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X-Panda Reflections album cover
3.53 | 16 ratings | 8 reviews | 12% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 2016

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Game (4:20)
2. Denial (12:27)
3. Hit and Run (5:47)
4. Slaves of Lies (4:19)
5. Rise Up to Fly (3:27)
6. On the Way (5:46)
7. Reflections - Inner Battle (7:43)
8. Reflections - Silent Friend (6:39)
9. Esivanemate Pärand (6:14)

Total Time 56:42

Line-up / Musicians

- Kaarel Tamra / keyboards
- Risto Virkhausen / guitars
- Roland Jairus / bass
- Karl-Juhan Laanesaar / drums
- Tamar Nugis / vocals

- Raahel Pilpak / backing vocals
- Mick Pedaja / backing vocals
- Mari Ronimois / backing vocals

Releases information

All music composed by Kaarel Tamra and X-Panda
All lyrics written by Tamar Nugis, except Esiisade pärand (Aapo Ilves)
Orchestra arrangements: Kaarel Tamra
Orchestrations: Raul Sööt (Denial; Reflections: Inner Battle), Kirke Karja(Reflections: Silent Friend)
Tartu University Symphony Orchestra (all conducted by Lauri Sirp, except Reflections: Inner Battle, by Jüri-Ruut Kangur)
E STuudio Youth Choir (conductor Külli Lokko)

Label: Self-released
Format: CD, digital
October 10, 2016

Thanks to x-panda for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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X-PANDA Reflections ratings distribution

(16 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(56%)
Good, but non-essential (31%)
Collectors/fans only (0%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

X-PANDA Reflections reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Some three decades ago I would probably be able to kill for album like that. "The Game" would be my glam-rock piece of the month, "Denial" could be beaten then only by (still) fresh Dream Theater music (X-Panda play similar progressive metal here, just less complex,more tuneful and better arranged (or more polished - you chose) - and significantly more theatrical).

"Rise Up To Fly" opens with orchestra's strings (for sure band owe a lot to Finnish acts like Lordi and Nightwish), "On The Way" contains interesting (for this genre) piano soloing in combination with genre trademark "crying" guitar. "First part of "Reflections" ("Inner Battle") is bombastic and full of theatrical drama, it's one among a few peaces which will probably will make happy more heavy music fans. The closer is a ballad sung in Estonian and it has true country's popular music touch (at least crossing Estonia by car each time during last three decades I can hear similar music on local radio).

So - what do we have here in total? If you don't care about modernity in your music level of "heaviness" or/and "progressiveness" is not your main criteria, "Reflections" is really well played and recorded, professionally arranged crossover album with lot of tunes and light touch of Nordic spirit. Vocals are competent, use of orchestral arrangements is very tasteful and common sound is really pleasant (incl. well-balanced sound mix).

X-Panda fortunately are not another Dream Theater clone, they demonstrate their own mix of bombastic glam-metal, folk-prog,progressive metal and characteristic Nordic symphonic heavy rock. All brew is professionally cooked and if you don't expect modern tricks and don't worry about obvious 80s-90s influences in your music, you will probably will enjoy listening to this release.Strong 3,5.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars X-Panda is a five piece band from Estonia and this is their second album. I haven't heard the first but I understand it is more instrumental. Influenced by Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree and Nightwish, on this album there sounds like a Muse influence as well; I'm not sure if the first album had that or not. The tracks on this album are mainly divided between more catchy shorter tracks and longer experimental cuts. With the exception of one track, all the vocals are in English. "The Game" is an anthem-like melodic rocker that is single material. Good song, even contains an instrumental middle section where the tempo slows down. "Denial" is the longest track. It contains a string section. Very symphonic and not very heavy. The vocal part begins with just strings and keyboards but later the whole band joins in. The vocal melody in the middle reminds me of Muse. Nice fretless(?) bass work near the end before a ripping guitar solo.

