Xandria - Neverworld's end 5/5

Reviewed: 4-1-12


1. A prophecy of worlds to fall
2. Valentine
3. Forevermore
4. Euphoria
5. Blood on my hands
6. Soulcrusher
7. The dream is still alive
8. The lost elysion
9. Call of the wind
10. A thousand letters
11. Cursed
12. The nomad's crown
13. When the mirror cracks (bonus track)

For a decade German band Xandria has been providing female fronted gothic metal and they've already got 4 full-length CDs under their belt. While some fans of the style feel most (or all) of their CDs have been excellent, I've always found them to be merely solid, and in my mind the band never matched the quality of the similar Within Temptation. So when I heard Xandria changed things up with this 5th CD 'Neverworld's end', I had no problem with the news. Now that I've heard for myself, I can tell you that, simply put, they switched from standard gothic metal to exciting symphonic power metal. In addition, the band's long-time vocalist Lisa Middlehauve (who was always great) has been replaced by the very different Manuela Kraller, whose voice is of the soprano (and fairly operatic) type, thankfully bringing the wonderful Tarja to mind. With all of these changes, the immediate reference for a comparison is early Nightwish, especially their CD 'Wishmaster'. Awesome!

It's one thing to mirror a band's style (both musically and vocally) though, and an entirely other thing to match the quality. Xandria has done just that, in a stunning manner. This CD truly has it all - magnificent vocals from Manuela, powerful choirs, spectacular guitar work, fantastic guitar solos, and the balance of tempo is nothing short of brilliant. There is plenty of speed and excitement, some extra-catchy mid-paced parts, and some slow and emotional parts as well. The tempo is not just mixed up between each song, but within each song too, making for an interesting and extremely memorable listen. It's mind-blowing how well done the songwriting is, with enough similarities to early Nightwish to immediately grab the attention of fans, while still having enough surprises to greatly impress. Every single song is amazing, even the bonus track "When the mirror cracks", and I've been hooked since the first spin.

This CD may not be completely creative, but the fact is there are more than enough solid female fronted gothic metal bands out there, but not a tremendous amount of female fronted symphonic power metal bands, especially of this exceptional quality. Off the top of my head, Operatika, Amberian Dawn, Arya, Dawn of Destiny and Wildpath are near the top, but that's not an overwhelming amount, really. So I'm personally loving everything about this CD, especially since the band that invented this style (Nightwish) has changed so drastically recently. This is definitely the best CD I've heard in over a year, the best female fronted CD I've heard in a few years, and I'm positive there will be many other female fronted symphonic power metal metal fans who feel the same way.




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