On disc: Epica
The Classical Conspiracy
(Nuclear Blast - 2009)
Epica always combined classical elements with symphonic sounds, metal and dark sounds with operatic vocals and growls and so The Classical Conspiracy is not really a surprise. But instead of bringing only their own songs in a symphonic way on stage, Epica added some interpretations of themes by e,g, Händel, Grieg and Vivaldi as well as motion soundtrack stuff like the Spider-Man Medley and The Imperial March off Star Wars Episode V. The band performed at Miskolc International Opera Festival with a full orchestra and choir a 45 minute long set in front of opera fans adapting classical themes. The adaption of classical music pieces in a rock / metal version also isn't new and Trans-Siberian Orchestra showed many times that it works well. After the mainly instrumental performance at the Miskolc International Opera Festival you get an Epica show. Simone Simons can only be heard at the Opera Festival on 2 songs - Ombra Mai Fu and Stabat Mater Dolorosa. From the adaptions of classical themes my favorite is In The Hall Of The Mountain King by Edvad Grieg, but I always loved this piece and it's perfect for a symphonic metal version!
And with Indigo they kick off the Epica set and head into The Last Crusade. Soon it becomes clear that with orchestra and choir the Epica songs could really shine - in a different light. The symphonic elements become more prominent and so the contrast between the symphonic side and the metal sounds. Songs like Sensorium, Quietus, Cry For The Moon, Sancta Terra and Never Enough are more epic, more bombastic this time, but they are still heavy. And Mark's grunts sound even more aggressive here. Very cool! And it's a pleasure to hear Safeguard To Paradise live and in this special way.
This album documents that Epica is an outstanding band with musicians who are skilled and open-minded - and who aren't afraid of taking a challenge! Simone Simons' mezzo soprano is essential for the Epica sound, but the instrumental pieces the band did at the Opera festival also showed that the band is outstanding. With their mix of sounds they already crossed some borders - and I think they won't stop here!
1. Palladium (by Yves Huts)
2. Dies Irae (from Giuseppe Verdi: Requiem)
3. Ombra Mai Fu (from Georg Friederich Händel: Xerxes)
4. Adagio (from Antonín Dvorák: New World Symphony)
5. Spider-Man Medley (from Danny Elfman: Spider-Man)
6. Presto (from Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons)
7. Montagues And Capulets (from Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo And Juliet)
8. The Imperial March (from John Williams: Star Wars Episode V)
9. Stabat Mater Dolorosa (from Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater)
10. Unholy Trinity (by Yves Huts)
11. In The Hall Of The Mountain King (from Edvard Grieg: Peer Gynt)
12. Pirates Of The Caribbean Medley (from Hans Zimmer/Klaus Badelt)
14. The Last Crusade
17. Chasing The Dragon
1. Never Enough
2. Beyond Belief
3. Cry For The Moon
4. Safeguard To Paradise
5. Blank Infinity
6. Living A Lie
7. The Phantom Agony
8. Sancta Terra
9. Illusive Consensus
10. Consign To Oblivion
Chasing The Dragon (7" picture vinyl)
(Nuclear Blast - 2008)
With Chasing The Dragon the Dutch band Epica release a picture vinyl single and their second single from The Divine Conspiracy. The vinyl has 2 songs, an edit of Chasing The Dragon and a cover version. The title track is putting focus on Simone Simons vocals in this semi-acoustic version. A beautiful and symphonic tune which fans will know in its long version from last years album The Divine Conspiracy.
With a Fear Factory cover they might surprise many fans... Replica shows Epica going industrial with vocal effects, but also with Simone's clear vocals and some growls from Mark. An interesting cover version which shows another facet of the Epica sound!
In my opinion a must have for Epica fans - not just because picture vinyl is something special these days. ;)
The Road To Paradiso
(Transmission Records - 2006)
This 'photo sound book' is something made for fans and kinda shows the bands way from demos - partly done as Sahara Dust and with singer Helena Iren Michaelson - to their present. Beside the music the CD offers some stories about the songs - audio files Making Of and and interview with guitarist Ad Sluijters.
First you hear some fans shouting for Epica, then an instrumental intro - Welcome To The Road To Paradiso. Btw, Paradiso is a legendary venue in Amsterdam. After Ad telling about Adyta you get to hear the demo version which shows the developing of the song. Same can be said about Cry For The Moon and Quietus, but the later you get also as single version. With The Fallacy and Purushayita they present some previously unreleased songs. Some live tracks recorded during several shows give an idea about Epica live. Especially the piano version of Linger is interesting - very emotional it becomes even more beautiful this way - as well as the orchestral version of Crystal Mountain which is a heavy, fast one. Here it just got a different edge due to the orchestral parts they added.
A real treat for fans of the Dutch, for people who aren't huge Epica fans this isn't the right way to start! To check out the band other releases are more appropriate.