"Hit And Run" is very electronic sounding with a darker, mysterious vibe. Some vocal effects which compliment that vibe. Less electronic and more rockin' in the middle section. Ends with more Muse-like vocal melodies. "Slaves Of Lies" starts out cinematic and symphonic before going into the main part of the song: symphonic metal with verses that groove. "Rise Up To Fly" is another track which is single worthy. Catchy song which is very Muse sounding. "On The Way" is a great jazzy instrumental. Revolves around a great melody on electric guitar. Halfway the tempo picks up and we are treated to a synth solo. The title track is divided into two parts. The first, "Inner Battle" starts out dramatically with orchestral and symphonic sounds, then the band joins in. Later just acoustic guitar and symphonic atmosphere, then vocals and piano. Eventually goes back to full band again with guitar solo.

Part two is called "Silent Friend." Opening with sprinkling piano and symphonic backing. After the first vocals comes a folky flute part; later it comes back as the music turns into a kind of jig. The last track is a ballad sung in Estonian. Overall a really good album. The music here is not extremely heavy or complex. I would recommend this to someone who enjoys both Dream Theater and Muse. I will give this a 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

Review by FragileKings
4 stars X-Panda is an Estonian progressive metal fusion band who have released two albums over seven years of history, the latest being "Reflections". I was contacted by someone in the band and asked to review the album. I told him I'd be glad to listen but warned him that I had a lot on my plate and I might not get to the review so soon. Some weeks later I finally heard the album, and after three listens, here I am putting fingers to the keyboard.

"The Game" kicks off the album. It's a full-on heavy rocker with a catchy arena rock chorus and pumped with synthesizers. More like a heavy neo-prog act that is shooting at a memorable, almost mainstream song, X-Panda leave you wondering what this album will deliver in the way of progressive rock in spite of the impressive opening song.

The second track, "Denial", would attempt to answer that with over twelve minutes of powerful symphonic metal complete with strings and brass. The rock band contribution doesn't strike me as musically complex yet the music packs a solid punch with the symphony adding the needed weight. The guitar riff is a simple chugger as a melodic and well-executed guitar solo takes over past the middle mark. Tamar Nugis is the vocalist and though he proves himself to be a theatrical singer with great power behind his voice, I find that at times on this track he is being overly dramatic. My red pen for striking down album weak points was raised once or twice here but I let it pass this time.

"Hit and Run" begins with a strong heavy riff but soon falls tragically into a formula that I dislike. After the opening riff gets a second run through with synthesizer adding a dark feeling to the heaviness, the song abruptly drops in bombast to make way for the vocals. The guitar is gone and only this mechanical and cold synthesizer plays while Nugis sings. The predictability factor maxes out here as the music clears way for two piano notes and whammo! the riff is back. But as I'm shaking my head thinking, "Formulaic! (heavy, drop down to light, go heavy again)" I can't help but notice that I am enjoying the music as it intensifies. Before long, I'm no longer caring about any formula and loving the heaviness and the bombast of the song's closure.

By "Slaves of Lies" the symphonic metal feel is in full force and I can't help but think about Symphony X from their "V: The New Mythology Suite". But then the music takes two surprising turns, the first with "Rise Up and Fly" which loses the heavy guitars and goes for an 80's pop vibe or maybe more like Depeche Mode but covered by this modern day band. Nice touch. Then comes the instrumental "On the Way" which really sounds like something from a 90's Steve Morse album. No heavy guitar here either but instead some nice guitar rock with a touch of jazz and a wonderful bit of lead guitar work. The music changes as the keyboards are given a chance in the spotlight. Bass guitar takes us back to the main guitar theme. Though much has impressed me thus far, this track really stands out.

