This awesome band got their start just around the start of the new millenium though we would not get a taste of their music until their first album Kill The Sun in 2003. This almost immediately launched the band into the spotlight for metal and gothic metal fans in Europe. They toured Germany and then were back at work on their sophomore release Revenheart released in 2004. This album would prove to be a classic with the fantasy-laiden title track which fans and readers should easily recognize. India was released in 2005 following many more live shows including some popular festivals. This also launched them into the international scene with more tours in different countries. 2007 brought us their fourth work Salome - The Seventh Veil.
The band lineup has consisted of five solid members for much of the time during the release of these four powerful albums. These members include Marco (guitars), Lisa (vocals), Gerit (drums), Philip (guitars) and Nil (bass). In 2008 the group put together 20 tracks spanning their history from all four albums along with a DVD with live clips, video clips and interviews in the form of Now & Forever. Ironically enough, Lisa announced her departure from the band earlier this same year. After searching and auditioning various vocalists, they found Kerstin Bischof, but later had to drop out. The band continued their search and eventually came across the talents of Dianne van Giersbergen. During this time Steven Wussow also joined the band replacing Nils on bass. Since then they have also released two new albums; "Neverworld's End" released in 2012 and "Sacrificium" just released in 2014. They followed these releases with a seven track EP Fire & Ashes featuring some remakes of their classic tracks "Ravenheart" and "Now & Forever" among other treats.
I was first introduced to this band through Dancing Ferret Discs' release of the Sleepwatching DVD and shortly after with the Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King soundtrack with "Ravenheart" and "Eversleeping" respectively. I think this may have been the first good North American exposure for this band and since then I've started following this band closely and was excited when the "Best of" album Now & Forever was released in 2008. With this album we've tried to really bring the music of Xandria to Gothic Paradise in full force on both radio shows and with this feature and review. The music is a powerful blend of female-fronted, driving gothic metal with touches of middle-eastern and old world influences. They captivate the listener on most tracks with a blend of the driving guitars and drums with subtle strings and of course the mesmerizing female vocals (Lisa and now Dianne). This is a band that has come a long way over the years and half dozen albums and we hope they go a lot further with more great releases and performances as we'll be watching closely.
[ Fire & Ashes ] [ Sacrificium Review ] [ Kill The Sun Review ] [ Salome Review ] [ Now & Forever Review ] [ Interview - 30 Sep 2014 ] [ Live - 30 Sep 2014 ]
Fire & Ashes - Review
It was with great pleasure that we recieved word of this great new EP. With this release we're presented with three brand new original tracks as well as two covers and two rerecorded and remastered selections. Spanning seven stellar pieces, we have a real masterpiece on our hands to enjoy.
We're launched right into the fray with the driving symphonic metal of "Voyage of the Fallen" and "Unembraced". The first piece has a definite epic feel to it with visions of viking longships crashing through the water as the pounding and driving percussion and guitars create symphonic mayhem backing Dianne's powerful soprano vocals. "Unembraced" takes this driving force to a new level as the sounds thrash around the listener through this aural landscape. These powerful pieces give way to a great new beautiful ballad that starts off soft and sweet with piano and Dianne's angelic vocals before slowly, yet solidly building to a robust and dynamic climax. These three complete the new tracks from this band and are a great treat to satiate the longing that fans have for new material.
At this point we're launched into the bonus material starting off with an incredible cover of Meatloaf's epic ballad "I'd Do Anything For Love". If there was any doubt or question how this band might approach this piece, rest assured it remains true to the original while maintaining that tried and true sound we recognize as Xandria. They then revisit a couple of their classic favorites in "Ravenheart" and "Now & Forever". I wasn't sure what I really expected with these two pieces, they're the same yet with that distinction we've grown to enjoy with their last couple of albums, mainly more of an edge with that driving symphonic metal and of course with Dianne's powerful vocals. The finale to the album is a cover of the powerful symphonic metal band Sonata Arctica's "Don't Say A Word". While this is a great bonus track, it's definitely not what we're really used to from Xandria, it's a little over-the-top intense, but still enjoyable.
