The German symphonic metal band Xandria recently released The Wonders Still Awaiting, the first album with their revamped lineup. Founding guitarist/keyboardist Marco Heubaum, the lone remaining member from 2017’s Theater Of Dimensions fills us in on the lineup changes, the new album and other topics.
Chad Bowar: What led to the six year gap between albums?
Marco Heubaum: We took a break, because sometimes you need some time to breathe. And in the end I decided I needed a completely new start.
How did you put together the new lineup?
I was talking to people that I know in the musicians’ circle mostly, and partly we did it the modern way – we did some research in the internet.
What were you looking for in a vocalist?
Exactly what Ambre brings to the band now – a very expressive voice that is emotionally touching, and also very diverse. I wanted to introduce growls into the sound of Xandria after the guest appearance of Björn Strid on the last album which was something I always wanted to try, and Ambre can do even that. She is extremely versatile and has a very beautiful, natural, and authentic voice.
How did the songwriting process for The Wonders Still Awaiting compare to previous albums?
While on the last album I was working with the producer from the beginning, this time I did everything by myself again, like on the two albums before. I was even producing myself this time, same like on the Neverworld´s End album. It was a very good experience because I could shape every little detail and the whole vision of the album exactly the way I had it in mind.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
I think probably the choir recordings, but also the other recordings were all a great experience. And working with the orchestra arranger and keyboarder Lukas Knoebl, who is a film score composer for big Hollywood movies. This was giving the album a very huge and beautiful film score vibe.
How was it working with a 40 person choir?
There is a lot to keep in mind in arranging the lines for a choir like this. It was a challenge, but it came out just mind blowingly amazing. It was wonderful to witness these gifted singers performing the parts for our songs.
Several song titles would have made good album titles. What led you to pick The Wonders Still Awaiting?
It has a very nice double meaning. First it is attached to the main topic of a few of the songs, the worry about us – as mankind – being able to still experience the wonders that the future might have in store. And then, quite intentionally, it gives the people also a sense of the return of the band and that we still have a lot in mind for the future, there is still a lot of music to write and stories to tell.
How has the band’s sound evolved from Theater Of Dimensions?
That is hard to tell from the inside, as you don´t have that distance yourself. Also, I was not thinking about our last album at all when writing the new songs. So I would leave the judgment to the people. I heard a few times from people that they think the music of Xandria is on a whole new level now, and a lot of times we get to hear it´s the best album we ever did even. That is a really wonderful feedback of course and it makes us very happy. In my personal opinion I think the album is more diverse, more bold, and more musically complex and “deep” than before. It really felt special when writing the songs and recording them.
How was the video shoot for “Two Worlds”?
That video was comparatively simple in the making, as we were shooting Ambre in front of a black and green screen, and then we were combining it with the atmospheric pictures. The videos before have been a much more extensive venture, especially “You Will Never Be Our God” as it was shot at different outdoor locations with a lot of actors and story scenes.
How important are videos in the album promotion process?
That is hard to tell nowadays. We just hoped many people would notice we are back this way, and it was great to give some songs this visual realization, too. Just to give every of the songs the focus it deserves, I would actually love to make a video for each of the songs on the new album. All of them can stand on their own and have their own story, their own unique origin.
How were last year’s first shows with the new lineup?
It was a great experience. We became a real band on tour, which is natural. It has shown us that we understand each other really well and can rely on each other also very much.
What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
We have a few festivals and we are also in the planning for tours. Watch out for news about that soon!
With so many albums under your belt, how do you go about putting together a setlist for a tour, and does it vary from show to show?
That´s sometimes difficult of course, because you don´t want to leave out any songs that you love, and you want to play also the songs that people love. In the end we must decide between some of them. At the moment we want to present the songs from the new album foremost, but we will play a lot of the band´s classics of course. This will vary from tour to tour, or between festivals, according to the length of the concert.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Sci-Fi and scientific literature, but not limited to that. Travelling, getting to know other cultures, movies and also the occasional video game.
What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
There´s not too much time at the moment for listening to music unfortunately. If so, then very different things. Can be a throwback to old favorites like Paradise Lost or At The Gates for example, or some more recent albums, like the last Oceans Of Slumber or Unleash The Archers, both really great albums in my opinion.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I´d just like to thank people for welcoming back Xandria so warmly, we really appreciate that, it gives us the energy and the motivation to do this. Thank you everyone for your support!
(interview published February 13, 2023)
Watch Xandria – “You Will Never Be Our God” Video