, but unfortunately as this was a preview copy we didn’t have the lyrics to hand – it may be one that gains a deeper meaning once you explore the words. The more dramatic Temple Of Hate livens things up again, with a celtic/folk sound similar to that used on the last album in Call Of The Wind. This style actually suits Xandria very well and it would be nice to see them make more use of it. Finally, Sweet Atonement is a pure ballad with some beautiful piano that makes for a nice finishing track. Dianne’s voice gets a chance to shine here, since it’s not overpowered by the music.
Sacrificium may not be a game changer like Neverworld’s End was, but it is certainly a good effort that will please most fans who can adjust to the vocalist change. What they lack in experimentation they make up for in consistent quality: when it comes to symphonic metal, Xandria really know what they’re doing, and it pays off.
Highlights: Sacrificium, Stardust, The Undiscovered Land, Nightfall, Dreamkeeper
Author: Sophie Cleverly-EdwardsRead the full story