Overall it's great to have the new material and definitely their cover of "I'd Do Anything For Love" and the remastered "Ravenheart". Everything else is an added bonus and great to have in our collection. Definitely worth picking up!
Sacrificium - Review
It has been a few years since we've featured anything from this dynamic band. We were pleasantly surprised with the release of this new album just a few weeks ago (May 2014). Though we missed one album in between, we are extremely pleased to see the band continuing to write and create great new music. This latest work is an introduction for us to the new vocalist Dianne van Giersbergen with her powerful opera soprano voice (though those that managed to pick up their previous album Neverworld's End) will already be familiar with this new talent. The album comes available in a double vinyl or double CD digibook, packed with a dozen driving goth metal tracks (or 13 if you pick up a format with the bonus track "The Watcher"). The front cover with beautiful artwork is in and of itself a masterpiece and a great peak into the power of this new album.
The first thing I noticed with this album as I listened to it in it's entirety the first time is that it's a bit heavier than many of the previous works. The driving percussion and guitars along with the tempo move ahead and come at the listener as a driving onslaught of power and emotion. The title track serves as the introduction and starts off slowly building into a powerful metal opus lasting over 10 minutes long. This sets the stage for what's to come with this driving album as track after track the layers of grinding guitars and heavy beats come out full force. Of course Dianne's siren-like vocals add that softening touch to each track, anchoring the style firmly in the realms of the more emotional and dynamic gothic metal genre. Fans that have followed this band and have fallen in love with the fantasy-oriented, gothic tracks like the popular "Ravenheart" and "Save My Life" have some great gems on this album amidst the powerful metal storm. And for those that appreciate the beautiful ballads, we have a nice treat in the form of "Sweet Atonement" where the piano and violin replace the grinding metal guitars and the soft and beautiful vocals really take center stage for this spellbinding finale to the album.
Even though the album is a bit heavier than previous works, I was able to pick out some great favorites that I'm sure listeners will love and that have become pieces I've been listening to over and over again. The elements that have attracted me include those tracks that include just a touch of additional instruments, whether it be additional strings or pipes or flutes, as well as those that back off the thrashing just a bit to bring out the gothic charm. Another element that really stands out on this album a bit more than some of the previous works is the additional use of choir samples or layered choir vocals whether by Dianne or additional vocalists. These dynamic elements have helped this band stand out in the past and remains so today. "Sacrificium" is definitely a powerful opus that I've been enjoying, but as we get into the album a bit, "Nightfall" has quickly developed into a favorite. This is also featured in a video on the band's website and is well done. "The Undiscovered Land" starts off very somber and beautiful and slowly builds into a fantasy-laiden, dynamic and mysterious gothic piece that still builds up to powerful percussion and metal guitars, but with the addition of the extra instruments and aforementioned thematic approach, it really becomes a powerful favorite. "Until The End" shines in much the same way starting off with various medieval pipes and flutes for a great intro and accent to the grinding metal track that it builds up to. As the album starts to wind down, we're introduced to "Our Neverworld", and as the name suggests, we're taken off into another fantasy land illustrated by the creative lyrics, haunting vocals and magestic symphonic metal with piano accents and other subtle elements that really make this piece shine. After the almost equally dynamic "Temple of Hate", we're brought to the regular album finale with "Sweet Atonement". This aforementioned ballad is the perfect way to wrap up this amazing album.
Wow! After listening to this album nearly a dozen times in a couple of days, I keep discovering new gems buried beneath the grinding guitars and pounding percussion. I'm very impressed with the talent and overall composition of these tracks. This is definitely another timeless work from this band that is really worth picking up.
Kill The Sun - Review
As we continue to anxiously await the new album, the North American audience gets a nice treat with the reissue of their debut work. This is the disc that first introduced this band to the world and so we have their first ten masterpieces of powerful, yet beautiful gothic metal music.
