Epica – “Omega” (Nuclear Blast)
Battle Helm Rating
Well, was it worth the wait? Five years after “The Holographic Principal” and a well-earned rest, but unexpectedly delayed like the rest of world by Covid comes “Omega”, the eighth studio album by Dutch symphonic metal band Epica. Thankfully not titled on some fatalistic theme of the pandemic but according to founder rhythm guitarist (gruff) vocalist Mark Jansen on the ‘…Omega Point theory, dealing about the scientific speculation and spiritual view that we are, fated to spiral towards one point of divine unification…as humanity, we were drifting apart like competition…’, this 12-track release is a stunning return to what has made Epica a cornerstone of the symphonic metal genre since their formation in 2002. In anticipation of any ring rust, the band have wisely chosen to stick to what they’ve always done best, leaving any experimentation to the future, opting instead to add even more richness to the already impressive quality of their music. That said, “Omega” is not a one trick bag, with plenty of varying symphony orchestrations and operatic choirs to back the mezzo-soprano vocals of Simone Simons and matching growler Jansen on tracks that range from tranquil to rocking and outrightly bombastic! Indeed, as the captivating eastern tones to ‘Seal Of Solomon’ herald the massive choral assault, Simons’ ecstatic wailing is superbly offset by Jansen’s beastly roars and Ariën van Weesenbeek’s double bass beats adding their gallop to the flowing Arabic groove as Isaac Delahaye’s fluid guitar work brings this brilliant song to epic culmination. Double bass pedalling to flowing orchestral strings on ‘Synergize – Manic Manifest’, Coen Janssen adds his keyboard sparkle in building to the irresistible bombast of the vocal and choral assault, aggressive riffs, neo classical soloing, and the building power of the strings before the song closes off in the tranquil bliss of flutes, church bells and Simons’ soprano soul – awesome. Bringing a power metal touch to the dramatic finale of ‘Omega – Sovereign Of The Sun Spheres’, an overpowering (given everyone is simply unloading) mix of furious strings, chundering riffs, screaming solos, steroided choirs, trumpeted synths, roaring and soprano wailing rapidly takes you through an intense interchange of symphonic bombast, musical majesty and undeniable passion, while the main melody is simply overwhelming – wow, that is all I can say, except to answer that initial question of – yes!