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X-Panda - Flight Of Fancy CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.83 | 31 ratings

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Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer
4 stars 'Flight Of Fancy' - X-Panda (7/10)

X-Panda is a new band from Estonia that largely represents everything that is great, and everything not-so-great about the current state of progressive metal. Although many of these potential up-and-comers have Dream Theater calibre skills, the similarities with Dream Theater do not tend to end there, with many bands coming off as copycats. One could never accuse X-Panda of being poor musicians or even composers, yet despite this set-up for brilliance, they possess an utter lack of originality that confirms many of my doubts surrounding this scene in progressive music.

With that having been said, I cannot deny that X-Panda are a fantastic ensemble of some of the most promising new musicians I have heard in the past year, speaking in regards to their skill, of course. On the prog metal spectrum, X-Panda lean towards a melodic and even catchy sound for the genre, using many of Dream Theater's typical tricks, but framing them within a song structure that embraces hooks. It should also be mentioned that X-Panda are a largely instrumental act, with bassist Tamar Nugis only singing for a few less involving pieces that may have felt empty otherwise. The instrumental format was an excellent choice for X-Panda, and while their songwriting is accessible enough to incorporate a voice without it feeling too crowded, the choice to go without puts a greater focus on the skills and details of the musicianship. X-Panda are certainly not in the golden books for originality, but choosing to convey the melodies through guitar make 'Flight Of Fancy' feel a little different than the typical prog-power metal bands that pop up eight days a week.

Although each musician and instrument contributes an important part to the sound, the guitar work of Risto Virkhausen is my favourite thing about X-Panda. Although he sounds a little close in sound to Dream Theater's John Petrucci, he is able to go from highly technical displays, to emotional leads and catchy hooks, often without the frame of one song. I would have no problem calling him one of the best new guitarists out there, had he and the rest of X-Panda not sounded as if they were not so blatantly copying the sound of one particular band. Now, very few bands ever find a sound that is entirely their own, but to my chagrin, there were elements across the board throughout X-Panda's sound that I felt as if I could trace back to some point in Dream Theater's career; be it a guitar tone, a odd-time riff, the way the solos are structured, and so forth. At worst, it is unintentional plagiarism, but X- Panda is only one of many bands within progressive metal that look to Dream Theater for a template. Although it keeps 'Flight of Fancy' from receiving a full-fledged recommendation, the talent and skill here go without question, and the use of beautiful melodies and hooks makes X-Panda's debut something of a winner in the modern prog metal canon.

Conor Fynes | 4/5 |


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