X-Panda: Reflections (2016)

Written by: Kev Rowland

Formed in 2009 in Tartu, Estonia, this 2016 album follows on from their 2011 debut ‘Flight of Fancy’, which made such an impact that it was nominated for album of the year in the metal category of the Estonian Music Awards. Musically this is progressive metal, but they’re not just another Dream Theater clone, bringing in elements of Porcupine Tree, Muse and others into something that is a strange yet enjoyable mix of many different styles. They are not content to stay firmly within the boundaries of what many feel is progressive metal, but instead move and flow, bringing in different styles. They have even used a full orchestra (the Tartu University Symphony Orchestra and a choir (E STuudio Youth Choir), I mean, what on earth is going on?

There have been a few bands who have attempted to bring together a rock band and “real” orchestra with mixed results, but here the guys have worked with arrangers who are totally in tune with what they are trying to achieve and the result is seamless, so the band and orchestra are one, not two different entities being forced together in unholy matrimony. Tamar Nugis has a vocal style which sounds as if it belongs on a stage as opposed to in a band, but the music works perfectly with him as frontman. There are some great passages within the songs, such as the fretless bass solo during “Denial” which takes us into the fluid guitar solo, it is so different to what has gone before and what has yet to come that it is refreshing to the ear. Overall, this is quite some album, and if the band were operating in the UK or the States I am convinced that we would be hearing a great deal more about them. As it is, this is a stunning album and I look forward to the next one with great interest.

Rating: 8/10

Track list:
The Game // Denial // Hit and Run // Slaves of Lies // Rise up to Fly // On the Way // Reflections: Inner Battle // Reflections: Silent Friend // Esivanemate pärand


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