THE RISE OF EPICA CONTINUES WITH 'THE HOLOGRAPHIC PRINCIPLE'
It's nice when you see a band you like putting in all the hard graft required to be a success as a Metal band in the modern world and getting their just rewards for all that hard work. 'The Holographic Principle' is Epica's seventh studio album in their sixteen year history. They have done all the touring, played the little clubs, opened festivals and gone through the inevitable line-up changes to grow into the band they are now.
Of course just working hard and touring constantly isn't going to cut it on it's own. You also have to be good or no amount of shows will make up for it. Fortunately this particular band of Dutch symphonic Metallers are not just one of the top bands in the female fronted Metal world but a cracking live band who can live with anyone on a stage. In addition the current line-up has the chemistry to be a real creative tour de force.
2014s 'The Quantum Enigma' saw them at the top of their game, a set of quality songs as heavy and brutal sounding as they have ever been yet with that flair for melody and matched to a big concept based on quantum physics. I wasn't kidding about the creativity part either as they filled the CD to its seventy five minute capacity and still had five very good songs left over to be released as bonus tracks.
Now after two more years of touring, press work and all the rest it's time for the follow up and it seems they have done the business again.
Once again there is a high end theme around the songs here. 'The Holographic Principle' is a phrase referring to a theory that the world is a hologram and as guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen says: "Nowadays you can put on a virtual reality mask and you'll find yourself in a different world. It's not perfect yet but in a few years the techniques will be so good that you won't be able to tell if it's our 'real' or the virtual reality world. At that point, people might realize that the world we're living in now is perhaps also a virtual reality of a higher reality."
Their iconic singer Simone Simons adds: "Is this world a hologram? Are there multiple realities? Inside our mind and in our dreams we can create entire worlds, and the parallels with virtual reality are obvious. Besides the music, the lyrics have taken a big role as well. We don't just offer great songs, we offer food for thought!"
So for those of you who like to delve into the lyrics of a song and try to work out what's going on there is plenty here to get your brain working overtime.
Musically the album also continues where 'The Quantum Enigma' left off. Widely regarded as the heaviest album they had made up to that point, producer Joost van den Broek took modern technology and added a brutal edge to their sound that Jansen admitted he had always wanted the band to have.
Starting with what will inevitably be the intro tape for the live shows in 'Eidola' the first 'proper' track 'Edge Of The Blade' starts fast and heavy and has all those typical Epica elements of heavy riffing guitars, keyboard hooks, choirs, Arien van Weesenbeek's amazing mix of power and precision on drums and of course Simone Simons' epic soprano vocals backed by Jansen's trademark grunts.
That's a lot to have going on and given that they have enough budget now to use real choirs and classical sections in the studio I think Jacob Hansen has done amazing job of mixing it all together coherently. The thing about Epica though is that among all those complex arrangements and time changes and musicianship and everything else is a truly memorable song, It's not just style here, there is real musical substance.
My initial reaction to the album was that it maybe wasn't quite at the level of it's predecessor which I loved, but after living with it for a few days my opinion is gradually changing. Maybe there is just so much going on it takes time to get your head around it or maybe I'm just slow. Whatever now I find parts like the chanting chorus sections of 'Universal Death Squad', the huge riffs of 'A Phantasmic Parade' or the operatic Metal intro to 'The Cosmic Algorithm' running through my head on a regular basis.
While this is absolutely an album which lays out Epica's credentials as a Metal band they haven't forgotten that they have the capacity to create music of a fragile beauty too. 'Once Upon A Nightmare' has some lovely atmospheric orchestration wrapped around Simone's voice at its' most tender while the album closer 'The Holographic Principle-A Profound Understanding Of Reality' is an eleven minute epic which moves through some terrific melodic sections and even lets the guitars switch into tender mode at times. We even get some sitar thrown into the eastern tinged 'Dancing In A Hurricane'.
Apparently there are six songs which didn't make the album but will be released in due course. I hope these are released together in a special edition and not scattered around as individual bonus tracks.
With album launch shows at their own Epic Metal Fests in the Netherlands and Brazil, headline arena shows booked in Europe and 2million plus Facebook likes there is absolutely no doubt that Epica are a band on the way up the ladder of Metal fame. I think that success is richly deserved and with 'The Holographic Principle' they more than back that up with another very high quality bunch of songs. Essential listening for anyone with the slightest interest in symphonic Metal of any kind.
'The Holographic Principle' is released through Nuclear Blast on 30th Septemeber 2016 and available as a download, CD, 2CD digipack, 3CD earbook and double vinyl in black or blue.
Epica can be seen in the UK in February at London's Shepherds Bush Empire with Powerwolf.