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X-PANDA

Progressive Metal • Estonia


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X-Panda biography
X-PANDA is a progressive metal band founded in April of 2009 in Estonia. The band has not been around for long, but have built a reputation of great music and stellar live performances. The band, which is comprised of Kaarel TAMRA, Risto VIRKHAUSEN, Karl-Juhan LAANESAAR, and Tamar NUGIS, make music that is both highly progressive while simultaneously accessible and catchy. Their music has a powerful melodic edge as well as a great metallic basis as well as jazz fusion hooks and enhancements. The band's debut studio album, Flight of Fancy, was released in 2011

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Flight of FancyFlight of Fancy
CD BABY.COM/INDYS 2011
Audio CD$11.24
$33.06 (used)
Flight of FancyFlight of Fancy
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Marquee Inc. Japan 2012
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X-PANDA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.82 | 24 ratings
Flight Of Fancy
2011

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X-PANDA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by oscillator11(J.M.)

4 stars My first Estonian album ever, but what a great music! To judge from the photographs the band members are still young, but what a maturity in their playing and in their compositions. Once I started to listen to this album I couldn't stop for days. Their seemingly weak spot is in my eyes their strength. Listening to this album gives you the impression that you have to do with a band that haven't yet made up their mind what style to play and exactly that is making the album exiting and captivating to the end!

The band move from jazz-rock to Symphony X orientated metal to classical progressive symphonic rock and don't even hesitate to add a piece of Gothic metal.

Most of the music is instrumental and that's just good, because the vocal of bass player Tamas Nugis qualities aren't up the incredible maturity of the technical skills of the band.

An album like "Flight of Fancy" takes time to sound familiar, because at every new listening you discover new elements in the music.

"Dark" is a fine piece of dark metal with a touch of gothic added and a fantastic symphonic lead guitar. Title piece "Flight of Fancy" gives you a piece of melodic and extremely harmonious jazz-rock.

"Siren" is more in a vein of bands like Symphony X, but with weaker vocals. "Calm Waters" is a more quiet jazz-rock composition with a beautiful warm bass to sustain it.

The album ends in the style in which it begun with once more choral interventions and a solid metal based sound. This is truly an album to check out!! Great music. Can't wait to discover what they will come up with next!!

Oscillator11

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by ProgShine
Collaborator Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team

4 stars It's not easy, oh it's not, when you live most part of your life in only one country. There's nothing wrong with that, but when it comes to know where places are and understand the different cultures, it's complicated.

It's easy for most of us being familiar with USA, England, Italy or even Brazil, the place I was born.

So when you found out that some band comes from.. Estonia, well, you really can't imagine what kind of music will be, when when you discover that they play Progressive Metal/Progressive Rock, it really comes as a shock, initially. Not because of any prejudice, but because you never imagines such places to have any different music and only because... you never heard of any band or just a couple of bands that comes from that place.

Now that I've explained this little thing, I just need to say that doesn't matter from where X-PANDA came. The things that matters when Flight Of Fancy (2011) starts is how good is that. And it is!

The little 'Intro' comes most as some piece of sound to delivers the first real song 'Black' that starts when we thing, well, another Progressive Metal band. But that's a mistake. X-PANDA mix more than only that, they deliver a sound full of details where orchestral parts and very good keyboard driven layers by Kaarel Tamra are really important, maybe the one thing that keep us with Progressive Metal in our heads are the guitars parts from Risto Virkhausen, that most of the times are playing heavy syncopated riffs, but he also plays alot in the 'solo' field, where the guitar is soloing most of the time with nice melodies. So, no, I don't count X-PANDA as a Progressive Metal band in the end.

One nice thing about Flight Of Fancy (2011) is that every track have a little text that explain a bit every song before going into each lyrics. I just love that kind of stuff and very few albums have that.

Most of the album is instrumental, they're all great, a big mix of this guys influences but with personality, but I really would like to have more vocals, Tamar Nugis (he's also the bass player) have a very good voice and 'Black', 'Siren' and 'Revelation' prove that.

A very solid first album with a great psychedelic cover and a amazing production, Karl-Juhan Laanesaar drums sound like real drums, which is a problem for me in the big majority of new albums. My only complain is the lenghty of the album, in my opinion almost 70 minutes is a bit too much.

I highly recomment the record and if you're not sure yet jump on their Bandcamp page and check out 2 tracks of the album (x-panda.bandcamp.com/album/flight-of-fancy).

On top of all that? The band is working on their second album that will be released around mid 2013.