"Reflections" comes in two parts, "Inner Battle" and "Silent Friend". The former brings us back to symphonic metal again. It's big, bold, and powerful with brass and strings accompanying the metal band with synthesizer. The Symphony X comparisons gain credibility. Then the music suddenly drops to delicate acoustic guitar joined soon by piano and vocals. Nugis sounds like a vocalist in an Ayreon rock opera now and the woodwind instruments come leading the song towards the heavy return of the guitars and then another ear-capturing lead guitar solo. The brass returns for a powerful punch of a finish. We hear rain and some pretty piano. More theatrical vocals and synthesizer and strings and then, surprise surprise, a flute plays a jig to strummed guitar while the symphony holds a beautiful but slow background. The symphony and the drums then take the lead with some electric guitar in the background and then that wonderful jig returns this time joined by hand percussion. The symphonic metal power comes back and the whole shebang wraps up with a finale of delicate piano with more lovely lead guitar.

The album closes with a song called "Esivanemate parand" which I'm going to guess is sung in native Estonian. This final track is almost like an opera/pop fusion similar to "Con Te Partiro" as sung by Francesco Sartori. I have to say that Nugis' vocals are at their best here, in my opinion, and really pack emotive power and passion. The acoustic guitar gets the lead solo break before we return to the anthemic climax of the song. On my second listen through, I decided that this might be my favourite song on the album. This song was the clincher for me that made me decide that I wanted the CD!

This has turned out to be quite an album. Though I was a bit skeptical about it at the start I have found the album to be full of pleasant and exciting surprises. I predict that this album will grow on me more with subsequent listens. Well done, X-Panda!

Review by Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Reflections' - X-Panda (53/100)

X-Panda made their debut to the world in 2011 with Flight of Fancy. I actually got a chance to hear it around the time that first album came out, and while I more or less branded them off as another Dream Theater hopeful at the time, they had at least made enough of an impression to remember flickers of the debut when a second album wheeled into view. Five years since the debut, it's clear that X-Panda have pushed their envelope beyond the confines of the jazz-tinged DT acolytes they used to be. Although they're still following prog metal convention a bit, their guiding influences have been expanded to include Nightwish and Muse.

The result is an album that feels practically buried in the weight of its ambition. On the one hand, trying to take after more than one band simultaneously is one way to come up with a more distinctive sound. It's a shame that pushing themselves forward has come at the cost of the things I liked most about Flight of Fancy. Where the mostly instrumental format gave a circa 2011 X-Panda the opportunity to flaunt their finesse, the vocal- based songwriting and flashy "cinematic" arrangements keep the band's core musicianship from shining out near as much. Full-blown orchestral arrangements, choral accompaniments and varied styles are all go-to placemarks for a rock band that is self-consciously pushing themselves to their limits. I think it's resulted in some very impressive ideas, but their evolution between albums doesn't seem so much an improvement as it is merely a transition to a new set of strengths and weaknesses.

X-Panda gave vocals a spin on a few songs from the debut. Bassist Tamar Nugis lent his voice to mixed results; at the least, it was a refreshing change of pace from the mostly instrumental arrangements they originally dabbled with. I wouldn't have thought a vocal-heavy X-Panda album would have been a great idea then, and I don't think so now. It's a really common pitfall for prog metal bands to include vocal at the cost of engaging instrumentation. It's hard to write vocal lines on top of crazy time signatures and busy arrangements, and vocal sections are often simplified to the point of sounding half the time like edgy AOR. Even if it wouldn't be fair to judge X-Panda by the same rubric as before, the vocal focus is the clear suspect that robbed them of their livelier parts. They have included these crazy film score orchestral parts perhaps as a way to compensate, but the whole way they go about it feels a greater part flash than substance. Much like Muse, their orchestra sounds big and conventionally epic, but there's little about it to justify its inclusion. Even the most basic orchestral scores take a ton of work to arrange, but this sounds like the predictable collection of bombastic flourishes and orchestration they could have mustered. To their credit, 9 out of 10 rock bands who opt to get classy with a backup orchestra fall short in much the same way.

