Showing posts with label epica. Show all posts
Showing posts with label epica. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

video review: 'the holographic principle' by epica

Well, this... not as good as The Quantum Enigma, and it'll probably miss my year-end list overall, but still a damn great record all the same, and definitely worth your time if you're curious.

Next up... well, might as well get OneRepublic out of the way, along with a little surprise... stay tuned!

album review: 'the holographic principle' by epica

So I don't tend to talk about critical trends that often - as I've said before, critics all have distinct opinions, and if they're expressed well, I can be understanding. But there is a trend, particularly among some metal critics, that I want to address: the critical dismissal of symphonic metal.

Oh, don't act like you haven't seen it, it can happen with power metal too. It's often considered too cheesy and melodramatic, or it's too poppy and accessible and doesn't try to be as complex as 'real' metal bands. Frankly, I'd like to say that we as metalheads have moved beyond this, but that's obviously not the case, and if Evanescence ever follows up with their threat to release another album, I'll explain why in greater detail there. And look, it's not like those stereotypes and criticisms can't have a vein of truth - I've heard acts like Delain, I totally get it - but it also sells short a crop of symphonic metal acts that actually have more ambition and power than are given credit.

So let's talk about one of the most perennially underrated bands in the genre: Epica. I'll admit that it took me a while to come around on this group - growing up Nightwish and Within Temptation were both more accessible, and Epica did take some time to refine solid melodic hooks, but they are one of the most lyrically ambitious bands in any genre that I've covered, tackling big idea material with the sort of insight and depth that deserves a lot more attention, easily as cerebral as most progressive metal bands can be. I still hold The Divine Conspiracy and Design Your Universe as fantastic records, but in 2014 Epica finally managed to hit a sweet spot with The Quantum Enigma, which had their best ever hooks and showed frontwoman Simone Simons finally bringing the dramatic presence to match it. It was also one of their most successful records, and given how they were describing their upcoming project as even bigger, it looked like Nuclear Blast had seen that success as a chance to give them an even meatier budget. And all the more promising was the thematic idea of exploring the universe as a digital hologram - okay, not the most unique theme to explore, but Epica was bound to go deep with this and potentially could reconnect with the human drama that ultimately felt a little slight on The Quantum Enigma. So okay, I was entirely on board with this as one of my most anticipated records of 2016, what did we get with The Holographic Principle?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

video review: 'the quantum enigma' by epica

Well, this took a while to decode, but I'm glad I could pull it off.

Next up will probably be Sturgill Simpson and the Black Keys, so stay tuned!

album review: 'the quantum enigma' by epica

I've made the statement in the past that lyrics are often the least important thing in symphonic metal - or at least, for the longest time, they were for me. That's not saying I didn't notice bad lyrics or wasn't aware that some symphonic metal could get unbelievably silly or ridiculous, it's just that I didn't tend to mind as much as long as the instrumentation, production, and delivery were able to deliver that epic sweep on their own.

And if I was looking for a band to violently change my mind on this belief, that band would be Epica, an act that I can only describe as the thinking man's brand of symphonic metal. Now for the longest time, I had had a hard time into Epica, mostly because I found the guitar tone chosen on those early albums a little flat and unflattering and Simone Simons to be a talented singer but not particularly engaging behind the microphone, at least early on. And on top of not having a really immediacy to their hooks, I ignored this band for a long time. 

But man, once I got past that first album and really started digging into their lyrics, colour me wrong about this band. Epica was not only tackling big enough subject matter to match their massive orchestrations, but also was doing it with intellect, due consideration, and a lot of richly articulated nuance. This was a band that routinely explored religion, politics, philosophy, and mortality, and once they had improved their production and picked a heavier guitar tone, I found myself really getting into the band. That's not saying they don't have problems - I would be lying if I didn't say that Epica didn't get preachy every once and a while, and I still think as a band they haven't quite mastered a killer hook like their contemporaries Nightwish and Within Temptation have, but Mark Jensen and Simone Simons remain strong songwriters and performers, and they're only getting better.

And coming after their 2012 album Requiem For The Indifferent - an album demanding the audience engage in the world and be willing to work together to tackle world-shaking problems and not be divided and unwilling to compromise - I was very interested in their newest album, titled The Quantum Enigma. Now, this isn't the first time that Epica has tackled the topic of quantum physics - or rather, the complete failure of certain parts of society to not recognize that brand of science and how they need to evolve, all framed as a philosophical argument in a romantic relationship - so I was definitely wondering how on earth they'd manage to pull this off twice. So I picked up the album and dug in deep - what did I find?