Xandria is celebrating its return.
Created in Germany in 1994 by Marco Heubaum (guitar/vocals/keyboards), the musician quickly put his project on hold after a first demo in 1997. The band came back to life in 1999, but the line-up often underwent changes, either on the vocal or instrumental side. In 2022, the creator recruited Ambre Vourvahis (vocals), Rob Klawonn (guitar), Tim Schwarz (bass) and Dimitrio Gatsios (drums), with whom he composed, recorded and released The Wonders Still Awaiting, the band’s eighth album, on Napalm Records in 2023.
The album opens with Two Worlds, which immediately reassures us of the band’s ability to produce a majestic sound and to accompany it with a solid rhythm section, as well as with the new singer’s voice, who delivers a very good performance here. Quietness meets intensity and rage, especially on this heavy break which leads us to the final and then to Reborn, a composition which perfectly symbolizes the band’s new identity, while keeping its roots anchored in Symphonic Metal with dark Gothic accents. The lyrical flights give relief to heady parts, then You Will Never Be Our God shows us a more raw aspect of the band’s musical identity, accompanied by more present and aggressive vocals by Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear). The Wonders Still Awaiting goes back to softness and imposing riffs populated with choirs to give way to a soft and heady clean voice, followed by some more Heavy Metal-oriented leads, but also by Ghosts, a more energetic and rhythmic track which takes us into Power Metal influences. But musicians don’t forget the dark side that animates them, and that sometimes comes to life in the rhythmic leading us to Your Stories I’ll Remember and its beautiful bewitching quietness. The track seems slightly more influenced by the band’s early creations and sounds like a ballad which will welcome expressive orchestrations before My Curse Is My Redemption adds a playful touch to the calm rhythmic to accompany this catchy positive message, followed by Illusion Is Their Name and its mysterious tones. We feel the riffs are also more vivid, and this impression will be confirmed with screams that come to bring the track this threatening touch, nuanced by softer elements to strengthen the duet before Paradise darkens the atmosphere again with a haunting but still accessible sound complemented by keyboards. Leads take an important part of the final, then Mirror of Time lets its rhythmic ignite to welcome the singer’s sweet voice, then the devastating duet before borrowing to Doom for a heady break leading us to an intense final. Scars will place more modern sounds in its introduction before letting keyboard create a melancholic basis for vocals, but again the heavy sound is never far away, just like on The Maiden And The Child which uses theatrical orchestrations to announce the rhythmic’s arrival. And if the female vocals lead the majority of the track, we will also find a break led by massive screams, then a heavy final before Asteria, the band’s last and one of their longest composition, comes to close the album. For this apotheosis final, the band skilfully mixes all its musical personality’s elements while pushing the vocalist in its entrenchments, accompanied by orchestrations always more demonstrative in all points of view.
The Wonders Still Awaiting is the renewal album for Xandria. Whether the band remains faithful to its majestic Symphonic roots, it feels animated by a new, darker and more mysterious energy than before.
Few questions to Marco Heubaum, founding member and leader of the band Xandria.
Hello and first of all, thank you very much for your time! Could you please introduce yourself and the band Xandria without using the usual music “labels”?
Marco Heubaum (guitar/keyboards/vocals): Sure, I can try, as I don’t see labels being appropriate much anyway, because Xandria mixes a lot of different metal styles. The one label people put on it comes from the arrangements of the songs, which often use elements from film scores, like orchestra, folk, keyboards, piano, choirs. That means that label is actually not the name of a genre, but more of a way to arrange music.
The Wonders Still Awaiting, your eighth full-length, will be out soon. How do you feel about it? Do you already have some feedback?
Marco: Overally amazing feedback – we often even hear « the best Xandria album ever » even, which is great to hear of course. In the process we definitely had the feeling that we are onto something special, and it’s great that people sense it, too.
How would you sum The Wonders Still Awaiting up in only three words?
Marco: From the heart.
The band recently changed almost all its lineup, how did you deal with the situation, and how did you recruit all the new members?
Marco: It was a conscious decision, I needed a completely new start for my musical vision, and for being able to continue it. So when the songs for the album were written, I was looking for new musicians. I found them in different ways, some in the surroundings of the musicians I know, and some by research on the internet. And then we had long extensive talks to get to know each other, as I wanted to make sure that we can really connect not only on a musical level, but also personally. Ambre was joining in the beginning of the songwriting process already though, we knew each other from another project we had been working on and I loved her voice and her stylistic diversity already from there.
So how did the new album composition happen? Was the process different from the previous ones?
Marco: Not too much, as always I needed to be in my own universe to compose and to fully dive into the journey and depths of it. It happened this way most of the time in the past, too. While I was writing all of the music, I shared writing of the lyrics with Ambre though. We had a very shared understanding of what we wanted to write about and were talking about the meanings and emotions a lot, which was a very valuable process.
What can you tell me about the album’s name, meaning and artwork?
Marco: The wonders are the ones we created and experienced as mankind, like the wonders of nature, of technology, civilization and culture. And there are for sure a lot of them possibly awaiting in the future still, but the question is if we can still get there, considering the way mankind is going at the moment. The artwork has been created by two artists from Indonesia, they seem to be having very talented graphic artists there apparently. I think it’s very beautiful what they did. I want to leave the interpretation to the viewer though, as the pictures are very metaphorical.
What inspires you to create your music? Same question for the lyrics.
Marco: For the music, just everything I love in music. Xandria is my playground for doing everything I love and want to try. I love exploring new grounds also each time I am creating a new song or album. One thing that is especially inspiring is movies and their scores. For the lyrics it’s everything that happens in the world and feels important to say something about, and on the other hand very personal things, which can be cathartic.
Do you have a “favorite” song on this album? Or maybe the most natural one you wrote?
Marco: No, all the songs are precious to me and they all have their own unique origin and story behind it. I love the long, complex ones for their journey, and the shorter songs for their power and intensity the same.
Even if orchestrations are a constant thing on every song, some are really quiet while others are almost threatening and impressive. What’s your secret to shroud your riffs with accurate Symphonic elements?
Marco: It’s just in my mind all of a sudden, and then I am trying to realize that the best way I can. It’s like I hear the finished arrangement already in my head, I can not describe it better.
Do you have some plans for the band’s future?
Marco: Right now we are mainly planning live shows, because we want to play our new songs on stage of course.
Are there any musicians or bands you would like to collaborate with? Whether it is for one song, an album…
Marco: Would be great to have David Gilmour playing a guitar solo on one song, along with me and Rob, which will never happen of course. But one can dream ?
Last question: With which bands would you love to tour with? I let you create a tour (or just a single show) with Xandria and three other bands!
Marco: Pink Floyd, Nightwish and Tiamat. And if Tiamat couldn’t do it, then Paradise Lost.
That was the last question for me, so thank you very much for your time and your music, last words are yours!
Marco: Thank you and everyone out there for your passion for music, and your support for it! This connects us all and makes this world already a little bit better place.