Theater Of Dimensions (Mediabook)
Limited mediabook edition arrives with a bonus second disc with acoustic tracks.
"The German symphonic metallers are back, and with what might be one of their most diverse and unexpectedly heavy albums yet. There’s no doubt that you’ve already heard the single for “We Are Murderers (We All)” which is definitely one of the single heaviest cuts that I’ve heard from a band playing in this style since the early days of the genre, but I’m here to let you know that Theater Of Dimensions is so much more than that. We have flowery ballads like “Dark Night Of The Soul” and astonishing instrumental moments like “Céilí” which again, shows a completely different side of this heavy metal act. It opens with a rather familiar note in “Where The Heart Is Home” which shows a great deal of pomp and power, but then we’ll have more thrashy numbers like “Call Of Destiny” where the chug is a bit heavy, even if it’s sometimes masked by the playful keyboard work. Most of the songs here seem to remind me of what I consider to be Nightwish’s heaviest disc Once, but it’s too diverse to be even close to a carbon copy. In fact, some of the tracks feel even heavier than the Once days, with even a sort of frightening doom crush apparent on “When The Walls Came Down (Heartache Was Born)”. Unfortunately, nothing on this disc comes off as hammering as “We Are Murderers (We All)” which I think is a tad bit unfortunate as it almost sounds like a completely new genre can be created just from that track alone. Something in the vein of Swedish symphonic operatic death metal with an added female vocal element, if that makes any kind of sense. Think of The Project Hate with more pomp and less electronics and you’ve got it.
If that’s not enough for you, then we have an almost Fear Factory inspired set of down-tuned grooves on “Ship Of Doom.” I’ll admit that it is a bit intriguing to hear traditional Celtic instrumentation playing along with what can at times be some rather pumping grooves, but this is just one more reason as to why Xandria stick out among so many others in this genre – and to be fair, there are a lot of these bands in both the mainstream and the underground attempting this kind of sound. Nevertheless, these guys seem to wipe the floor with all of them. I can tell by looking over at Metal Archives that many of you jumped for joy when the band’s last record Sacrificium released back in 2014. While that has been quite a few years back, I feel that a band at this level of quality really needs some time to go in and even attempt to one-up such proficiency as was declared with their last recording. Keeping that in mind, I can also see that from the scores on the band’s last EP release Fire & Ashes, some of you might be a little wary of this new record and might choose to avoid it completely. I wasn’t exactly crazy about that EP myself however, and it went quickly under my radar. However, this is definitely not the case with Theater Of Dimensions as I would’ve very well reviewed this disc even if I hadn’t been asked to do it. I loved the band last time and I still love the band a couple of years later, which really says it all. This shows that Xandria are on the right track and I hope that they’ll continue to dazzle me in the way that they have with these past few releases.
You know, I can’t even use the “listen to this while you’re waiting for the new Nightwish album” excuse, because that simply sells Xandria short. As a matter of fact, I think you’re getting something here that might even surpass the previous and forthcoming Nightwish releases. While Xandria are a bit different here because some of the tracks are a bit shorter (okay, well much shorter) than the usual Nightwish epics, they did try their hand at a similar piece this time around with the album’s closer “A Theater Of Dimensions.” This track is nearly fifteen minutes long and more or less features every manner of instrumentation that the band are capable of. Now perhaps it is a tad bit overblown as I soon lose the gist of the story (and there is a story behind it) when I come to the realization that I’ve been buried under mounds of pretentious grandiosity, but after a few more listens, the performance here will be easier understood. Just as with most overly bombastic tracks, you have to sit down and soak it in.
Noting that, there’s something else that I feel is very important to mention here and maybe it won’t be such a big deal to some as it will be to others. Instead of releasing their B-Sides on another disc, the band decided to just slap all of them on this one, which actually totals something close to seventy-four minutes of music. I don’t seem to have any sort of special edition promo either, so when you pick up this record, you are literally getting almost an hour and a half of music right out of the box. Admittedly, I can’t really pick out those B-Sides as everything here sounds quite good, but there is one very obvious outlier track in the form of “Burn Me” which sounds like the band covering an eighties or nineties pop tune that I can’t seem to find the original composer of, for the life of me. The reason why this track sticks out so much is because the lyrics sound awfully familiar. I’ve heard this song performed before, by another band – but I just cannot put my finger on it. It also has a very pop-ish and hugely different style than the rest of the album, but once again it is too early to tell what kind of song it is. It’s a solid track, but doesn’t feel new to me and I find that strangely peculiar. Xandria are no stranger to covers, but my favorite search engine comes up blank when I try to track it down. So give the song a listen yourself, and see if you notice something just as peculiar about it.
In any case, we can see that the newest Xandria release is as full of much splendor as it is mysteries, making it yet another surefire hit for what very well might be one of the best bands in this entire genre. For those of you who feel that maybe this one was a bit too heavy for your tastes, don’t worry. If you pick up the limited edition versions of the album (of which are several) you’ll also get a nice acoustic disc, where many of these tracks are performed in a much gentler style that you may find a little more relaxing. But let us not forget that among all of this ravishing beauty, therein lies the beastly fire of pumping heavy metal music and that’s what really separates Xandria from their peers. Theater Of Dimensions isn’t just a pompous symphonic opera metal album. It has teeth!" - New Noise Magazine