Although I'd blame the album's shortcomings on the fact that they opted to get vocal on Reflections, it's not hurt by what they added so much as what they had to take away in the process. Nugis' voice might sound awkwardly thin and out-of-place fronting an expensive-sounding orchestra, but I wouldn't say his voice is bad at all. Nonetheless, knowing how to perform and compose effectively as an instrumental group carries a very different set of requirements than conventional songwriting. With average vocals to keep them from normally taking flight the way they should, and an unnecessary orchestra to further distract from the band, I think X-Panda's desire to move forward got in the way of their existing strengths. Unsurprisingly, my favourite track here is the one where they decided to fall back on old habits. "On the Way" is a familiar plunge into jazz fusion; it's pleasant and light enough, but it demonstrates they're still more than capable of bringing the best out of themselves. I respect X- Panda for trying to find a fresh identity. I don't think the evolution's worked out this time, but they've clearly lost none of that original potential.

Review by Mellotron Storm
3 stars X-PANDA are a five piece Prog-Metal band out of Estonia and this is album number two for the guys. There's plenty of orchestration on this one and even a youth choir. Not being big on orchestral moments this one just hasn't hit the spot for me despite recognizing that this is a very talented band. I haven't heard their debut but I understand it's more instrumental.

"The Game" gets us started and they hit us hard right off the hop. I like when it settles into a dark groove with restrained vocals. Everything kicks in on the chorus including some orchestral action. Contrasts continue on this catchy opener. I'm impressed with the instrumental calm after 2 minutes that builds to a powerful guitar led section. A good start! "Denial" is the epic at around 12 1/2 minutes and man there's a lot of orchestration on this one. It opens with sweeping strings as a crunchy groove joins in. This is like a theme for a movie bringing to mind bands like KAMELOT and SYMPHONY X. A calm follows as reserved vocals join in. Not big on this at all, especially the vocals 4 1/2 minutes in. It starts to build around 5 1/2 minutes until they are bringing it hard with orchestral movements and more. Vocals are back around 7 minutes and I'm just not digging them at all. Another calm before 9 minutes that I like a lot more as we get a jazzy vibe with prominent bass. Nice. It kicks back in late.

"Hit And Run" is better with that heavier sound, lots of depth here. Love when it settles with almost spoken vocals. This is more like it. Contrasts between the heavier sections and the more laid back vocal passages continue. I like this one. "Slave Of Lies" brings us back to the orchestral stuff. It kicks into a more powerful groove 30 seconds in including riffs. Love that bass a minute in as it settles and the vocals arrive. It picks up 1 1/2 minutes in. The heaviness here really hits the spot. A nice guitar solo follows then back to the vocals and heaviness. Good song.

"Rise Up To Fly" opens with orchestral music as the vocals, drums and more join in rather quickly. I like when his vocals go to a higher pitch but he doesn't do it for long. Catchy stuff. There's those higher pitched vocals again. Nice. "On The Way" opens with drums and piano as the guitar and bass join in. The guitar doesn't do much for me here. This is an instrumental but I'm not into it. "Reflections-Inner Battle" is dramatic and orchestral to start. I like when the sound intensifies after a minute. A calm arrives before 2 1/2 minutes as the song pretty much comes to a stop as mellow sounds can be heard like picked guitar and atmosphere as the reserved vocals arrive. The tempo starts to pick up 4 1/2 minutes in as the vocals continue to be the focus. It turns all instrumental quickly after this though. This is better. Vocals are back with orchestration later.

"Reflections-Silent Friend" opens with solo piano and atmosphere as strings and more sweep in. Fragile vocals follow. Flute replaces the vocals for a while then they return and then it picks up. Not into this at all. It's fairly powerful 4 minutes in as the vocals have stopped but they join in before we get an almost dead calm 5 minutes in. Piano, atmosphere then relaxed guitar follows. "Esivanemate Perand" is sung in their native language and is ballad-like. It does pick up some with orchestration. A fairly moving piece with vocals ends it.

The debut sounds more like my thing but please check this band out, especially if you like orchestration in your Prog-Metal.

