Xandria: Theater Of Dimensions (Napalm)
Symphonic metal is a difficult genre to get right these days. The genre itself is so awash with sound and look alike bands that you really have to something impressive to get noticed amongst the sea of mediocrity. Xandria are one band that have outlasted many others with Theater Of Dimensions being the German bands seventh album and their third album with frontwoman Dianne van Giersbergen. The previous two albums Neverworld's End and Sacrificium were immensely enjoyable albums and the finest the band had done to date. Unfortunately Theater Of Dimensions doesn't carry on that trend. Theater Of Dimensions isn't a bad album.
It all sounds very nice and the band put in impressive performances especially Dianne van Giersbergen who puts in a commanding vocal performance but sadly for the most part the songwriting generally is very forgettable. There are some highlights to be found such as the power metal leaning Call Of Destiny, the aggressive We Are Murderers (We All) featuring guest growls from Björn "Speed" Strid of Soilwork, the folksy instrumental Céilí and the epic rock opera and progressive leaning title track which also features impressive guest vocals of Henning Basse of Firewind.
As said previously this isn't a bad album. The band utilise a huge sound incorporating choirs and symphonics but without the material to back it up it ends up sounding rather flat. The power metal influences have been toned down for this album resulting in a lot of mid-paced songs that don't really go anywhere and simply plod along. After the two previous albums Theater Of Dimensions sadly is a disappointment. 6/10
Mors Principium Est: Embers Of A Dying World (AFM)
Mors Principium Est have long been one of my favourite melodic death metal bands and can always be relied on to release a great album and with Embers Of A Dying World they do not disappoint. Hailing from Finland, this is the band's sixth album and continues the aggressively led melodic death metal the band have laid out on previous albums though with Embers Of A Dying World the band incorporate a very prevalent symphonic sound which works to great effect bringing to mind bands such as Fleshgod Apocalypse.
This album is less furious than previous releases with a far darker and atmospheric sound especially on songs such as Masquerade, Death Is The Beginning, Apprentice Of Death and my personal highlight the epic The Ghost. Mors Principium Est have always been a criminally underrated and lesser known band within the melodic death metal scene and hopefully with the release of this fine album the band will get the attention they so sorely deserve. 8/10
The Vicious Head Society: Abject Tomorrow (Self Released)
The Vicious Head Society is the brainchild of guitarist Graham Keane who along with the help of various friends and musicians has created the debut album of this project entitled Abject Tomorrow. This album has been several years in the making and is self recorded and self funded by Keane himself. Abject Tomorrow is an out and out love letter to prog with all the staples of the genre - stunning lead guitar work, layers of keyboards, a sci-fi concept and long long songs.
There is a big Dream Theater influence throughout as well as nods to classic prog and some elements from modern metal and extreme metal mixed in such as savage riffing and some harsh vocals. The musicianship is fantastic throughout and really showcases Keane's skills as a guitarist however the songwriting isn't fantastic throughout and the song lengths are far too excessive without the content to match. Six of the eight songs are in excess of 8 minutes and the final song Analogue Spectre goes on for a whopping 18 minutes plus.
There are some fantastic songs on the album such as the title track and my personal favourite Agenda. This is a very impressive debut album but could do with some trimming throughout. Graham Keane is definitely a name to keep your eye out for as his sheer talent is undeniable. This is definitely one for the prog fans but avoid if you have a short attention span. 7/10