Release Date: May 5th 2014
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
The German Symphonic Metal merchants begin their sixth studio opus in an atmospheric and dramatic way. There are more strings than a puppet show, a male-voiced narrative and then a hundred leather-clad angels soar into the ethos as the Metallic instrumentation kicks the soul out of your guts! That doesn't sound overblown or anything does it?
'Sacrificium' is an important release for this band as they introduce fully, the abilities and presence of new lead vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen who steps in for Manuela Kraller who was the focus on their previous opus 'Neverworld's End'.
For long-term fans of this band, the change of a lead vocalist isn't a new concept as Lisa Middelhauve was a consistent member for the first four studio albums before making way for Kerstin Bischof who didn't hang around for long. Perhaps with baited breath, supporters and band alike are hoping for some stability in their ranks once they unleash the beast that is 'Sacrificium'.
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Not only does the shadow of constantly changing vocalists plague Xandria, but the fact that in recent months a lot of high-profile female-fronted Gothic/Symphonic Metal acts have released new albums. These distract from their imminent release and provide competition which can muddy the waters when perhaps you would wish for clearer climates in which to make an impact. Bands like Lacuna Coil, Delain, Leaves' Eyes, Elysion, Diabulus In Musica and Within Temptation spring to mind immediately as examples.
Submerging the ears into this audio canyon brings about a smile as the opening song takes the listener on an epic journey without missing a beat. It is most certainly a lot to digest as you experience all that the band possesses wrapped up within nearly ten and a half minutes! Despite the exhaustion, the momentum is maintained as they pummel the senses with the infectious and large sounding 'Nightfall'. The louder the volume, the more incredible this experience is.
From the debris left behind by 'Nightfall' lurks initially with caution 'Dreamkeeper' as it nestles into its own groove. The riff chugs as it goes through the gears and the soaring vocal melody of Giersbergen carries the song to new heights. 'Stardust' gallops through the doors on a tasty guitar refrain and is no relative to the recent video/single by Delain. Wait until you hear the finale of 'Stardust' and tell me that it doesn't make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. 'Betrayer' wears a muscular swagger as guitars are set to stun.
It feels overall like Xandria want to have a sound resembling the mighty Finnish Nightwish, as they strive for the biggest sounds only to contrast those horizons with delicate moments like 'Sweet Atonement'. The sound is smooth and assists in presenting the majesty contained within the arrangements. To reiterate 'Sacrificium' isn't merely about pompous bombast, fragility is exposed in parts of 'Our Neverworld' and 'The Undiscovered Land' whilst a strong Celtic influence can be witnessed in 'Temple Of fate' and the aforementioned 'The Undiscovered Land'.
Despite the constant upheaval concerning the role of lead vocalist, and with the ominous clutter of competition, somehow Xandria pull off a strong album which will please their fan-base and possibly attract newcomers who until now have remained firm with their alliances to Nightwish. On a first spin, it can feel unoriginal and exhausting; but given time your ears will be seduced by their honest enthusiasm and attempt to create something huge to surpass their modest success with 'Neverworld's End'.
The Undiscovered Land
Until The End
Come With Me
Little Red Relish
Temple Of Fate