The album kicks off with the title track and a favorite from this disc with it's melodic, driving sound. Actually, there are many favorites from this album and after listening to it and other works from this band I can now see how hard it would have been to pick just 20 tracks for their "Best Of" work. The beautiful piano compositions come right into play on "Mermaids" mixed perfectly with the edgy guitars for a solid sound and a perfect example of how this band combines the soft and beautiful, taking off the harshness of the metal sounds, yet keeping all of the driving and energetic elements in full force.
Along with the excellent mix of diverse musical elements that help this band fit perfectly into the goth metal genre, they also capture the overall moods and themes perfectly with the lyrical content that brings out the fantasy elements, on this album ranging from mermaids to various other folklore and fairytales. Mostly bent on luring unsuspecting victims into their grasp, tracks lie "She's Nirvana" take the listener in and hold them captive. As the album winds on we are treated with many such powerful and seductive tracks like these. Through it all we get some great variety for a diverse yet solid album. Winding it all up we get another couple of favorite tracks in the form of "Isis - Osiris" which is another driving melodic track with thrashing guitars, layered electronics and pounding percussion all carrying Lisa's dreamy vocals to the listener. This leaves us with the finale to the album which is a dreamy piece "Calyx Virago". It starts out slow, soft and dreamy, then has a nice pick up towards the end which has a sort of spanish flamenco feel to it, and then back to the dreamy ending to finalize the album.
Once again this is old news for long-time fans, but for many in the N. American audience this is a great new introduction to their debut album which goes to show why this band became so well-known in their own country and surrounding areas in so short of time. A truly great album, highly recommended.
Salome - The Seventh Veil - Review
This is the special North American release of this album containing the bonus track "Sisters of the Light (Jesus on Extasy Remix)". It was great to hear of the reissue of this album for the North American audience after the release of their recent "best of" album also being distributed locally and easily available for fans. This is their latest album that was originally released in 2007 in Europe, and so new fans can sit back and enjoy this work while we wait for the latest to come from this band in the future. This album contains some of their best work to date with a dozen orginal pieces plus the bonus track.
Taking a step back into the fantasy realm of medieval goth metal, the opening track "Save My Life" is already a new classic and made into their "best of" album and is also one of the few to also have a video to go with it. Though this style still remains a bit more of the exception than the standard for this band, it stands out as a new classic and solid piece on this album. As the album drives on, the listener will soon realize that this band is more metal than anything else and each track really brings out an edge with the grinding guitars and heavy percussion. I think it's mainly Lisa's vocals that keep this all in the realms that most goth-metal fans will really continue to enjoy it, though the addition of keyboards and the way the guitars are mixed still keep it accessible to a wide non-metal audience. Great tracks that stand out with the harder edge to it include "Vampire" which has become another favorite from this album, along with "Firestorm" with it's anthem-like posture.
There are a few pieces besides the obvious crowd pleaser "Save My Life" mentioned above, that manage to break the metal mold just slightly for a nice variety that I've grown to really enjoy with this band. The title track is one of these with dark, slow guitar and beat during each verse and then building to a bombastic mix of synths and guitars and siren-like vocals during each climactic chorus. "Firestorm" stands out slightly as an anthem on this disc as only this group can do mixing the heavy guitars with Lisa's vocals. I think the last piece that is a definite favorite includes "Sisters of the Light (though it's hard to choose because they're all good). This piece also stands out with a bit of that fantasy edge to it layered over the driving guitars and beats this band puts together so well.
For those that have grown to love the occasional ballad from this band once in a while, they won't be disappointed, because we're treated with "The Wind and the Ocean" with that beautiful piano music blended with subtle synths and the angelic vocals. This is definitely a highlight for me and a treat for ethereal music fans as well. As the album wraps up we're presented with the bonus remix by Jesus on Extasy. This turns out to be just a basic techno version of the track and unfortunately doesn't do much more with it than that, so for those wanting this take on the music, this will be a bonus, but for most I think it will mainly just be ignored.
There we have it, another great album from this band as we look forward to more great work from them in the future.
