Released: 2012, Napalm Records
The importance of Nightwish on the evolution of and influence on symphonic, gothic, operatic type Metal cannot be understated. With their explosion of global popularity, this particular sub-genre has been one of, if not the fastest, expanding sub-genres of Metal in recent years. Every month many of these types of bands from around the world enter onto the scene. This month (in honour of International Women’s Day, March 8th) we are going to have a quick look at seven newer bands, all of whom have a female vocalist, and all have released new albums recently. None of them have been reviewed on our site before. They are Diabolus In Musica (Spain), Evenoire (Italy), Meden Agan (Greece), Scarleth (Ukraine), Silent Opera (Italy), Sin Heresy (Italy), and Xandria (Germany). If you like the neo-classic, symphonic (etc) sub-genre, feel free to read the reviews in this series.
Xandria is probably the most well-known and established band of this feature. They originated as far back as 1997 with their first demo, which was as some may remember was the year of the first Nightwish album. I’m not drawing a direct comparison between the two bands but I would suggest that this is a classic case of concurrent development. Both bands start at pretty much the same time but one band (Nightwish) goes onto greater success and gets credit for being innovative while the other (Xandria) is relegated to being labeled as a clone or copy. Historically speaking, the most well-known example of this phenomena of ‘concurrent development’ is AC/DC and Krokus. Many people unfairly label Krokus as an AC/DC clone but in reality both bands started at the same time. AC/DC became commercially successful first and, unfortunately for Krokus, many people say Krokus copied AC/DC which is not true at all. Xandria suffers the same fate.
There is more than enough room for both bands and Xandria, now on their fifth full-length album, have the talent to stand alone and stand apart and by now are immune to such unsophisticated criticisms of being a Nightwish copy-cat or clone. In fact of all the bands of this feature, Xandria is likely the band least influenced by Nightwish, as compared to Italian newcomer Silent Opera who started as a Nightwish tribute band, for example. Theories aside, Xandria’s new album, NEVERWORLD’S END can easily stand toe to toe with the new Nightwish album and in certain respects I like it even better. OK. Enough with the exercises in comparison and contrasting, let’s discuss NEVERWORLD’S END.
The new album, situated perfectly on the Napalm Records label, clocks in at an hour and has a dozen songs. The cover art is fantastic. There is a lot going on if you take the time to look. NEVERWORLD’S END is my favourite of all the records in this feature. All of the bands in this feature have excellent technical qualities, good production and fine singers but Xandria stand ahead just slightly based on some amazing songs.
Xandria really take being operatic and bombastic to heart. Every song is drenched in dynamics and interesting hooks and great choruses. Half way through the 12-track album you get the one-two punch of killer songs, ‘Blood On My Hands’ and ‘Soulcrusher’ before with totally infectious choruses that will play really well in a live setting. The opening track, ‘A Prophecy Of Worlds To Fall’ kicks down the down the door with a bold statement of intent with swirling symphonic elements. The album ends with the obligatory nine-minute plus epic called ‘The Nomads Crown’. Every performer in this German quintet is on fire with sterling performances. There are bits of violin (or perhaps fiddle, it sounds a bit celtic in places) that bring another dimension to the songs. The orchestration and symphonic parts have so much punch it’s almost over the top. The band do slow it down on the very stirring power ballad ‘The Dream Is Still Alive’.
Naturally the lead female vocals are the highlight and I’m sure that many fans were skeptical or at least apprehensive to see who could replace longtime vocalist, Lisa. Xandria have found an amazing replacement, Manuela Kraller. She is new to the scene but has some experience singing with Haggard. He grabbed the prestigious spot and had a lot to prove but she has succeeded admirably, her delivery is forceful but not overbearing and she really drives the songs. She will be a talent to be watched as her performance on this album is nothing short of magnificent.
Even though Marco is the only original member left, the line-up (with the exception of the addition of Manuela) has been stable for the past few albums and they have a writing and performing dynamic that can’t be questioned. NEVERWORLD’S END is another epic, bombastic triumph for one the leading bands in this genre.