Albums: Theater of Dimensions a big step up for German rockers Xandria

German metal band Xandria – lead singer Dianne van Giersbergen's vocals are perfect


Theater of Dimensions

GERMAN symphonic metal band Xandria are a haunting, powerful rock spectacle, and new album Theatre Of Dimensions expresses their sound so much more creatively than the previous LP, Sacrificium. It's a big step up, putting them in the ball park with bands like Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, and Within Temptation. Dianne van Giersbergen's vocals are perfect, whether reaching piercing top notes like on Ship Of Doom, with its dark Irish folk twist, or gentler tones like on the ballad Dark Night Of The Soul. Backing her are high tempo drums and brash metal guitar riffs, with a subtle layer of keyboard and strings mixed in. It's not surprising that by adding these you can make opera quite appealing, but instrumentally this band would be phenomenal to listen to. Theatre Of Dimensions is an album for anyone wanting to broaden their rock music horizons.


Liam Sheasby


Loyle Carner

Yesterday's Gone

YESTERDAY'S Gone is emotional without being cloying, affecting and heartsick without being maudlin and mushy. It's a wobbly line that Loyle Carner – real name Benjamin Coyle-Larner – walks on his debut LP, blending grime, jazz, rap and spoken word. Opening with The Isle Of Arran, edged throatily by a skin-shivering gospel choir, Carner's low, rumbling vocals scoop up painful topics and lays them on you with feeling and nuance. The 21-year-old south Londoner was training at the Brit school until his stepfather's death, a tragedy that propelled him back to music, and home to support his brother and mum, the latter of which appears on the boisterous Swear. On the jazzy Ain't Nothing Happens he dissects ambition, while on Florence imagines making pancakes, set to warm, spare piano chords. There's depth and beauty here, and more to be found with every listen.


Ella Walker


Mark Eitzel

Hey Mr Ferryman

FORMER American Music Club frontman Eitzel's 10th solo album is his first in three years and was recorded in London with ex-Suede man Bernard Butler who also plays guitar, bass and keyboards. It's a fruitful collaboration between two musicians who made their name in the 1980s and 1990s on opposite sides of Atlantic. Eitzel brings heartfelt lyrics and memorable melodies, while Butler gives the music a lush, shimmering warmth. Eitzel's tales of the marginalised and downtrodden are as affecting as ever. The Road is slow-burning tale of defiance in the face of disappointment, Nothing And Everything is a tender, haunting story of someone in a very troubled relationship, while La Llorona ups the pace and unleashes fuzzy guitars. Wistful and bittersweet, this album shows Eitzel is still at the top of his game.


Darryl Webber


Horse Thief

Trials & Truths

OKLAHOMA five-piece Horse Thief have a good pedigree. They hail from the same town as Midlake and are friends with The Flaming Lips who introduced them to label Bella Union. This second album, the follow up to 2014's Fear In Bliss, confirms them as one of US alt-rock's brightest hopes with a collection of finely-honed tunes that encompass the epic and the intimate. Written while on the road, there's a sense of a band getting their heads around what they're about – but there's some accomplished songwriting on show. Another Youth is an upbeat reflection on getting old, but retaining your youthful spirit, while Drowsy is a frank look at how drugs can take over your life. Melancholy guitars accompany lyrics that take in love, longing, loneliness and depression, but the soaring melodies make this album an uplifting experience overall.


Darryl Webber


Deaf Havana

All These Countless Nights

THESE Norfolk boys know how to do anthemic, emotional rock, with hoarse vocals and the odd scream, but they've got pace and inventiveness too. Trigger, for example, appears to have the blunt tapping of maracas in the background of frontman James Veck-Gilodi's hungry vocals, while they've upped their reliance on synthy sounds. Guitars, guilt and darkness are still their samey staples, but Deaf Havana are not so intimidating as your usual heavy rockers; Ashes, Ashes and Like A Ghost are sweet even, melodic. All These Countless Nights won't set you alight, but it's solid stuff.


Ella Walker


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