Now & Forever - Review
This was an incredible and long-awated treat for many of us. When I first received word of this excellent release featuring 20 tracks on an audio CD and an accompanying DVD, I was ecstatic. Though it did take me a while to finally pick it up and get this feature and review put together, it has been excellent and well worth every penny. It comes packaged in a beautiful double-disc digi pack with silver embossed lettering as well as a nice booklet with photos of band members, small lyrical excerpts and details about the tracks, albums and DVD. Just holding the package in my hand when I first got it was thrilling. I've listened to the album about a dozen times now on various occasions and I have to say it's stunning and really captures the power from this band. I don't have all of their albums so I don't know what other tracks are available to be able to say if these are their best selections or not. Needless to say, they're all excellent. I'll just touch on a few here that stand out as favorites, though the entire album is worth mentioning.
As a fan of a broad range of gothic-related music, I've listened to my fair share of metal bands and this band really just about tops them all with their powerful blend of styles that keep the music driving, with a definite metal sound with features that take off the edge slightly making it a perfect fit for the gothic metal genre. The album kicks off with the title track which is a piece right along these lines with a slight new wave feeling in the keyboards that are present though the driving guitars really keep it powerful. Nearly identical in style, though not an identical track is found later on in the album with "Save My Life" which is almost like a sequel to "Ravenheart" in lyrical and musical features. Of course the band doesn't waste any time on this album in delivering probably their most popular piece to date with "Ravenheart". This piece is a sort of metal fantasy ballad and the accompanying video on the DVD lends some excellent visualizations to this driving music. One listen to this piece and anyone can see why it became so popular, though I'm sure it was something as a surprise to the band as this style wasn't necessarily a key component, but we're happy they created it regardless.
One thing I love with a good gothic metal band is their ability to write some really nice ballads that fit nicely within the ethereal heavenly voices genres. There are three such pieces on this album including "Eversleeping" which most readers and listeners here should be familiar with by now. This romantic ballad also features an accompanying video clip on the DVD that is simply beautiful. This ballad features some great piano arrangements as well as some soft metal in the background that all mixes in perfectly. "Lullaby" and "Like a Rose On The Grave Of Love" are two other excellent ballads on this album which feature some great ethereal goth musical elements such as pipes, flutes, acoustic guitar, piano and the beautiful female vocals. It's no surprise that these three pieces have quickly become favorites among the thrashing metal mayhem of other tracks.
Speaking of thrashing metal mayhem, it's no secret with several tracks that this band is at their core a metal band. This really comes out in "Firestorm", "Only for the Stars In Your Eyes" and "Black Flame". Others bring out the more romantic medieval or middle-eastern sound such as the aptly named "India" which is still very driving or "The End of Every Story". "Sister of the Light" is a nice piece that blends driving metal and gothic and wave touches well.
That pretty much wraps up a small part of what can be said about this album. The other tracks not mentioned are still excellent and it's hard not to detail each piece on the album without feeling that something important has been left out. But it's all great and with the added bonus of the DVD, this release is really one of the better selections for 2008 and is highly recommended.
Interview - 30 Sep 2014
We had a great opportunity to sit down with Marco and Dianne from Xandria the afternoon of their show in Anaheim, CA. We really appreciate the time they took out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions for us. We had a great time talking about all things Xandria. It is great to get to know such down-to-earth people, yet obviously so very passionate about the music which makes it so great. They are the kind of people that after the short thirty minutes we spent together you can feel like they are now our best friends. The following is the transcript of our interview, I've edited it down a little because we had quite a bit of banter in between questions and definitely a lot of joking around which is really hard to express here in writing.
Gothic Paradise - How has your first North American tour been?
Marco - It has been great, better than expected. The audiences are really appreciating our shows. Though we really didn't know what to expect, we knew we had some fans here, some Amazon.com reviews of our albums here, but otherwise we just didn't know.
Gothic Paradise - Have your shows been any different here, maybe how the fans respond?
Marco & Dianne - No, not really... Metal heads are pretty much the same awesome way all over the globe I guess, all swinging their fists and banging their heads!
Gothic Paradise - I've seen your touring schedule, how do you survive such a hectic schedule, playing every day, driving to the next venue and playing that night and so on?
