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Let's get this out of the way now. If your introduction to Xandria was through Neverworld's End and you're looking for more of that power-esque symphonic metal, you may want to give this one a pass. Salome is so far removed from that approach, they don't even remotely sound like the same band despite the musicians comprising the same cast with the exception of the vocalist. In 2007, the band were clearly aiming for the unflinching gothic metal crowd, and this is about as straight-up a gothic poppish metal record you can get with barely even a nod to the more ambitious bluster of their prior album India. Suffice to say, a lot of people consider this album a disastrous pandering to chicks with purple lipstick, or at best an ill-advised one-off before getting their shit back together with Neverworld's End.
As one of the very last times I purchased something due to its cover sleeve, for some reason I blind-bought this expecting to hear some glorious belllydance metal, or maybe even some hybrid of bhangra influenced metal. I yearned for finger cymbals, tablas and Egyptian scales and got none of it. I know, what the fuck is wrong with me? Anyways, by the second track, in which the singer is blabbing about female vampires whose wings are the curtains of the night or some shit, I stopped listening and unceremoniously dumped it in a box with other CDs I rarely bother with. Years later, after Neverworld's End hit the shelves with lots of positive responses concerning its similarities with the glory days of Nightwish and a few similar acts, I decided to dig Salome out and at least discover if any of the later tracks on the CD possess these qualities. They didn't, but they had something else...
As with many of these groups, the photo of the band within the insert sleeve has all the cliches one can hope for. The camera clearly favors Lisa, languidly sprawling up front in an outfit that generously provides us with an altruistic view of her wondrous cleavage. Then there's those guys that play all the instruments in the background, dressed in simple black and scowling like they want to beat the piss out of each other while Lisa laughs, boozes and gets all the notice. In their ranks there's even the ubiquitous rotund bald guy with a goatee who always gets mistaken for one of the bouncers when he's not on stage. Not exactly the sharpest looking characters on the scene, but what this gang does have is a knack for writing some catchy material. Xandria has never been an innovative band, preferring to find an established formula, revel in it and hopefully pop out something sweet. For Salome, Xandria dove headfirst into the commercial side of gothic metal, buckled down and arose from the gloom with some of the most melodic hook-ladden tunes I've heard in awhile concerning heavy music. With the whole misguided anticipation for exotic 'bellydance metal' a distant thing of the past, I could just focus on what Xandria had to offer in the genre they chose for this album, and for the most part they do a pretty kickin' job.
One of the reasons I'm not going to slam such a pop-oriented affair is that much of the nu-metal, groove and alternative metal influences that penetrated their tendrils into some of the major female fronted acts are just about completely absent here. The first four tracks in particular are utterly straightforward 4/4 dark rock tunes souped up with some crunch. In fact, if the metal guitars were replaced by swirly shoegaze style guitar layers, this would be some prime goth music, as the vocal hooks and melodies reach that "songs to sing in the shower" tier of memorability while retaining a reasonable vampish vibe. If there's a weak spot concerning of the opening batch of compositions, it would have to be the lyrics, which occasionally read like some young goth girl's diary to the point where I feel like some intrusive sleazebag for listening to these confessions about how cool it is to wear black and the preferences for rain over sunlight.
The title track is the much needed slower-paced number that adds a bit of gloom to the proceedings, followed by a batch of numbers that, along with a few more goth metal cuts, nearly flirt with a straightforward symphonic metal approach. Also present is a notable foray into a folksy metal dittie in Sisters Of The Night, and also an ethereal ballad about being either a siren or an unfriendly mermaid, bolstered with some opening ocean sound effects for an authentic seaside experience. Thus the album does maintain a sense of variety without straying too far from their preferred aura for this effort, and in general everything is well produced without being too glossy.
Xandria seemed to have taken quite a hiatus before hitting the comeback trail with a completely new sound and identity in almost every aspect except the band name, but I'm not one to dismiss Salome - The Seventh Veil as a complete detour into Shitsville. Yes, it veers strikingly away from the band's more symphonic explorations, but for what it is, it actually does a better job than most acts, who base their entire careers wallowing in that selective style, can pull off. The album does start to drag a bit at times since so many of the catchiest numbers lurk early in the tracklist, but for an album I initially disregarded and ditched into a rubble of 90s alternative rock CDs and broken jewel cases, I'm surprisingly glad I dusted this thing off.
After three years in which Xandria released an album once every twelve months, and were regularly featured on those awful Schattenreich compilations, the band took a little time off to tour and put more time into creating their next album. After the symphonic blowout that was India, one half-expected them to up the ante and try and record their own version of Within Temptation's Mother Earth. Instead, Salomé is a curious combination of Eastern-flavoured guitar melodies and even more pronounced pop sensibilities.
Which makes the opening 'Save My Life' a rather odd choice, as it is simply a watered down reiteration of Ravenheart's title track. 'Vampire' is more representative, with stereotypical Oriental guitar riffs in the verse and a heavy, but very poppy chorus. The tracks 'Beware' and 'Emotional Man' were the real surprise however; both use jaunty pop beats with simplistic guitar riffs laid over the top; the catchy rhythm is often supplied by the noodling bass antics of Nils Middelhauve. Admittedly, the talented Lisa sounds right at home on these two; unlike Tarja Turunen, who some might argue held herself back when she was confronted with more mainstream sounding music, Lisa belts out a pair of cracking performances with these two.
After these however, the album slumps a little, with 'Only For the Stars in Your Eyes' and 'Sisters of the Light' being just too damn cheesy, and 'Firestorm' seeming like a forced attempt at a more gothic song. 'Sleeping Dogs Lie' and 'On My Way' end the album on a more toe-tapping note however, being basically revisits to the third and fourth numbers. The former of these maintains the Oriental sounds with distant, chanting vocals from Lisa and sudden flute flourishes at various points during the song.
While each track is pervaded with these exotic influences, the album suffers from the same problems of inconsistency as the band's debut. The songwriting is the main problem; the band was again trying to go in two directions at once, and it presents a slightly confusing listening experience.
Overall, it sounds as if the band was having a lot more fun here than before however. The mainstream sound will offend some, but the amount of energy and enthusiasm going into the songs shows that the band were more concerned with having a good time than anything else. Which, while I would condemn the major-label pandering decline of Sirenia, Lacuna Coil and Delain (all things to avoid) Xandria maintain some cred by dint of their honesty. This was to be Lisa's last album with the band, so Salomé closes a chapter as well.