Epica - The Holographic Principle

Epica - The Holographic Principle

(CD/2LP, Nuclear Blast, 2016)

I consider EPICA to be a constantly growing band in terms of songwriting, although I think the Dutch may have pushed the envelope so far that they cannot top themselves off. Indeed, “The Quantum Enigma” flirted with the term “perfect” being an album with substance in both lyrics and music-writing. So, how can one musician compete with himself and go even beyond? Well, “The Holographic Principle” comes to answer this question, even though comparing albums is a habit everyone should be avoiding because each and every LP has a different personality and is able to stand on its own (if it was very good of course). I mean, you cannot compare your friends or family members with each other (yeah, I consider albums as part of my family), right?

This is the EPICA album number eight, so if you have been following their doings, then you should have obtained a high level of trust on their music-composing abilities, so checking this album cannot be perceived like exploring new territories. Indeed, the pompous intro “Eidola” (Greek word for ‘idols’), with the nice percussions, smooths the way for the heavy explosion of “Edge Of The Blade” that follows after almost three minutes. This is kind of a happy song and I think it does not quite fit to the atmosphere the intro created seconds ago. Sure, the main riff is absolutely awesome and soon the harsh vocals keep the heaviness at the frontline but there is something in the orchestrations that blurs the image. Simone sounds better than ever as she keeps pushing / expanding her performance beyond the mezzo-soprano profile. This is better showcased in “A Phantamic Parade” where the slower tempo and the less pompous orchestrations give more space to her amazing singing to be fully deployed. And then, comes the hair-raising riff-based break that explodes with fast double bass drumming and - of course - Mark’s Death Metal singing. If it was up to me, I’d put this song first on the tracklist (after the intro) to clearly mark the territory and leave the happier “Edge Of The Blade” change the atmosphere later on. Really, this is my only complaint because from this point and on, the album is one blow after the other; “Universal Death Squad” is a fast one with the guitars on the spotlight, awesome backing vocals, catchy melodies and a bass sound to-die-for. To my unprofessional ears, keeping a balanced sound with all the things happening in EPICA’s music has to be a hard-to-solve equation, so extra kudos for keeping the bass on the scene. The way Simone attacks the higher pitches just after the choir-part is fantastic and the melodies she sings super addictive.

This is not a concept album but a themed-one, with lyrics that touch upon the artificial / digital reality we have created around us, and the ‘funny’ part is that we claim that someone else has put us there. Yeah right, someone else has put ‘smart’-phones on our hands and has flooded our brains with all this internet juice... Anyway, this is neither the time nor the place to discuss this, so it’s best to let the music to the rest of the talking with “Beyond The Matrix”. Again, the vocal melodies (check the chorus, if you don’t believe me) stand out and Eastern sounds in the orchestrations give an extra twist to this amazing piece, and brace yourself for the heavy break that follows after the ‘calm before the storm’ keyboard-only part. I have already praised Simone’s performance but the way she unfolds her vocal range and multi-character singing in the atmospheric and cinematographic “Once Upon A Nightmare”, will make your jaw drop.

The song that quickly got stuck (and hopefully will make its way to the future setlists) is “Tear Down Your Walls” with the slightly sad melody and the riff-explosion that blows everything away. Mark’s Death Metal singing goes hand-in-hand with the heavy and groovy rhythm but what impressed me the most is the way it flows to Simone’s singing and orchestral part. After multi-listenings, I think the transition from the heavy to the symphonic parts is what makes “The Holographic Principle” a(nother) killer album and a solid proof that EPICA keep evolving. You can get a full taste of this with the longest in time duration song that goes with the longest title, “The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding Of Reality”.  Here, the antithesis between the heavy and the symphonic fades away as Mark and Simone exchange leading singing roles, serving the aggression and the melodic of the songs respectively, and have nothing to do with the over-played ‘beauty and the beast’ concept.

To my ears, EPICA created another masterpiece and I’ll call the unofficial competition between this and the previous album as draw, with the band’s fans being the sole winners. Now, it is time to get this baby on the road! Bring it on!

9/10


Links:

www.Epica.Nl
www.MySpace.Com/Epica
www.FaceBook.Com/Epica
www.Twitter.Com/Epica


Tracklist:

01. Eidola
02. Edge Of The Blade
03. A Phantasmic Parade
04. Universal Death Squad
05. Divide And Conquer
06. Beyond The Matrix
07. Once Upon A Nightmare
08. The Cosmic Algorithm
09. Ascension - Dream State Armageddon
10. Dancing In A Hurricane
11. Tear Down Your Walls
12. The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding Of Reality


Lineup:

Mark Jansen - Guitar, Harsh Vocals
Coen Janssen - Keyboards
Simone Simons - Vocals
Ariën van Weesenbeek - Drums
Isaac Delahaye - Guitar
Rob van der Loo - Bass