Dianne - For me as a singer the secret is really getting enough sleep, getting enough vitamins, minerals, no alcohol whatsoever, no smoking and never in smoking areas when others are smoking, stuff like that. Really trying to live as healthy as I can.
Gothic Paradise - I guess that protects the voice? Which in your case it's very intense, you're not just singing softly, you're really singing full force when you sing...
Dianne - Yes, it's a very fragile instrument, so you really have to protect it, it is my responsibility. I'm always credited by our sound engineers that I have a loud voice to work with.
Marco - They don't even need to turn the microphone on... like Gerit's cymbals! (laughs)
Dianne - Yeah, most of the time I'm just mute... (laughs)
Gothic Paradise - Going back a few years when I was first really getting into the band, the first station ID you did for me was actually done by Kerstin as the vocalist. So she did this station ID that I would play on my radio shows and then all of a sudden she's no longer the vocalist for Xandria! (laughs) So I'm hitting up Marco again asking if you could do a new one for me with the new vocalist. So going through all of that, from your biography on your website you state it was a rough time, a crossroads for the band, asking yourselves, "does Xandria go on?" How did you get through all of that, to get a new vocalist, to keep going?
Marco - It was a little bit different each time. Before Lisa left, the band was at it's end anyway because of really heavy musical and personal differences. So after she left, the remaining guys decided we should give it another try, start from zero really, and try to avoid everything we did wrong in the past. This time really go for it, like go the whole way, not only a little bit of this or that. Business-wise we had new partners, new label, new manager and booking agency. Musically we tried to find a new way, something that was more matching our personal favorite music, definitely more metal, more heavy, more bombastic than before. So this was a good chance to start new. So we did it with Kerstin, we had a few shows with her, we already had plans to go to the studio with her to record Neverworld's End, but then she left because, well now-a-days she's a mother. So it's pretty obvious that she just changed plans in her life. It was a bit hard for us, we had to search for more than half a year for a new singer. Back then it was Manuela, so with her we recorded the album and then we thought from now on this is the way we wanted to go for the next albums, forever. It was very surprising that after Neverworld's End that she also decided to quit, because it was not for her. She wanted to do different things musically, which was of course a little bit difficult. If you're an artist that wants to do something different every two years, you cannot stay in a band, with a solid musical vision that a band wants to follow. That's why we all were a little surprised, it should have been clear from the very beginning which way we wanted to go. And so the only thing we could do then was to look for another singer again and I think that now we really got it!
Gothic Paradise - So that actually brings me to Dianne and your transition into the group, how has that been for you?
Dianne - Well, I don't think there was much time for a transition. No, I was given a very short time to learn the live songs, the back catalog and the new songs which are now the Sacrificium songs. It was released on the 25th of October that I would be joining the band and at the end of November we had our first four headline shows in Spain. Shortly after that we started recording the vocals for Sacrificium. So really the transition period was just "hey, I'm in" bam!
Marco - We were already in the production of the new album because everything was already on it's way when Manuela told us that she would leave and we did everything we could to keep it going. Also to not let the fans have another bummer thinking they don't have a singer, they're looking for another singer and it would be lasting for months. And so we tried to find another singer as fast as we could, but only the best one we could find of course. We didn't just say OK we have three weeks and just take the best singer we could find in that time. Of course we searched as long as we could until we thought this will really be the singer for us, really the voice we were looking for, for the top-notch level we could want for the music... and we were very lucky!
Dianne - Me too, you're not the only ones that were lucky!
Gothic Paradise - So what would you say has been your biggest challenge?
Dianne - I don't know if there's something that stands out as the biggest challenge. I kind of like challenges, for me it's no problem to study music really fast, I learned that through my study of classical music. When you say biggest challenge, it has this negative vibe and for me there was nothing negative about it. I just saw a new future and I was just like, I'm going to go for this and give it my all. And I think we managed, everything was there in time. I was very anxious about the fans' reaction, how that would be. But of course that's not really a challenge, because you can't control that, it's up to the public. But I have been very warmly received into the band and I think people are really convinced that we have a really strong format now. Also the band really connects with each other, we really have fun on stage, you're going to see tonight, we really connect with each other. I think that comes across and people are just really convinced that there's something there for the future.
