Xandria – Sacrificium (Napalm Records)

Wednesday, 30th April 2014
Rating: 8/10

The sixth studio album for German symphonic metal act Xandria comes on the heels of more lineup changes, most notably another vocalist swap out, as Dianne van Giersbergen of the Netherlands joins along with Domain bassist Steven Wussow. Gaining ground in a crowded market place isn’t easy, so Sacrificium has a lot to prove in terms of keeping long-timers satisfied and hopefully making a dent in a field that Nightwish, Within Temptation, (and to a lesser extent Epica) are worldwide headliners.

Opening the album on a 10-minute, 25 second title track note certainly establishes the quintet as un-fearful of the proverbial “pushing the envelope,” a magical, epic and dramatic arrangement featuring van Giersbergen’s shimmering operatic melodies, background choirs for added verse/chorus contrast and a mixture of power riffs and mid-tempo Gothic strains. In fact the strength of building little dynamic elements made me think that this compares adequately to Therion meets Destiny era Stratovarius – as well as a twist of “The Trooper” infamous twin guitar lines during the 8:21-8:29 mark.

From there, the conventional arrangements win out over the sprawling ones; the keyboard oriented “Dreamkeeper” very familiar to those who love the commercial/ catchy Nightwish songs, while “Little Red Relish” has a little more of the celtic/folk feel melding into a fairy tale storyline, although not forsaking heavy riffing and speedy ivory syncopation. And there are a couple of ballads to showcase depth of emotion (always fitting in this sub-genre), of which the 7:36 “The Undiscovered Land” works better for me as it’s oriented in the Rainbow/Dio template rather than being a pure love build up.

Heavy enough throughout to gather the lion’s share of metal heads, yet also melodic and catchy enough to appeal to those on the fringes, Xandria could make healthy strides in popularity based on the 12 songs within Sacrificium. The key to certain bands breaking out remains innovation over stagnation, and I believe these musicians possess more of the former to improve their stature.

Xandria official site