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by CCVP
Prog Reviewer

3 stars New blood

In these past five years or so the progressive metal comunity has come to experience the rise of a somewhat dead subgenre of progressive metal, the so-called fusion metal or jazz metal. Having its roots in the mid 1990's, jazz metal was supposedly dead by the end of the decade, when its biggest names either disbanded or were met with so many difficulties that it was nearly impossible to go on. The stark changes in the music business industry and the big opportunities the internet has come to offer to new strugginlg artists, however, came to come in handy with the redevelopment of the subgenre, causing not only the old acts to regroup, release new material and experience some degree of success, although limited to a strict niche, but also giving birth to a number of promissing and exciting new acts, being X Panda one of such.

When the band came to me, offering their work and asking for a sincere feedback I was already familiar to their music to some extent, since I took part in the process of their evaluation and adition to the ProgArchives database. In adition to that, being an enthusiant of progressiver metal only made it more natural and downright easy for me to write this review.

The band's music, despite borrowing heavily from whatever jazz influences they have, have their roots firmely set in the progressive metal side. Right in the first (propper) song, the mini epic Black, you can have a real good sense of that, with references and inclinations to Derek/Rudess-era Dream Theater and Shadow Gallery (this last one can be heard specially in the melodic piano and guitar lines and musical development) all around. Liquid Tension Experiment and Derek Sherinian (solo output), might I say, all related with Dream Theater, also can be recognised along as noticeable influences to the band's creative process, leaving to Dream Theater the undisputed place as the main source of inspiration for this Eesti four-piece.

Wile the wide influence they have from the american progressive metal band can be seen as a big advantage, as their music will be met and consumed more easily by the progressive metal fans, as Dream Theater is undisputably the biggest, most loved and most successful act in the genre (what can be seen in the reviews of my fellow collegues, many of them avid fans of the mentioned american band, as myself), I also see it as a big disadvantage, because: 1 - there is a miriad of bands that take Dream Theater as their main influence, what could make this promissing band be dismissed as a clone; 2 - Dream Theater has many haters inside the progressive comunity; 3 - even if there are interesting, orginal and intelligent musical ideas in the album they can get lost amongst the many that are inspired directly out of an idea from the makers of Images and Words.

Another downside for me was the solo section of the album, reserved for the keyboardist and the drummer; even if those are not pure solos, meaning that the main instruments are accompanied by the rest of the band, I personally do not like this concept and, unless it is delivered with perfection, it most certainly loses my attention, which is what happens in this case, in spite of the band's most honorable efforts to deliver.

As it could be expected by any progressive metal band that strives for greatness, the instrumental department is close to perfection and, and here it comes the biggest strength of this ensemble, the players are able to bring to the listener both the roughness and technicality of the traditional progressive metal group as well as the melodious songs with a feel that few progressive metal groups are able to have. The vocals are also presented with caution, meaning that the album is almost completely instrumental and that the vocal parts do not get in the way of the instrumental work.

Rating and final thoughts:

Fight of the Fancy is a decent enough debut if you ask me. It presents the band's music and premise very well and let you wanting more. It also show how promissing X Panda is as one of the new faces in the jazz metal ranks, they are definitely a diamond in the rough type and will most surely surprise everybody in the future, and I hope they do. For now, they have a solid debut album as their acheivement. Three stars.

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by ErnilEnNaur

4 stars 9/10 A great debut that serves up equal doses of familiarity and originality.

X-Panda (who's name obviously means a desire for expansion) build upon their inspirations (Dream Theater, Porcupine Tree, Nightwish) and create something that is undeniably good old progressive rock, but sounds neither old nor tired. Many bands are unable to break away from their influences in several albums, but X-Panda have done so on their very first and very good album. "Flight Of Fancy" is a fantastic debut from a great new group.

The production is almost unbelievably good for a debut album and no serious fault can be found, even when specifically looking for one. The choirs are real, as are the violins. Plenty of synthesizer effects are thrown into the mix to further emphasize the atmosphere, which is quite jazzy and always adventurous.

X-Panda perform their music with confidence and professionalism and while pretty much every band member gets his chance to shine, the musicianship is never sacrificed to showmanship (an error that many prog bands these days seem unable to avoid making). The vocals are the icing on the cake here. Though seldom used, they serve to highlight the best moments on the album. When female vocals come in at the very end, the effect is even grander and leaves one wishing that vocals were used a bit more often.

It thus follows that "Flight Of Fancy" features mostly instrumental music that emphasizes strong songwriting and atmosphere. The overall mood of the album is quite positive and energetic, but there are plenty of deliciously dark (but no less energetic) moments along the way. When it gets heavy, it gets pretty darn heavy, but never for too long. You'll get your chance to bang your head furiously, but you'll also be able to think and feel during the quieter moments. The riffs and melodies are always catchy, fun and delightful and there are plenty of surprises along the way (Dickybirds sounds like an epic battle theme from a Final Fantasy game at points). The devastating closing number "Revelation" is guaranteed to both make you sing along and leave you wanting for more of the same.

