Xandria – Sacrificium (2014) – Review

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Who would have thought that Xandria would evolve in this way? Judging by the almost failed, but widely hyped album Neverworld’s End, I had no great hopes for their newest record Sacrificium.

Especially because the band likes to disband their frontwomen at a very rapid-fire pace. With that kind of turnover, you just will have trouble with succession and the delivery of quality work. Unless – of course – your vocalist is just a voice piece. And let’s hope that this is not the case with this band. Honi soit qui mal y pense! As we say in French.

But then, one can always be positively impressed, right?

To its credit, Sacrificium improves on its metal parts. Xandria now deliver Symphonic and Gothic Metal at a level that will hold its water with big, established bands in this specific genre. And this is definitely a step up this steep ladder to total stardom. Even if their style sometimes tilts a bit too much into Power Metal territory.

Sacrificium – indeed – serves much better quality than its brethren. Albeit that this comes at a cost. The deck crew detected a certain overweight on bombast and too much symphonic goodness. In other words, an oversaturation of sorts. Like too much of a good meal that suddenly turns into stomach troubles.

On the other hand, the new Dutch front Dianne van Giersbergen suits the band’s style much better than her predecessors. And I for sure – hope that the band will be able to keep her on board a bit longer than their track record suggests. Even if the concentrated focus on faux opera kinda rubbed me the wrong way. And sometimes, just sometimes, the dreaded Tarja still intrudes. Let’s just not forget that this is supposed to be metal. Not a friggin’ opera.

Sacrificium directly takes off with its title track. And I let you decide if this is a good idea or not. It comes in at epic levels, like some 10 minutes, complete with a monologue. Which is – come to think of it – pretty brave. Yet, this song really piqued my interest. Only, is it really a good idea to present the best track right at the beginning?

But whatever they say, this IS an epic beginning to things. One that is seamlessly followed by Nightfall with its absolutely stellar solo. Track no 4, Stardust really got on my good side, too. Again, this one comes with a pretty good solo, and it sports a pretty cool riff as well. And this is one of the major strengths of this album.

Compared to former works, Xandria really kicked this up a notch. They not only morphed into full-blown Symphonic Metal but also added real quality in the technical department. Guitar play, solos and so on all got some mighty vitamin shot. 

Another track with a ton of added spice is Betrayer with its dark solo. Even if – yet again – they tried a bit too hard to imitate an opera and other already existing styles. As in Tarja all over again.

Will the record reach the heights of Ravenheart or India?

Frankly, I don’t think they can really be compared. The style changed from a halting Melodic Metal style to full-blown Symphonic Metal. And Xandria learned well from the biggies like Nightwish. Also, this record contains much speedier material, more reminiscent of bands like Diabulus in Musica and Epica. Even if the latter completely overdid it in their 2014 edition of quantum enigmas and such.

All in all, Sacrificium is much better-paced than the last album. A step up from the last production and for sure an important change in direction. And with Dianne van Giersbergen, Xandria landed a truly potent frontwoman and much better interpreter.

I continue to be a big fan of Xandria and can’t wait for their next record. Hopefully, the band will be able to improve away from this somewhat overdone piece to a fresher style.

The future will tell.

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Napalm Records  | Web: Official Site
Release date: 2 May 2014

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