Artists | Issues | CD Reviews | Interviews | Concert Reviews | DVD/Video Reviews | Book Reviews | Who We Are | Staff | Home
 
Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Epica

Consign To Oblivion

Review by Gary Hill

If I had to choose one word to describe this CD it would be "mind-boggling." OK, so technically that's two words - still it fits. Never have I heard anything quite like this. It is the most impressive marriage of diverse musical styles - at least in terms of a union that works - that I have ever experienced. Imagine if one of the classical composers of the 18th century had had a rock band among the musical tools at their disposal. The result would probably be quite close to this. While in some ways this band seems similar to neo-symphonically tinged prog metal acts like Royal Hunt - this is worlds apart from that in so many ways. The joining of the two styles is more of a full integration than I've ever heard from anyone else. You can't really take away either piece of the puzzle and have the music work. The compositions are incredibly dense and complex. They lean a lot more fully on the symphony and operatic choir than other similar efforts. All of these factors are why I find this band so amazingly unique - and have included them in the progressive rock rather than metal section.

Just looking at the lineup for the album shows how different this outfit truly is. While you have some of the typical rock music "positions" Mark Jansen (guitars, grunts and screams), Ad Sluijter (guitars), Coen Janssen (synths), Yves Huts (bass) and Jeroen Simons (drums and percussion) the similarities to other bands end there. Their female lead singer Simone Simons is listed not as vocalist, but with the opera description "mezzo-soprano." But wait, there's more! Next up, under guest appearances - but seemingly playing on every track we find the EPICA orchestra and EPICA choir listed. That should show you the kind of musical experience these guys are shooting for - and they truly pull it off.

While this gets quite crunchy at times, it is incredibly deep music. There are layers upon layers of sound - symphonic textures merging dramatically with the rock and opera textures. The music, like classical, is a sound that takes many repeated listenings to fully appreciate. It is incredibly complicated in structure. This truly is classical music for the modern day. I have a hunch that for metal heads, this one might be a bit too far "out there." However, progressive rock fans (assuming they are open to the more metallic elements) should eat this up. It really is a whole new genre of music in so many ways. I hope to hear more from Epica, and I hope they start a trend. This literally is "progressive" rock music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Hunab K'u - "A New Day Dawns" - Prologue
Symphonic music that feels like the soundtrack to the latest fantasy epic with operatic vocals makes up this short cut. This is extremely cinematic and dramatic.
Dance of Fate
This one storms in seeming to share musical themes form the last track, but arrange in a metallic fury. The intro includes more operatic vocals. It then drops to a more straightforward, but very melodic and beautiful verse/chorus section. A dramatic staccato operatic segment, first heard in the extended intro, returns here, and a neo-classical burst takes it from there back to the song proper. They move it into a very classically tinged, but still crunchy prog segment, then cut it back to an acoustic guitar dominated arrangement to carry forward, eventually bursting up from there. The operatic section returns and then fights for control for a short time with a symphonic section to take the composition to its conclusion.
The Last Crusade - A New Age Dawn #1
Gregorian chant starts this, then a very crunchy guitar enters and the band build a dark, symphonic rock texture from there, eventually merging this with a more straightforward hard edged format for a while. Then it drops to a full prog rock mellower segment that's a lot like Renaissance with more of a symphonic and operatic bent. This gives way to a new excursion that marries a metal backdrop with full classical musical arrangement. They move through several changes in this unusual union.
Solitary Ground
This is prog ballad like at first with soaring, nearly operatic vocals and symphonic instrumentation running everywhere around it. It turns heavier and a bit arena rock like, but the classical overtones are so predominant as not to be missed. This alternates between these modes, getting very powerful. It drops to a rather ambient section for a time with flying non-lyrical vocals and whispering in the background.
Blank Infinity
Piano starts this, then symphonic instruments join and eventually a crunchy neo-classical progression takes it til it drops toward the metallic to carry forward. This gets pumped up into a symphonic / operatic crunchy yet powerfully progressive movement. It eventually resolves back out to the more traditional rock format, then builds up from there with the neo-classical still roaming all over it. This one turns almost completely into opera at points. It's almost nonstop changes. This has some incredible moments.
Force of the Shore
This begins with a neo-classical type of vocal dominated arrangement, then turns heavy. An evil sounding death metal vocal takes this and the almost angelic operatic segment returns after a time in a very dramatic contrast. The two seem to battle for control until the full opera / symphony combo takes over. Then it drops to a sedate, but powerful section that can best be described as an operatic aria. They eventually burst back up from there and some of the most evil ferocious vocals accompany incredibly fast neo symphonic music. Eventually the full symphonic arrangement returns. Then the battle is back on, metal band tussling with symphony orchestra and opera cast for control. The latter finally getting in the last word.
Quietus
This comes in with a traditional acoustic Celtic mode. Eventually it powers out into more of the metallic, yet highly symphony based prog rock we've come to expect here. This one has one of the more consistent and straightforward arrangements on the disc, but is incredibly lush and powerful nonetheless. It drops back to a very traditional medieval sounding segment. Then a new symphonic rock journey emerges for a time with more operatic vocals. Then it breaks back into the song proper to eventually end.
Mother Of Light - A New Age Dawn #2
Super fast, crunchy symphonic fury a lot like Royal Hunt starts this, then it shifts gear into something more like a metallic Renaissance. Some growled vocals emerge, amidst the more operatic ones as the band work through several changes. They move it to more pure neo-symphonic for a while. Then it returns to the earlier song structure and alternates between frantic and furious, then neo-symphonic and more mainstream. Those various styles dance around each other, weaving an ever-changing tapestry of complicated alterations of the sonic themes, eventually resolving out into a very triumphant sounding prog rock symphonic section to end.
Trois Vierges
Harpsichord starts this and they move through a very old world vocal duet in a balladic mode that serves as a great contrast to the fury that preceded it. This is very much nearly straight classical in approach and quite beautiful and powerful. This one never moves into the "rock" realm, instead staying fully immersed in the mellower classical structures focusing on a duet between male and female vocals.
Another Me - "In Lack' ech"
Back into the realm of combining heavy prog with powerful symphonic arrangements, the vocal layering on this one is simply amazing in its complexity and potency.
Consign To Oblivion - A New Age Dawn #3
This comes in dark and mysterious, the orchestra unaccompanied for quite some time. Eventually a dramatic and powerful progression brings in the rock instrumentation as the band symphony and choir move the piece forward. True metal growls and screams come in amidst this mélange and the cut continues its growing process. After a verse of the metal and a choir chorus, Simons takes a verse and accompanies the choir on the chorus. Then a full metal vocal performance accompanied by pounding rock and powerful symphonic music takes it for a time. Then the symphonic and operatic sty lings take over for a while carrying out to Simons' next verse. An extended instrumental section, the trade off between the band and the orchestra dominating it, takes it up to the next metallic vocal showing. Then a new fast paced symphonic metallic rock movement takes over, the band frantically moving through the changes. Operatic vocals provided by the choir eventually emerge over top for a time. The closing segment of the number and the CD is an incredibly powerful neo-classical, progressive rock merge movement.
 
More CD Reviews
Metal/Prog Metal
Non-Prog
Progressive Rock
 
Google

   Creative Commons License
   This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

    © 2019 Music Street Journal                                                                           Site design and programming by Studio Fyra, Inc./Beetcafe.com