In conclusion: If you haven't heard X-Panda yet, give them a chance. Few bands out there nowadays can impress with every aspect of their music, but X-Panda are one such band. They have created one of the most enjoyable albums that the prog rock/metal has seen in recent years and I believe they have earned their place in every prog fan's collection. This is one flight you'll want to take.

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by 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.

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by apps79
Special Collaborator Neo Prog Team

3 stars Young Progressive Metal band from Tartu,Estonia, formed in 2009.The original line-up consisted of Risto Virkhausen (guitars), Kaarel Tamra (keyboards), Karl-Juhan Laanesaar (drums) and Liis Ring (bass),soon Ring was replaced by Tamar Nugis.X-Panda debuted in 2011 with the album ''Flight of Fancy''.

Grounded is some sort of Progressive Fusion/Metal field,X-Panda deliver edgy but also elaborate musicianship on this album,far from the noisy,cliche and abstract presentation of some mediocre bands of the style.Filled with quite long and diverse tracks,this work shows a band switching from smooth passages to heavier parts with tons of professional interplays,always deeped in refined melodies but also catchy bombastic grooves.Their style contains elements from Jazz,Classical Music and even Electronic soundscapes with rather limited vocals and plenty of space for their numerous shifting moods and sudden breaks.The best comparison would be the high class work of LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT.

This is definitely a band to keep an eye on.Not very original,this mix of styles has been played a lot lately in the Prog Metal field,but everything I hear is played with talent and passion.A more original approach should lift the band into a legend.Strongly recommended...3.5 stars.

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by EatThatPhonebook
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 7/10

"Flight Of Fancy" promises great, adventurous things for X-Panda.

X-Panda are an Estonian (!) Progressive Metal band that apparently have come out of nowhere with their debut "Flight Of Fancy" released in a year where there is room for many great albums in the music scene. This debut is a huge surprise, an extremely fresh, original and brave work by young, extremely talented and well educated musicians. Together, they create something that is not really an album, but a massive and solemn promise that they'll be the rulers of the Prog Metal scene in no time.

Is Progressive Metal a word that is starting to get less clear? Maybe it's simply expanding: here, the second option is what I like to believe X-Panda wants to do with the genre. What this band did with this album shows the great talent that underdog countries such as Estonia can have. It is great to hear hidden talents slowly coming towards the open, towards the outer world. There is only to thank X-Panda, for reminding us what Progressive Metal should mean, which is variation, progression, and experimentation, but also change. The reason why Prog Metal is getting less clear is because of bands such as these, that are able to expand the term, and still being able to remain in that box.

Their music is strongly influenced by Jazz Fusion, it is in fact largely instrumental, to the point where it's almost more of a Jazz effort, because of song structures that imply it clearly. To mind, Haken seemed a sort of influence for this band, because of their wide eclecticism in keyboard sounds, something that is heard abundantly in the landmark album "Aquarius". Despite the pretty wide experimentation, jazziness and progressiveness, there is no denying that the melodies are strong in each one of these tracks, another reason why Haken comes to mind: the songwriting can be quite catchy at times, when it's not focusing on constant melody changing, like in most of the album. As a matter of fact, these songs are best described as shapeshifters: they constantly change form, constant time changes, constant melody changes. This chameleonic piece of music can, let's admit it, go a little too far over, to the point where after about an hour the listen get's somewhat tiring. There is musically tons of variation, but in a way, I feel like I'm listening to basically the same track over and over again. Exceptions be made for some that just don't have the same nature of the rest of the songs.

The album, despite not being the most solid thing out there, has moments that were almost shockingly huge standouts, not only for 2011 tracks but for Prog Metal tracks in general: the song that captures the most of what I just said is the wonderful, extremely touching title-track, a great seven minute trip that contains some of the most touching moments you'll ever hear from this genre. Songs like the eleven minute "Black" or "Dickybirds: use sort of the same kind of songwriting, with always a very highlighted musicianship. The few sung songs are really good too, especially the dark tones of "Siren" or even the quieter segments of "Black". "Journey" Of A Dream"'s more melodic moments are indeed a great treat for the listener, but the eleven minutes could get tedious for some. The second part of the album I can't help to find it a bit weaker, however the shiny moments are more than a few, like in "Rhythm Department" or "Crystal Gazing".

A unique and brave album that gives great hope and ambition for this band, that hopefully will rise up to become what they deserve to be. A really enjoying experience that will leave pleased any Prog Metal fan.

