Epica – “The Holographic Principle” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Now seemingly on a roll releasing regular albums and in routine touring, Holland’s Epica have returned with their 7th studio release in what must be their most ambitious project to date! As you can guess from the title, “The Holographic Principle” is based on quantum physics as penned by founder guitarist growler Markus Jansen, who is a cognitive agronomics psychology major (not to mention the rest of Epica, who are also music majors!), so it very much covers digital realities as inspired by “The Matrix” or “Inception” movies. That said, the album isn’t a concept despite many of the songs being based on the subject. Most of all, the music isn’t heavy or abstract, but rather the opposite in being incredibly accessible and catchy despite the diversity between the tracks. No doubt the regular touring has had a big part to play in this, with all the 12 songs being executable live. The moods and atmospheres across the material are incredible, clearly catching each moment and provoking the imagination so full marks on the composition – as well as going in many cases beyond the symphonic metal genre classification! From the grace of the epic yet uplifting ‘Once Upon A Nightmare’ with its flowing orchestrals, Simone Simons ethereal vocals and Jansen’s superb backing guitar, the ballad goes well beyond that in being propelled into film score metal. If you want bombastic, then look no further than ‘Beyond The Matrix’ with its imperious choirs and hyper catchy melodies while Ariën van Weesenbeek pummels away furiously in the back ground – and not forgetting Simons vocals once more, this time in a suave tone. Honestly, there are so many sounds in each song and how Epica have pulled them all together to fit in with each song’s theme is the success story here, not to mention raising the bar for any contenders! But if I had to pick one track summing the brilliance of this album, it would have to be ‘Universal Death Squad’, with Jansen’s heavy djent riffage, Weesenbeek’s double bass drumming and Coen Janssen’s flowing keys, not to mention flutes mixing with the contrasting gruff versus clean vocals in a dark, imperious sound that Darth Vader himself would be proud of! Packing in the impossible, “The Holographic Principle” is anything that its theme suggests of a digitally simulated world, but rather something real, very real indeed being sung and played stupendously herein!