There is just something about mixing classical music with metal, whether it is done in the soft, gothic style of Within Temptation or the screamy death metal of Fleshgod Apocalypse. Looking at the promo picture above, you can probably guess that Xandria are an example of the former. Following a five year gap since their last album and featuring a new vocalist, Neverworld’s End represents a fresh start for a band with an almost 15 year history.
From the very start Xandria demonstrate that their return has been long overdue: the symphonic elements are handled very nicely, and there is more than the occasional flash of flair in the guitarwork. New singer Manuela Kraller brings a more operatic tone than previous Xandria albums to proceedings, but she has an excellent voice and fits in well with the rest of the band.
While the core of Xandria’s sound is rooted in symphonic metal, Amberian Dawn-style power metal influences emerge in the occasional bursts of speed and widdly guitar that provide some of the most memorable moments on the album. Lead single ‘Valentine’ really stands out in this area, bringing a level of energy that makes it almost compulsive listening. Some material, such as ballad ‘The Dream Is Still Alive’, owes just a bit too much to old Nightwish. The greatest offender in this regard is ‘Soulcrusher’ which sounds like it could be a rejected track from Once; even Manuella’s voice seems to become much more Tarja-like than it is in the rest of the album. The band also show that they know their way around an epic: ‘A Prophecy Of Worlds To Fall’ and ‘The Nomad’s Crown’ are both masterful efforts that elegantly, although slightly over-dramatically, introduce and conclude the album.
Neverworld’s End is a great example of a symphonic metal album that is really worth your time. Some tracks do seem to be designed particularly for those who refuse to listen to Nightwish while Annette sings for them, but there are plenty of Xandria’s own, good ideas on show as well.