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by J-Man
Prog Reviewer

4 stars X-Panda is an interestingly named progressive metal act from Estonia, and Flight of Fancy is their impressive entrance into the scene. This mostly-instrumental debut showcases a talented young band with a unique sound, as well as a strong ability to write memorable and captivating compositions. Flight of Fancy is a truly remarkable musical experience - although many new progressive metal bands tend to derive too much from Dream Theater and the like, X-Panda truly has something unique to offer with this debut effort. All in all, Flight of Fancy is a highly successful mix of progressive rock, jazz, and metal; fans of those genres should definitely give these guys a shot.

Flight of Fancy does contain a handful of vocal sections, but most of its seventy-minute duration is entirely instrumental. Unlike most instrumental prog metal, however, there's a very strong sense of melody and harmony in every single one of the compositions. X-Panda is not afraid to show off their stunning technical capabilities as musicians, but none of the compositions ever seem like a mere vehicle for soloing. Though the musicianship and production shine throughout all of Flight of Fancy, I'd argue that the album's strongest asset lies in the deep and intricate songwriting. The album is pretty long (clocking in at nearly seventy minutes), but it doesn't ever seem to drag on too much. X-Panda's fascinating blend of jazz, prog, and metal is instantly captivating; once you factor in the top-notch musicianship and excellent compositions, it's clear that we're dealing with a truly remarkable observation.

This young Estonian band made one hell of an entrance with Flight of Fancy, and I can safely regard X-Panda as one of the most promising acts on the scene today. Fans of progressive metal and jazz fusion with a unique twist should be sure to check out this impressive debut - this is one of 2011's more memorable albums for sure. 4 stars and a very warm recommendation are deserved. Let's hope to hear more from X-Panda in the coming years!

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by Rivertree
Special Collaborator Psych/Space Team & Band Submissions

4 stars This is a production of 70 fancy minutes really ... so much the more when considering the fact we have a debut here. Some kind of heavy progressive rock is their homeground music-wise, basically a blend of metal and fusion elements. Although the songs are made of complex rhythms there is a significant emphasis on melody to state as well. With that said, regarding prog terms this four Estonian 'expander' are successful overall when it comes to this ten songs which are included on 'Flight Of Fancy' (I do exclude the short intro). Black is exemplary - a little epic in some way, a song of multiple faces. As for the compositional aspect alone absolutely challenging.

Several guest musicians are involved, a choir is replacing orchestral strings if you will. Including diverse brass instruments they evoke some classical symphonic feeling too. Male and female vocals (Tamar Nugis, Teele Viira) are complementary, Risto Virkhausen's multi-varied guitar work is stunning featuring emotive moments and heavy riffs. Chapeau! What follows is predominantly instrumental then. The album's title track is a more catchy exemplar provided with a nice groove and some superb guitar riffs. On Journey Of A Dream Kaarel Tamra comes more out of hiding due to some solo excursions.

Obviously contrary Calm Waters is an emotional soft fusion affair, wonderful nevertheless where Revelation closes the circle with classical touch again featuring choir support and violin. 'Flight Of Fancy' appears as something exceptional, not only from a technical point of view. It's a safe bet that X-Panda is consisting of educated musicians with classical and jazz background. To get all the details and tricky rhythm changes it definitely takes time. Attributes like innovation, variety are well deserved. Those prog fans who like well thought out arrangements featuring heavy respectively shredding guitars - I would name Virgil Donati related projects as a reference for example - are headed in the right direction.

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 Flight Of Fancy by X-PANDA album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.82 | 24 ratings

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Flight Of Fancy
X-Panda Progressive Metal

Review by Menswear
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Catchy.

When it comes to jazz/ fusion meets crunchy rock, it's important to keep things balanced. You don't wanna be too cocky and slip into complicated structures, because you still want to entertain, right? Well, X-Panda did it, and hands crossed their back.

Talented is not a big enough word to describe the skills of these guys. I would say..hmm..advanced. Yes! The band is advanced in what they are doing, delivering an album way above average. They are advanced in terms of compostions, none of the tracks deserved the skip button after a few minutes. They are (needless to say) skilled and professionnal musicians, giving the solos and melodies mostly to guitars and keyboards. And it's a great mix, the two intruments responding to one another, letting the other take the lead without overdoing it.

I did find the guitar playing influenced by Steve Vai (intentional or not), and in fact, some songs are build in the same patterns. Steve Vai is not afraid to show off, but not to the sake of harmony. I do have to appraise the keyboard player for layering all the way some exquisite electronic textures, solos and backgrounds without cramming your ears with too much colors.

X-Panda is recieving my applause for this very pleasant release, showing a high level of maturity and expertise. What a great surprise this was! They took me into a futuristic town, riding those cars Blade Runner did. Holograms, neons and skyscrapers, all of this bathing into a soft pink light.

Contenders for best newcomers hands down.

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Thanks to bonnek for the artist addition.

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