Medea is the second album by Dutch progressive metal band Ex Libris. After hearing the exceptional new album Sacrificium by Xandria, featuring the incredible Dianne Van Giersbergen on vocals, I had to hear more from her, and found her other band Ex Libris. Medea was released in January this year, and it’s an incredible album from a really excellent band and a phenomenal vocalist.
Playing progressive metal, the music also features heavy influence from both power metal and symphonic music, thanks to Dianne’s stunning voice. Singing operatically she has an absolutely gorgeous voice, incredibly powerful yet stunningly beautiful all at the same time. Some of the high notes she hits throughout the album are beyond belief, her voice is literally staggering. With more of an emphasis on the powerful and progressive aspect of the music compared to Xandria’s more symphonic approach, she also sings cleanly a lot, and her voice in this style is amazing too. She sings so powerfully and with real charisma and emotion, it’s hard not to be drawn in by her voice throughout the length of the album, and between her work with Ex Libris and with Xandria it’s clear that she’s one of the best vocalists around. Medea is a concept album about the Greek tragedy of Medea, from her perspective, with Dianne taking the role of Medea throughout the album.
Musically the album fuses progressive and power metal elements. The heavy, progressive sounding riffs throughout the album are excellent, galloping along with the heaviness adding another level of drama to the concept of the album. Riff after riff of brilliance comes through on the album, it’s nothing short of a masterclass of how to write heavy and interesting riffing, especially on the hugely powerful Murderess in Me, a track with a supreme guitar performance and an absolute barnstormer of a performance from Dianne. There’s also a keen sense of melody to the playing, and On the Ocean’s command has some of the album’s most catchy and brilliant riffs, Paul van den Broek is simply amazing throughout the album, it’s a really heavy, stomping and unique sounding performance. And his lead guitar playing is epic too, with each song full of uplifting solos used so well they really add to the triumphant sound. Adding a layer of keyboards to the sound gives it an epic sweeping feeling, again matching the drama of Dianne’s voice and the tragic concept of the album. The synths just add that extra layer of power and beauty and it really completes the band’s sound. Not at all cheesy or overwrought, it’s the perfect counterpart to the heaviness of the rest of the music, and it just makes it all incredibly epic. The piano melody in the intro to The Dream I Dream is really exotic sounding and beautiful, and throughout the album there’s such a good amount of melody, from the brilliant lead guitars, the atmospheric keyboards, and of course from the brilliant vocals. Each song is great, sweeping along triumphantly with a surging power and melodic sensibility. You can feel the energy of the band coming through for the whole length of the release. They really bring the concept of Medea’s tragedy to life here, with the music perfectly recreating that sense of grandeur that comes from those Greek epic tales.
Overall Medea is simply stunning throughout. Not only do they have one of the most brilliant vocalists going, but they have such unique and dramatic song writing that it’s hard not to fall in love with this album. Fusing a dynamic sound and melody with a great concept, they have a sound all their own, and it’s one of the best albums from 2014 so far, and definitely one of the most unique sounding ones. It’s mind boggling that Ex Libris are unsigned, with a band making music that is this good they should have no problem getting a deal at all. Hopefully with Dianne also singing in Xandria, Ex Libris will start to get the recognition they deserve, because they’re fantastic. Medea should appeal to anyone who likes progressive metal, especially if they enjoy female vocals. Powerful, sweeping,triumphant,I can’t recommend this highly enough.
2. Murderess In Me
3. On The Ocean’s Command
4. The Dream I Dream
5. Song Of Discord
6. A Mother’s Lament
7. Daughter Of Corinth
8. A Tale Told…
9. From Birth To Bloodshed
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