Fire & Ashes
Release Date: July 31, 2015
Fire & Ashes is a bits and pieces EP that documents Symphonic Metal favorites, Xandria’s, in-between time since the debut of new vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen on the Sacrificium album.
Let’s start with the new songs, shall we?. “Voyage of the Fallen” is a massive sounding Symphonic Metal epic. The powerful operatic vocals trade leads with the chugging guitars and often overpowering keyboard work. It’s delivered at a pretty balls out tempo for an epic and aside from the keyboards overtaking the song at certain points, it’s on par with some of the better Symphonic Metal of the last decade. “Unembraced” is a punchier-timed, smoother affair that has made me fall in love with this band all over again. The mid-tempo crunch of the guitars and the perfect balance of driving, almost fluid, drumming and amazing vocal work shows how truly spectacular Xandria is when they are firing on all cylinders. “In Remembrance” embraces the folksier, ballad, driven side of the genre. It begins slowly with gorgeous operatic vocals set to an acoustic backdrop. I expected it to sort explode in some way/at some point but the band do a great job of preserving the beauty and integrity of the song by not ramping it up to 10 until the last minute or so of the song.
As for the covers, Sonata Arctica’s “Don’t Say a Word” is a powerhouse that plays very closely to the original. A great song is a great song and Xandria play it pretty safe with its inclusion here. Now, on the other hand, I find the Meatloaf cover a dangerous game. In my book, Meatloaf, Nirvana, and Queen are off limits as far as cover songs go. No matter how good you are, the chances of doing one of those band’s songs justice are very slim. With that in mind, Xandria absolutely knock “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” out of the park! Van Giersbergen was BORN to sing this song. The timing is impeccable, the delivery is emotionally stirring, and the sound is MASSIVE.
Lest we not forget, “Ravenheart” and “Now & Forever” though. Again, when it comes to re-recordings I’m not a big fan. A new singer is a justifiable purpose for doing this though and her performance here is impeccable. Part of me wishes that they’d go back and re-record a few albums with van Giersbergen. The songs are fairly well intact, though amped up a little I’m sure by time and hindsight, but the vocals are unquestionably stronger.
Overall, this EP is one of Xandria’s strongest works to date. That’s not to diminish their other work, but this is on par with Lacuna Coil’s Unleashed Memories and Delain’s The Interlude, both of which saw those respective bands really come into their own. Xandria have let their talent truly shine on this EP and I am anxious to hear what comes next.
Reviewed by Mark 1340