Familiar soundscapes and exciting experiments - A review of Xandria's ''Theater of Dimensions''
While Theater of Dimension clearly doesn't reach the diversity, inspiration and quality of the outstanding predecessor Sacrificium, it's still an above average symphonic metal release and convinces me much more than what Xandria's colleagues Epica, Nightwish and Within Temptation have recently been releasing.
Xandria's biggest advantage is lead vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen who manages to perform operatic chants, soothing lullabies and more mysterious spoken word passages perfectly. The record also features a few male guest singers who add some fresh diversity to several tracks. They manage to complement the female vocalist differently but always appropriately. Most of these duets can therefore be seen as highlights on this release. The orchestral elements are employed playfully and create elegant, folkloric and melancholic soundscapes. They give this album a bombastic atmosphere and never sound too dominant.
On the other side, this album is less spectacular concerning the guitar work. Only a few tracks like the opener ''Where the Heart Is Home'' and the single ''We Are Murderers (We All)'' include gripping riffs with a melodic death metal touch while the vivid ''Death to the Holy'' and the ambitious and diversified but incoherent and overlong title song ''A Theater of Dimensions'' occasionally convince with melodic power metal soundscapes. Otherwise, the guitar work is quite generic and can't compete with the orchestral passages. The rhythm section is solid but nothing more as it fails to have its shining moments as on the last record. The acoustic bonus tracks of the limited edition sound too boring, fluffy and saccharine and I would rather recommend purchasing the regular edition.
While the regular album only includes above average to great material, three tracks manage to stand out particularly. ''We Are Murderers (We All)'' convinces with its gloomy atmosphere where apocalyptic choirs meet dramatic operatic chants and fierce growls by guest singer Björn "Speed" Strid of Soilwork fame. The guitar work is unusually brutal and the rhythm section is tight enough to counterbalance the symphonic elements intriguingly. The band expands its horizons with this song and this exciting experiment works rather well. ''Ship of Doom'' also has a gloomier atmosphere but contrasts it very well with folkloric components in form of Uillean pipes sounds. Classically trained Van Canto singer Ross Thompson adds a more epic touch to the cinematic track that finds the right balance between gothic stylistics and symphonic power metal soundscapes. The uplifting ''Burn Me'' is one of the catchiest tracks on the album which goes slightly back to the band's early years. It features guest vocals by Myrath's Zaher Zorgati who convinces with his melodic and unique vocal style that gives the song an exotic touch. If the band were to chose another single from this release, they should pick this successful duet.
In the end, Xandria delivers value for money with more than seventy-four minutes of diversified, epic and inspired symphonic metal. While some songs are in the same vein as the strong predecessors Sacrificium without adding anything new to the mixture, this album also includes a few experimental and fresh tracks that are mostly successful. While this record isn't a milestone as the predecessor, it's still high-quality symphonic metal and any genre fan should definitely purchase the regular version of this release.
Final rating: 80%
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