Monday, April 18

Epica - The Divine Conspiracy

The Divine Conspiracy


Epica is generally regarded as one of the Netherlands greatest contributions to metal, and it’s easy to see why, of the albums of theirs I have (this one and 2009’s Design Your Universe) I have yet to find a bad song (or even a mediocre one for that matter).

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, and this is true for music too. The cover art features a naked (but cleverly covered) Simone Simons, as shown above. I must wonder, are those tattoos real or just painted on for the photo shoot? After listening through the album, I can say this: Simone's voice is just as beautiful as she looks.

To give them a genre label wouldn’t be quite fair, as they don’t seem to fit into any genre as they perfectly mix gothic, power, progressive, and symphonic metal, with Symphonic and Gothic being the most prominent. Their gothic style is due to the “Beauty and the Beast” juxtaposition between Simone Simons’ operatic vocals and Mark Jansen’s death growls, which at times sound more like black metal rasps due to timbre and their higher nature. The symphonic side of Epica is fairly evident, as they perfectly intertwine both vocal styles in much in the same way they intertwine the pounding drums, the chopping guitars, and the orchestra.

There are a few guest spots on this album, most notably Amanda Somerville, who does a bit of narration on The Obsessive Devotion. Also noteworthy is Sander Gommans of After Forever fame. Epica don’t write songs, they write albums. Each song feels as it could be a bunch of mini-songs thrown together with a chorus. And yet, the album as a whole feels like one long, flowing track. I strongly advise listening to the album as a whole if you have an hour of free time. However, some tracks will always rise above the others, such as "Chasing the Dragon", "Never Enough", and "Death of a Dream: The Embrace That Smothers, Pt. 7". The songs flow so well you don’t even notice the segues like "Indigo: Prologue" and "La'petach Chatat Rovetz: The Last Embrace", though you get some orchestral atmospheric stuff and some choral work, which is always a nice break.

Something that is slightly confusing are the song titles. "La'petach Chatat Rovetz: The Last Embrace" is track six, which is followed by three parts of "The Embrace That Smothers". These three songs are the only ones that have this particular series tag. I guess Pt.7, 8, 9 all correspond with their respective track number, either way this is still weird.

The production is crystal clear, and favors the symphonic elements for most of the album. These flow better with Simone Simons’ mezzo-soprano vocals, but they still allow the metal rhythm section to do its part effectively. There is nothing wrong with this album, but there is nothing that really brings the listener back to it aside from their own memory. While it doesn't always sit perfectly in your head, while listening to this album I cannot help but be brought to a state of pure metal euphoria


Claus' Rating: 4.5/5


Mark/Angel said...

If you're referring to the Embrace That Smothers suite, it works in a similar way to Dream Theater's AA Suite: Some songs per album refer to that suite, but not all of them.

Nice review! =)

Arno Callens said...

The Embrace That Smothers-suite started on After Forever's "Prison Of Desire", when Mark Jansen was still a member.

Claus said...

Thanks for the clarification. That makes much more sense now!