Title: “The Divine Conspiracy”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 9/7/2007
Genre: Gothic Symphonic Metal
I’ve been following the music of Epica for a couple of years now and have long been convinced of what they can do since their debut album “The Phantom Agony” was released on the now defunct Transmission Records back in 2003. They would follow the debut with a strong sophomore effort called “Consign To Oblivion” and if you are fortunate to own any of these then you are lucky since each are almost impossible to find in today’s Metal world without a lot of digging. From the ashes of Transmission the band would rise like the Phoenix and sign a deal with Nuclear Blast Records and give the world their magnum opus, the amazing Symphonic Gothic album “The Divine Conspiracy”. The album is without a doubt not only their strongest material to date but perhaps even the best album that they have ever done. Produced by Metal luminary Sascha Paeth and the band, Epica takes the elements that they introduced us to on their earlier albums and meld them together into one of the most mature and elegantly powerful Metal albums of 2007. Led by guitarist Mark Jansen, the compositions on the album are at times brooding and dark while at other time both passionate and bright. Their vocalist Simone Simons, who many might know as having worked with Melodic Metal masters Kamelot, truly shines as one of the most amazing singers that the genre has ever given us. With this album the classically trained Mezzo Soprano shows that she can not only handle some of the highest notes out there but also keep a more conventional voice as well if need be. Jansen is known to be quite fond of film score’s so it makes sense that the new Epica begins with one of its own and as it plays you envision sitting in some grand theatre as the cast of players is introduced.
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Title: “Consign To Oblivion”
Label: The End/Transmission Records
Release Date: 10/11/2005
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Holland’s Epica are one of those bands that are following a great path of music forged in the footsteps of bands such as Nightwish and Therion. They do this by combining Symphonic music with powerful Metal riffs mixed with the elements that their Mezzo Soprano lead singer brings to the table. The group also employs a full choir and that brings so much more of their music to life. As you listen you will find some traits of these bands but also a spark of originality that makes for a good overall listen. Epica was founded by After Forever’s Mark Jansen who left that band and began working with Simone Simons. Simone’s voice is as amazing as she is beautiful and from the moment I heard their debut “The Phantom Agony” I knew this was going to be a band I would be interested in. There are many who call this group a second rate After Forever simply because the band utilizes the clean operatic style and the gruff Black Metal growls at points in the music like they do. It also doesn’t help the comparison when both groups feature a standout female vocalist. As someone who has listened to and reviewed both bands I would have to disagree for each one offers the listener something different. There are some similar writing styles as Jansen was a principal writer in After Forever yet with Epica there are more clean Male vocals than the growls used in the former band. Epica also slows it down a little more hitting a couple of ballads on the record where AF maintains a generally heavy course. I like both Floor Jansen and Simone Simons and rather than debate which one is better feel that anyone who enjoys Operatic Power Metal or Symphonic Metal should give each group a fair shot at an unbiased listen.
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Title: “The Phantom Agony”
Label: Transmission Records
Release Date: 3/9/2004
Genre: Symphonic Goth
For many years the Heavy Metal world was missing the presence of talented women vocalists. Of course we had the wonderful Doro Pesch and Lita Ford but they were clearly few and far between. However, the past several years have seen this void filled to a very satisfying capacity. We can now count on the existence of bands that are fronted by these amazing singers who add both beauty and grace to music as powerful and complex as their voices. Joining the ranks of Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) & Floor Jansen (After Forever) is Simone Simons of Epica.
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