Tristania - O2 Academy Islington, London

The inescapable fact, and overriding thought, about Xandria is just how similar front woman Manuela Kraller sounds to Tarja Turunen; and the band's rather bland take on the gothic metal genre only adds to illusion they are not much more than a Nightwish covers band. As a treat, the band unveils two tracks, 'Valentine' and 'Euphoria', from their upcoming album due next year, but in all honest it does appear to be more of the same.

The words "unique" and "original" are often bandied around quite freely by people eulogising about their latest musical discovery, but in the case of Van Canto, it is very hard to argue against. Consisting of a drummer and no less than five vocalists, they may only be playing standard fare power metal, but the ability to do all the guitars, synths and bass, including solos, for nearly an hour using purely the human voice is impressive and mesmerising. And rather than just writing music to suit the arrangement, fine covers of Nightwish's 'Wishmaster' and especially a stunning 'Fear Of The Dark' proves this is no silly gimmick.

Tristania are a different beast to the one I saw nearly seven years ago, having gone through a multitude of line up changes and yet another shift in style on last year's Rubicon album. But the basic principal is still very much there, and sounding as good as ever; with four distinct voices, the music is very much choral in its construction, yet they remain one of the heaviest gothic bands around.

The opening bars of 'The Shining Path' is a massive wall of vocal virtuosity, with a power the guitars struggle to keep up with; but keep up they do, and are positively monstrous on the likes of 'Beyond The Veil' and personal pick 'The Wretched'. The interplay between all the vocalists is a constant throughout the set, and reaches a soaring climax with the epic 'Illumination' as the show comes to a close. Many try and incorporate the symphonic into metal these days, but few as deftly as Tristania have tonight.

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