Epica – “The Solace System” EP (Nuclear Blast)
If you loved last years “The Holographic Principle” then prepare for more bombastic symphonic bliss from these Dutch classical maestros! Right from the off given what some people are saying this is not – I repeat not – a collection of B sides or out takes or leftovers from said album. All the material on both releases was recorded in the same session and according to the band (who I believe) they did not want a double release so the final tracks chosen for the album were those that fitted with its concept best and also those that flowed best with one another. So enough said! Blasting off with the title track opener in typically loud style, Simone Simons voice is amazingly captured between the heavy bass and the cranking djent guitars although nothing can prepare you for the flowing majestic chorus and those impeccable strings – oh wow, my head’s already banging ha ha! With illustrious horns and soaring choirs the band then head into epic power metal territory on ‘Fight Your Demons’ with high speed double bass drumming providing the background to the splendid dual vocal opera of Simons and Mark Jansen’s as it builds to crescendo levels on this introspective about controlling your darker thoughts. Thankfully giving my heart a breather comes the slower, but no less epic ‘Architect Of Light’ which seems to have tinges of Maiden along with multiple layered harmonies and a surround arena like sound. Definitely more guitar driven is ‘Wheel Of Destiny’, which is about (good) journalists with its thoughtful lyrics of ‘…we have to bear the weight of the truth…’ as Simons passionate voice is contrasted by the abrasive guitars and Jansen’s harsh roars bringing to life the struggle that others face in societies where expression is less permissible. Taking things to the other extreme on ‘Immortal Melancholy’ is exactly that, a delicate ballad with Simons soprano vocals stretched to their limit, soothing harmonies and acoustic guitar on this emotional tale of love beyond the grave. Finishing in sultry, groovy Epica style is ‘Decoded Poetry’ with yet another mesmerizing fire n ice contrast between flowing classic strings and Simons caressing voice with that of the hard injected guitars and Jansen’s grinding growls and that heavy, twanging bass from Rob van der Loo, all culminating in a cacophonic end of heavy strings and frenzied double bass drumming. Unbelievable! Whoever these imbeciles are who are saying this EP is made up of leftovers clearly don’t know their own backsides from a B side.