When I read the late twitter message from the German band Xandria a few days ago that they are now (in 2015 – wow) heading out to India for the first time, it struck me as somewhat ironic. And this of course in light of their 2005 record and 3rd studio album India that has been on the market for … almost 10 years now.
After their very successful 2nd album Ravenheart, it must have been decidedly difficult to create a fitting follow-on record to an already successful former offering. And – in addition – just about a short year later.
Yet, they took up the challenge pretty well. Still delivered in their laid back, kind of dreamy, synthesized metal trademark brand, the album nevertheless manages to mark a change. By NOT creating a repeated Ravenheart, but getting something quite distinctively different going.
And that, by the way, is THE major point for the success of this album. Xandria do not pretend to want being something else than themselves and deliver on that trademark by reinventing their very own wheel.
Authenticity rulez, guys!
And I also very much appreciate that they kept the bombast at a tolerable level. Knowing well that in this genre you’ll need to use a ladle or two. And I am unsure about ‘need’. But still, it just aches my metal brain, when there is too much of it. Neverworld’s End be my witness.
Xandria‘s then front woman Lisa Middelhauve or Lisa Schaphaus aptly interprets a number of tracks that range from Gothic Metal to Folk Rock. And this makes it an interesting listen. Albeit, she needs to work on the English pronunciation of some of the texts. Kind of makes me grind my teeth. Lisa – by the way – left the band in 2008, which led to an impressive and somewhat confusing succession of different front ladies with Lisa sometimes in the middle of it again. She also signed up with gigs like Whyzdom, Serenity and – interestingly – Delain for some European shows in 2011.
But if push comes to shove, I really like the variety of styles in this album. From rock metal hard in the beginning, to mystical and then again folksy in some parts. THIS is what we are looking for! The album starts out with some sort of an intro called … India that is speedy and metal (Xandria style) at the same time.
India clearly is an attention-getter, too. This is not very often the case by the way of intros. And yes, I know that you metal purists out there think that Xandria‘s new style is for girls or worse. But you know what? Yes, some of the metal edge disappeared. But so what. Different style, seemingly for a different audience altogether.
Now and Forever continues in the synthesized style of this band with a few metal parts in there. I really like that one in somewhat of a geeky kind of way. What really and always gets my attention all the time is Black & Silver. Not sure why, but it has somewhat of a mystical quality to it. The female power kind of thing? Well, perhaps so, perhpas not..
The ballads Like a Rose on the Grave of Love and Dancer are very well executed. Beautiful songs, these slow ballads giving a good contrast to the rest of the delivery. Interestingly the outro is again one of the more rocky and metal-laden pieces of this here bag of wonders. Together with most of the bombast to be found in this album.
On the negative side lurks this impression that the vocalist’s performance often seems to be drowned out by the many elements in this jumble of musical instruments. And this is a pity, because Lisa’s voice nicely complements the style. And this fact renders the overall performance a bit monotonous at times. With the effect that sometimes their tune comes across as flat and not very pronounced in volume.
But after all this is a very solid performance of Xandria way back in time. India matches the value of Ravenheart by delivering something more varied and different. Yet still true to their style and trademark.
Fresh, surprising and still rock solidly rooted in their own universe and trade. Not trying to be some sort of a copycat of another brand in this well established genre. Well done!