By Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks
Epica is the gold standard of symphonic metal. The new album is delightfully dramatic, bombastic and melodic yet at times very heavy. Exquisite!
Epica’s eighth full-length studio album, “Omega”, is nothing short of a masterpiece. It’s simply, well, epic! Epica’s superiority comes from the contrasts between Mark Jansen’s growls and Simone Simon’s angelic and powerful voice as well as the combination of the heavy guitars and the dreamy keyboards. Epica is the gold standard of symphonic metal. In addition to the terrific musical performances of all the band members, they write better songs than the other bands in the genre. They also have better arrangements and production. On this new album, the band’s first full-length studio album in five years, we get to hear Epica’s trademark sound and, as always with this band, there is some added complexity. For example, there are some terrific Middle Eastern touches incorporated into the songs “Seal of Solomon” and “Code of Life”. Epica’s soundscape is busy, there are always things going on in this multi-layered music with constant twists and turns. They are also absolute scholars and royals when it comes to the use of choirs and orchestras. At times, Epica’s music sounds like a film score. As we are used to when it comes to Epica, many of the songs are diverse with frequent tempo and style changes. But there are also some more straightforward songs, like the dreamy and beautiful ballad “Rivers”. Epica has a long-established and rock-solid line-up: vocalist Simone Simons and guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen are joined by Isaac Delahaye (guitar), Coen Janssen (keyboards and piano), Ariën van Weesenbeek (drums) and Rob van der Loo (bass). Joost van den Broek’s production is flawless. He has worked closely with the band for many years and he manages to get the best out of them. The epic piece “Kingdom of Heaven Part 3 – The Antediluvian Universe” clocks in at almost thirteen and a half minutes. During that time, Epica takes us on one helluva ride. It’s a standout track for sure, but this album is so good that all the tracks are terrific. “The Skeleton Key” is perhaps my favourite track with its dramatic intro with piano and choirs, before we get the guitar riffs and, of course, Simone. Other bands don’t have Simone.
Epica’s “Omega” will be released on 26th February in Japan via Ward Records and internationally via Nuclear Blast Records.