Gothic Paradise - That's the one thing that I would worry about for you, how are the fans going to react? Of course the band has gone through a broad range of vocalists recently, so that's probably a positive thing for you because there's not a huge expectation, nothing negative about any of the vocalists.
Marco - It's almost like these more project bands, like Therion or Ayreon so people might have already gotten used to it (laughs). But of course it is not meant this way, so we wished they didn't get used to it too much already.
Gothic Paradise - So that would be my worry for you, because some fans are really stupid that way, because they want Xandria as they were back in 2004
Dianne - I wouldn't call it stupid, everyone's entitled to their own opinion and one can't argue taste. It's totally fine with me if people prefer a certain tone of voice, but I will not blend my voice because of this. During my years of study I got to know my own instrument and it's capabilities which now is the core for me as a singer. Of course my voice has to blend with the music, and I think we found the perfect format for that but in no way will I ever misuse it's own sound.
Gothic Paradise - As you mention in your biography, you felt like you didn't reach what you wanted with some of your albums. It seems like you have this vision of what you want to reach, can you describe it?
Marco - It is a little bit abstract, you know for me music is a playground of everything I like. Sometimes I'm like a little child and when I see something I want to grab it and have it for myself. So I'm listening to my favorite bands and I'm thinking, Oh I also want to write a riff like that or write a song like that or be that bombastic or that atmospheric or that emotional. I'm just trying and every song is a new challenge and it keeps on being a journey for that abstract vision. But being more non-abstract, I think after two albums I have not been really satisfied with, Neverworld's End was a point that I was really happy. At that time I felt that was Xandria, that was my vision, I still would not change anything on that album, it was perfect. And I could not say this for the two albums before, because on India there were already the differences and Salome was only a compromise, we agreed to disagree, so to say. It was really like, OK, I'll just step back and we decided next album we'll just have everyone put in their songs and then we'll see what's coming out. There are some nice songs on that album, I won't argue that, but as a vision it just didn't work. I really like that vision thing, I like going for the big picture, I really like that. There are one or two songs that I didn't put in the pot back then because I thought this can only be in a big picture, otherwise it doesn't work. One of those ideas is on the Sacrificium album, it was in the verses of "Temple of Hate". It was this melody I had back then for the Salome writing and I knew this would be a power metal song, but on Salome it would just be off, if it would have been a symphonic metal album already then fine, but otherwise it would have been wasted.
Gothic Paradise - So with Sacrificium, do you feel like you've reached that vision with it?
Marco - For the moment, yes.
Gothic Paradise - And so I imagine that vision can change as the band puts forward ideas?
Marco - Yes, as I said, this journey is everlasting, finding joy and doing new things, like grabbing new fruits you haven't been able to pick before and that's always nice. As long as this doesn't stop it will be great.
Gothic Paradise - So with Gothic Paradise we obviously like the gothic touches that Xandria has and with your move to bombastic symphonic metal, it still has gothic touches. I play tracks alongside bands like The Birthday Massacre and other various goth metal and similar bands and it mixes great.
Marco - It depends on how you define gothic, for me it's bands like Fields of the Nephilim and The Sisters of Mercy which I like. So yeah, sure, I think a song like "Dreamkeeper" has some similarities with the sound of the later Sisters Of Mercy. So you find elements from different genres in our music, in general It's not that we have the intention to follow a certain style. It comes naturally, we don't think that much in genre conventions anyway.
Gothic Paradise - That's actually along the lines of what my question actualy is. You obviously have a metal fanbase, you have a vision and you have a gothic fanbase. Does that fanbase influence you at all with the music that you create? You've played Mera Luna, Wave Gotik Treffen and so you obviously have this gothic fanbase, when you're writing music do you ever think about that, maybe think to yourself "oh the gothic fans will love this touch"? Or do you just say, look it's our group we're going to do what we want?
