Xandria has been around since 1994, with massive line-up changes, and is now releasing a small treat to the fans with their "newest" frontwoman, Dianne van Giersbergen. I would call Dianne the best bridge between the two main vocalists in Xandria, Lisa Middelhauve and Manuela Kraller. Power and subtleness can be found with Dianne, a little bit of both worlds. Those two worlds can be found in this small release, ‘Ashes and Fire’.
Blasting symphonic metal gets us started in ‘Voyage of the Fallen’ where Dianne explores the song with a register that can be easily found in ‘Neverworld's End’. The overall sound is full, with enough complexity to keep you interested. The guitar/bass lines are also a plus to connect all the symphonic elements and add new layers to it. We can always keep wondering if a full-time keyboard player will be added to their live line-up. Xandria would only benefit from this. ‘Unembraced’ takes us to more exploratory grounds with less focus on the vocal power and a slower tempo approach. Different vocal ranges are displayed, and this is where we can start analysing the bridge that Dianne can be. At one point, I felt like I was listening to Epica's Simone Simons, well known by her high-pitched notes. Again, some guitar solos followed by powerful progressions are displayed, which seems to be Xandria's main focus at the moment. To end the display of new material, the German band treats us with the ballad ‘In Remembrance’, which I would calling a daring move as ‘Fire & Ashes’ is just an EP. Soothing and with what I would call some "Goth" elements, it's like going back to 2005 - the boom of the female fronted bands era.
In the second part of this EP, you will be able to tell that this was made mainly for the fans. Xandria decided to choose two covers and to revamp two of their hit songs. MeatLoaf's ‘I'd Do Anything For Love’ and Sonata Arctica's ‘Don't Say a Word’. I must say that they did a pretty good job with the covers, both instrumentally and vocally. Dianne is able to show off her high notes with ‘I'd Do Anything For Love’ and her extremely good low ones in ‘Don't Say a Word’. It's a good display of their talents as performers and view of not so symphonic songs.
With that being said, it's important to focus on the new versions of ‘Ravenheart’ and ‘Now and Forever’. Personally, I prefer the originals by Lisa Middelhauve, as the main thing in Xandria back in the day was the fact that they were able to be categorized as symphonic metal but didn't have the "classical singer" in the mix - which made them different. However, Dianne was able to find the middle ground and does not kill the feeling of these two classics. The classical singing and Lisa's approach can be found in both songs. Instrumentally, we have few twists and turns (and a clearly heavier approach in ‘Now and Forever’) that gives a more polished and complex overall feeling. I just don't know if this is good or bad because, as I said, these two songs were quite a landmark in Xandria's career.
Overall, ‘Fire & Ashes’ is a very tasteful gift to the fans and it is something to have in consideration as a consolidation of their long contribution to the symphonic metal scene and sound, being that with Middelhauve, Kraller or Van Giersbergen.
FIRE & ASHES
Review by Salomé Sequeira
31st July 2015
1) Voyage of the Fallen
3) In Remembrance
4) I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)
6) Now & Forever
7) Don't Say a Word
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...a very tasteful gift to the fans and it is something to have in consideration as a consolidation of their long contribution to the symphonic metal scene and sound..."