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Fun, catchy europower/rock with excellent vocals - 80%

Jophelerx, December 12th, 2017

To those who are familiar with some of my previous reviews, it should be no secret that I'm quite selective about europower. I love only a handful of bands (Blind Guardian, Kamelot, Dragonforce), and in most cases I only enjoy a random album here and there. Examples of this include After Forever's Remagine, Hammerfall's Glory to the Brave, and the subject of today's review, Xandria's Salome: The Seventh Veil. Now, if you're reading this thinking this album must be a true oddity for europower, something that's immediately distinguishable as not-your-standard-europower, you're going to be disappointed. These things are true to an extent, but it's beneath the surface that I think they start to apply; stylistically, this is pretty much your standard fare for female-fronted europower (thankfully sans shitty harsh male vocals). This is not an especially riff-oriented album, nor does it show off much impressive guitar wizardry of any sort, but it does what it does well, and it's not trying to be anything else. Frontwoman and vocalist Lisa Schaphaus-Middelhauve commands the stage at all points, making it a case where the vocals are actually strong enough to support a vocal-oriented style, something many emulators of Dragonforce or Nightwish fail to realize. Your average vocalist, even if they're perfectly competent, is not suited to this style; it takes a special something to be the center of attention at all times, solely in control of the primary melody. Whatever that special something is, Lisa Schaphaus-Middelhauve definitely has it.

Effortlessly shifting between seductive, commanding, poignant, and sophisticated (often more than one simultaneously), this woman was clearly never able to garner the level of attention she deserved; as much as Xandria is known to most serious europower fans, it's still second or third tier in terms of popularity, worlds below bands like After Forever, Epica, Nightwish, and Within Temptation. As far as I'm concerned, Schaphaus-Middelhauve is worthy of being spoken of in the same breath as Floor Jansen, Tarja Turunen, and their like - perhaps slightly below some of them, as her range comes slightly short of utterly insane, but she has everything else. Be it the romantic melancholy of "Save My Life," the alluring aggression of "Firestorm," or the supremely catchy, nearly awe-inspiring "Sisters of the Light," she never fails to totally take hold of the listener's attention, even on a song like "Sisters of the Light" when some of the riffs are tasty enough to have one subconsciously headbanging alongside the guitars. Now, make no mistake - this album is not a pillar of consistency, and there are songs where mediocre riffs or lackluster melodies produce a result that is merely decent rather than good or great - however, the fault never lies with Schaphaus-Middelhauve, who is firing on all cylinders for every second of the album's near-50 minute runtime.

If you're skeptical about a vocal-oriented album with occasionally lackluster riffage and many of the hallmarks of europower, merely listen to "Sisters of the Light," whose praises I have already begun singing. If you don't like that, the album is definitely not for you (and you might think of consulting an ear doctor). If it grabs you as hard as it grabbed me the first time I heard (and has since never let go), you will likely find this album roughly as enjoyable as I do. Anyway, the "merely decent" tracks are certainly in the minority, and at least 3/4 of the songs here are packed with catchy, succinct, often headbangable riffs that create a very suitable home for Schaphaus-Middelhauve's various styles of delivery. The entire band is truly versatile, really, ranging from goth rock to ballads to metal without a hitch all as naturally as Schaphaus-Middelhauve does. If you're a fan of fun, rocking europower with a bit of variety, catchy riffs, and great female vocals, this is an album you shouldn't pass over.

Salami - The Seventh Veal - 77%

Liquid_Braino, October 18th, 2012

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.