Marco - Definetely the latter. I really couldn't think that strategic, like making music for business decisions, because it would not be honest. And I also think people would hear that in the music. That's not to say that when I'm composing that I'm not thinking of fans and how people will hear it later at all. But not in a strategic way, rather like, when I have a certain idea for a transition here, I think "Oh people will really like that" or this riff "Oh people will head bang, that's cool", in that way.
Gothic Paradise - OK, how about a different way to think about it, how about live versus studio? You obviously release studio albums and when you're composing, do you think about how it will sound on someone's CD or mp3 player, or do you think about when you're playing live in front of 20,000 screaming fans?
Dianne - I think both. I can give you a good example, we were in the studio in The Netherlands and we were working on some new songs and I envisioned it immediately as a part where I would be yelling to the audience saying "come on, let's go". From the beginning it's there, it has to be there because that's the vibe that keeps our music alive, what brings it alive. If it's not in the essence of composing then why go ahead with it? It has to touch base, and of course we're the first ones to feel it, if we get all excited then it's magic there!
Gothic Paradise - I was recently watching some of the interviews from the Now and Forever DVD and you mentioned that some of the metal bands referred to you as a girlie gothic band. Did statements like that influence you at all to move more into the symphonic metal sound?
Marco - No, not really. We were not thinking about genre conventions, we just wanted to be honest to ourselves and only do what we like. We all are metal guys, and considering my love for movie soundtracks with their big, bombastic atmosphere, the way for us was to go exactly in the direction of Neverworld's End when I was forming the future vision of the band together with the other guys.
Gothic Paradise - What's in your mp3 player right now?
Dianne - Ah good question! Of course my ipod just broke down yesterday, but the dutch guys fixed it luckily. I'm listening to Orphaned Land which is a progressive metal band from Israel. Lana Del Rey, Birdy... you have to know when I listen to a band or a singer/songwriter which I do very often, I always like to dive into it from the perspective of a singer of course and lyric wise. Especially when we're touring and we're very much focused on our own music, I like to listen to the opposite so I have the wide perspective of music and so when I return to my own voice again I can take that along with me. It widens the view and gives my own voice more color because I have more impulse and I think what can I do here or there? I also listen to the latest Septic Flesh album which is a very cool one, big fan of that. Muse, I'm really going through my list, loads and loads of film scores, Xandria of course is on there because not all of the songs are performed live yet, but I want to spin them around in my head because they are part of the Sacrificium album. So it's not that the songs we perform live are just the songs I should know, they're together as one bunch, and when I sing "Dreamkeeper" for example, also "Little Red Relish" has to be there in the background.
Marco - Well I have not been listening to that much music on my headhones in the last weeks on tour. I have been one of those Songs of Innocence victims because I have an iPhone, for all iTunes users the new U2 album was automatically downloaded, and I am a U2 fan. I have really been listening to that album a lot and also the new Judas Priest album. And I really regret not putting some Sonata Arctica music on my player, I really haven't listened to them that much before, not because I didn't like them but because I didn't know them. It's just the music I like and so now I wonder why.
Dianne - Mine is full of their music, their last album is great.
Gothic Paradise - Right it's so hard to keep up on everything you might like because there is just so much...
Marco - Right, that's what I meant. It's a bit odd, I guess cheezy is the right word, you know when I was talking about cool music. Limp Bizkit fans would maybe call Sonata Arctica fans listening to cheezy music. It's not cool for power metal bands to sing about love, but that's my thing, cheezy stuff! (laughs) It's an open show of weakness or emotions, or love. I'm also listening to film scores, they always get me in the right mood and I also like to write music like that I'll have a movie in my head and I can write the music for it. I think that's pretty much it for the last weeks.
Gothic Paradise - So what's next for the band? Do you have ideas for a next album that are forming now that you are pulling together?
Marco - Yeah, The weekend before the tour started, we were all sitting together with our co-producer Joost van den Broek in the Netherlands and we have already written four songs for the next album. And after we get back from the tour we are gathering ideas, ideas are flowing depending on the mood and yeah, the impressions of daily life. Sometimes I will just walk around in places like this and then instantly I'll have a melody in my head and I'll take out my iPhone and sing it, record it.
