Xandria – Fire & Ashes (Napalm)Thursday, 23rd July 2015
In a band discography, an EP can serve multiple purposes. Satiating interest in testing out new directions for the musicians, quenching the aural desires of their fans while awaiting the next full-length – or often a crockpot session of the past, present, and future. Fire & Ashes is a 7 song EP outing that features two newer recordings of Xandria classics with their current lineup, three brand new songs, and two covers to serve as an ‘intermezzo’ for the next studio fill length – so you can put this in all three camps.
The newer songs take center stage – keeping in line with their dramatic, symphonic metal presentation. “Voyage of the Fallen” is the highlight to these ears, featuring a bevy of choir and layered operatic melodies from Dianne van Giersbegen and a swift hitting lead break from Philip Restermeier. “Unembraced” has that catchy hook keyboard-wise that matched up with the thunderous double bass during the chorus reminds me a lot of current Nightwish. “In Remembrance” as a ballad gives Dianne center stage to enchant and delight through her upper range, soothing and majestic as the musical movement contains all the requisite pauses, tranquility and beautiful moments.
Re-recording back catalog songs to take advantage of technology/production advances or lineup changes has always been a see-saw proposition, because many fans love the originals and think re-touching anything is sacrilege. “Ravenheart” and “Now & Forever” get the Xandria 2015 treatment, and Dianne’s respectful renditions will not disappoint long-timers or newcomers. And the covers include extensive tourmates Sonata Arctica for “Don’t Say a Word” plus Meatloaf’s “I Would Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”. The former given the Xandria symphonic/dramatic layers but not topping the original, while the latter is right in the band’s wheelhouse for emotion, tension, and storylines.
Given their uplift in profile thanks to touring sojourns in North America and the spiking popularity of the symphonic metal genre, these are glorious times for Xandria. Do not be afraid to partake as they are very solid in their craft.