Welcome To The Road To Paradiso
Making of Adyta
Adyta (demo version)
Making of Cry For The Moon
Cry For The Moon (demo version)
Making of Quietus
Quietus (demo version)
Quietus (single version)
The Fallacy (unreleased track)
Interview with Ad on live tracks
Solitary Ground (unreleased live version)
Blank Infinity (unreleased live version)
Mother Of Light (unreleased live version)
Linger (unreleased piano version)
Crystal Mountain (orchestral version)
Purushayita (unreleased track)
Quietus (Silent Reverie) (single)
(Transmission Records - 2005)
Quietus is one of the strongest tracks from Epica's Consign To Oblivion album and also one of the catchiest. No surprise then, that it was chosen as the single for the album!
This single contains two versions of Quietus; the single version and a 'grunt' version. It also contains two versions of Epica covering Death's classic Crystal Mountain.
The single version of Quietus is easily as enjoyable as the album version but clocks in at slightly longer in length.
The first version of Crystal Mountain is up next and is the orchestral version. I don't think Epica could have chosen a better death song to cover at all to be honest. The already classic death metal song is made all the more impressive with Epica's symphonic arrangements and the use of Simone Simon's beautiful voice. My only complaint would be that her voice is not used enough!
Quietus (grunt version) is – yep, you guessed it – the song recorded with Mark Jansen's growl replacing Simone in the verses. Its an interesting listen, not quite as enjoyable as the regular version, but that's just because I'd rather hear more of Simone Simons' voice any day!
The last song is a straightforward cover of Crystal Mountain. Its a good cover but can't hold a candle to the orchestral version. At the end of the day if I want to listen to a death metal version of Crystal Mountain I'll just listen to the Death original!
Overall this is a good single from these Dutch stars. The Death cover is unexpected, but shows the diversity of Epica's sound.
(Transmission Rec. - 2005)
First I want to state that this album is not necessarily interesting for fans of Epica! The band was asked to write and play some music for the Dutch movie Joyride, but at the end only a little part was used and they decided to release it. And so The Score came to live. Due to the fact that the music was written for a movie most of the tracks are instrumentals and have to follow the fathom of the movie. It's dramatic, epic and partly a bit bombastic due to the orchestration. As often with instrumental soundtracks it's music to close your eyes and let the music carry you away. And so this album is more appropriate for fans of the music of e.g. Hans Zimmer.
Only 3 songs are with vocals - Trois Vierges, Solitary Ground and Quietus. There are two versions of Trois Vierges - one features Simone which is more intense. The other version is an instrumental. This 3 songs were released on Consign To Oblivion, too. Well, the duet is on the album, but not the other version. And I think it's a good idea to add these tracks, coz this album is not a metal album and might open one's mind for Epica.
Conclussion: A great album, but not a metal album! Fans of movie soundtracks will love it and perhaps some Epica fans will do, too. Metal fans who want heavy music with guitar riffing and pounding drums, grab another CD!
Vengeance is mine
Caught in a Web
Under the Aegis
Trois Vierges (solo version)
Valley of Sins
The alleged Paradigm
Beyond the Depth
Angel of death
The ultimate Return
Trois Vierges (Reprise)
The Phantom Agony
(Transmission - 2003)
Another band in the vein of Within Temptation, After Forever and Nightwish, you might think. The album starts with Adyta - The Neverending Embrace, a kind of intro... Some choir and classic influenced music. Then they really start off with Sensorium. Here are similarities to Nightwish and the above named bands, but singer Simone Simons sings mezzo soprano and not like Tarja soprano. It's audible that Miss Simons has a classical training, but sometimes she leaves this a little behind. Another difference is that they work additionally with growls. That there are similarities to After Forever it's easy to explain, coz guitarist mark Jansen left After Forever awhile ago and started Epica.
The marching drums of Cry For The Moon and the melody line of Simone reminds me a little of Time To Say Goodbye the song Henry Maske used when walking into a fight. The classic elements serve this too. But in the middle part they really start to rock. Heavy and fast. When Mark adds growls and scolds they almost like one of the less extreme black'n'death metal bands. It's the contrast between the heavy parts and the enchanting epic parts which are crowned by Simone's voice. A great track and the perfect choice to check out the Dutch sextet. The track Feint builds a contrast, it's a slow tune which is reduced to the minimum to support Simones voice. The band stays in the background. A fast start has Facade Of Reality, here they work again with different tempi and a choir to add some epic elements. But then they mainly stick to the mid-tempo. And again some growls. Another element they use here is some spoken words which sound like an announcement... Like something you hear on TV or radio. A great track! To give the listener a break Run For A Fall starts with some acoustic guitar, violins and the voice of Simone Simons. Even when the rest of the band joins in they keep the slow and laid back mood, but after about 3 minutes they go full speed ahead. But then the typical elements been used again. That's the Epica sound! Even if they are newcomers, they have found their own musical identity and I think that we'll hear a lot more from the sextet in future!
To cover the range of Epica's music listen to: Cry For The Moon, Facade Of Reality and Feint.