Dianne - (laughs) You see him doing this all the time it's so cute, it's like "where's Marco" and he's off humming.
Marco - Yeah, no one can see me... (laughs) Yeah and when I'm home again I try to gather these ideas and pick the best that I really like to work on. And so it was one of those weekends we were working on those ideas and it will happen when we get back off tour.
Dianne - And actually there are some really good melodies because I'm whistling them...
Marco - Yeah, I was sitting on the bus and I heard someone whistling the melody of one of the new songs and I didn't see that it was you, and I was thinking "oh no, I have stolen this melody from another song!" But I was asking Philip because he could see who it was through the window and I asked him and he said "Dianne" and I was "OK, good" because it was only our own song.
Dianne - It's a good thing right, because it's already stuck with you and you don't have the reference, the melody keeps on going..
Marco - It doesn't even have a name... Dianne - No, I could sing it right now, it's that strong!
Gothic Paradise - Just to close, I always like to ask the bands if there's an interview question that you never get asked, like something you just wonder why don't they ever ask us anything about that... or if you want, an annoying question you always get asked?
Marco - One thing that's totally out of the big picture... but I get the impression that... I'm not sure, I think people might think that "Valentine" is a love song, that's what I've always wanted to say, but it's not a love song. Did you think it was a love song? (banter back and forth) It could be because of the title, but it's a symbol, it's about an artist that has a long career already going on, but finds that he's only faking the art. Because his manager and record label say he has to do that or they will not sell any more records with him. So he finds himself... like "be my valentine", it's the bad side of the music business saying "I seduce you", "be my monkey forever", "be my valentine".
Dianne - Well, you didn't ask the obvious question yet... (laughs)
Marco - There are two... are you related to? and what is the meaning of the band's name?
Dianne - My obvious question is "Are you related to Annake van Giersbergen?" Everyone asks me this and the answer is "No", that's the only one that pops into my head.
Gothic Paradise - Yeah, I try not to ask the obvious questions. I refer readers to the Xandria website to get a lot of this information, the biography is there, they can watch the Now & Forever DVD with those interviews and also watch Youtube for newer interviews and information. On the website you can find answers to many of the obvious questions about the tastes and likes of the band members, biography and so much.
Marco & Dianne - That's great, thank you.
Gothic Paradise - Once again thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us and answer these questions. It has been so great to connect in person after so many years.
Live - 30 Sep 2014
We had the incredible opportunity to catch Xandria live in Anaheim, CA as one of the band's stops on their first ever North American tour. As a special treat, we were able to watch much of their set right at their feet from the press / photo area where we got some great pictures and really enjoyed the show. For me this was a highly anticipated show since first starting to follow the band nearly ten years ago. After meeting most of the band's lineup earlier in the day, it was great to see them dressed up and ready to perform. They came on as the opening act for the night and put on a killer show right from the start.
They started off with their excellent hit from Sacrificium "Nightfall". This was an excellent opening number with lots of power to get the blood pumping and the crowd into the show right from the start. They kept the crowd going and interacting through the night partially just by the shear energy the band displayed and partly through Dianne's interactions. The stage choreography was great as the band members moved about during the different parts of the show with each person allowed to take center stage at one point or the other, even Gerit on drums really stole the show at times. As Dianne mentioned in the interview, the band really does connect and they have a great synergy on stage.
As the opening act they weren't allotted much time and so they only played five tracks for their set. These included two from their latest album and three from their previous album Neverworld's End. I don't have the exact setlist, but I believe it followed with "Blood On My Hands", "Forevermore", "Stardust" and "Valentine". There was an audible groan as they announced that they were playing their final piece as the crowd was excited and ready for more. I for one was extremely sad and disappointed to not be able to see and hear them perform so many other selections live. They exited the stage to a deafening cheer and left everyone ready and longing for the next tour and opportunity to see them live again.
Current Label: Napalm Records