Review by b_olariu
3 stars X-Pamda second offer is from 2016 named Reflections. They needed 5 years to come with this second album and I don't know, this is definetly not their best for sure. They are still on same coordonates as before, prog metal played with balls and with nice orchestrations, but this time something is missing. There are some nice hooks for sure like on 12 min piece Denial, also there are some top orchestrations here, and the musicianship is top notch, nice tune. Another worthy one is the instrumental prog jazz fusion metal type On The Way, very much as we used to on previous album. Nice release in the end but sometimes is sounded like a combination of Muse ( a band that I've never liked) with big fat sound and prog metal a la Symphony X because of the grandious orchestrations, not bad really, but I prefer much more Flight of fancy it was like a fresh bood 5 years ago in prog metal scene. 3 stars , maybe 3.5 in places, not excellent but not bad aswell. The art work is far less intresting as on debut.

Review by memowakeman
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars A very nice album!

It is wonderful to discover new bands from around the globe, this time I had the luck to be introduced to Estonian band X-Panda, whose second full-length album was released last year (2016). Their style is heavy prog with a metal tendency but without being metal per se ?at least in my opinion-, they also have some alt rock roots that may the listen a bit more pleasant. The album is divided in nine tracks that make a total time of almost one hour.

Reflections kicks off with "The Game", cool opener that has even a 80s feeling on it, heavy metal roots can be appreciated here, but with some elements that of course make it progressive rock. The chorus is catchy so you could learn it fast and sing it. In the final instrumental parts, I think it is evident Dream Theater has been an influence. Then they continue with a 12-minute track, the longest of the album. "Denial" is a powerful song with orchestral keyboards that create both classical and fantastic atmospheres. The introductory minutes are very epic, much more interesting than the whole first track (personal opinion, of course), creating a kind of film-score process that will bring several changes, different episodes and emotions. After two and a half minutes there is a moment of calm and melancholy, vocals enter and little by little a new structure is created. Bright moments with acoustic guitar and a delicate sound that has nothing to do with that heavy prog I previously mentioned. At half the song it becomes more emotional, new elements are being added, taking us into an adventurous lands. Then that metal-like sprit appears and again, new changes and emotions are appreciated, including a wonderful guitar solo. Excellent track!

"Hit and Run" starts with a heavy sound, it has a kind of industrial feeling as background, while vocals produce vibrant nuances. Drums and strings put that metal touch to the sound. I like both the instrumental and the moments with vocals. "Slaves of Lies" has again that sound of epic battles that even could take us to mid-eastern lands. I like these keyboards a lot and would prefer they keep the initiative for much more moments, but well, songs change so does this one. "Rise Up to Fly" is the shortest track here, but it is a nice catchy song that makes X-Panda a bit closer to alt-rock. I think this could work as a single track of this album.

"On the Way" shows a different face of the band. Here the sound is more in the side of jazz-rock, you can tell it by the piano and then the guitar. This is a instrumental but delicious track, a nice amalgam between the different tendencies of X-Panda's music. "Reflections" is an epic divided in two parts. The first one is "Inner Battle" and as you can imagine ?judging by its title- those epic-battle-keyboards are back, creating what you might recognize as symphonic metal. The music flows and grows, different images are being created, so you only have to let the music leads you to its journey. After two minutes it is like a new dawn, soft acoustic guitar and a tender sound for some minutes, and then it becomes heavier. The second part is "Silent Friend" which has a somber sound made by piano and some backing vocals, but later it becomes colorful, flute and bodhran appear, so it is now a folky atmosphere that brings a sense of hope.

The album finishes with "Esivanemate Pärand", by its name you can tell it is the only song not sung in English, I don't know that language, but I presume it is a local Estonian language. The sound is a bit disarming, vocals with piano at first making an interesting mixture of sadness and hope at the same time (my ignorance of the language doesn't help, of course, so that is my impression).

This is a nice album, I like it, yes, but it has been difficult to me to dig it, it is a double-edged knife because it has a lot surprises that might make it a bit uneven, but once you appreciate them and let them hit you, you might be enchanted.

Enjoy it!

Review by kev rowland
4 stars 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.

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