Review: Epica – 'The Holographic Principle'

Following the extensive success of their sixth studio album, ‘The Quantum Enigma’ (2014), the new release from Epica, titled ‘The Holographic Principle’ is beyond a shadow of doubt their most diverse and dynamic work to date, while auspiciously retaining their trademark bombastic sound. It will also stand as one of the band’s strongest, with an immense development in production and clear-cut sound quality accredited to producer Joost van der Broek on hand at the controls, and mixed/mastered by world-renowned Jacob Hansen. The highly anticipated release commences with ‘Eidola’, an introductory orchestral arrangement. The opening track possesses an epic cinematic ambience with the use of horns, strings, and choir, before shifting mid-point to an eerie semblance supplied by a child’s voice. Next up, the Dutch sextet definitely waste no time in enticing their audience, by plunging into melodic masterpiece, ‘Edge Of The Blade’. The second song to be released, accompanied by an official music video, is rich with groovy riffs entwined with sharp keyboard compositions, and carries an extremely catchy hook throughout. Upbeat and energetic, ‘Edge Of The Blade’ fluctuates from Simone Simons’ softer vocal lines to her soaring operatic power, while Mark Jansen’s guttural growls provide a heavier melodic contrast, making it a solid standout track. As the album’s debut single, ‘Universal Death Squad’ acts as an exemplary taste of what’s yet to come from the new album. At times, verging on the edges of thrash, the track showcases chunky guitar lines, intricate melodies, and a transcendent equilibrium between orchestral structures and raw heavy metal grit – quintessential to Epica’s unique sound. Both ‘Edge Of The Blade’ and ‘Universal Death Squad’ display a deviation in the band’s tone; while the frontwoman supplies vibrant operatic vocals, she tends to sing in a more lucid, clean style than heard on earlier releases. While the writing structure stays true to the distinctive Epica style, incorporating majestic choirs, melodic choruses, and complex verses, there is a noticeable contrast in depth. Thickly laced with guitars, ‘The Holographic Principle’ is the band’s heaviest and most ambitious undertaking yet – arguably influenced by material from Jansen’s auxiliary band, MaYaN. The songwriting also allows for each aspect of the band to shine through, yet merges together effortlessly. Additionally, the move away from synthesised instruments and towards physical strings, brass, and wind, has broadened the album’s soundscape. ‘The Cosmic Algorithm’ is a prime example, with its powerful introductory choral punch somewhat reminiscent of ‘Menace Of Vanity’ from their 2007 release ‘The Divine Conspiracy’. Another outstanding track is ‘Tear Down Your Walls’, based solely on its monstrous, dirty guitar work – holding an old-school heavy metal chug in a similar vein to Brainstorm. That being said, the juggernaut introduction plummets into a weaker chorus, lacking a good hook, and the forced operatics sadly fail to blend with the thunderous verses. Despite the disjointed chorus, the underlying riffs redeem the track, and make for a killer headbanging anthem. The album closes with title track, ‘The Holographic Principle – A Profound Understanding of Reality’. The eleven minute piece is everything you would expect from Epica, as it utilises a multitude of orchestral elements that cohesively centre around its core. ‘The Holographic Principle’, set for release on Friday 30th September, is an intense expansion on the band’s previous release that definitely does not disappoint. As a whole, the musical odyssey amplifies Epica’s fundamental style, and appeals not only to fans of the female-fronted metal genre, but also the typical metalhead. A stunning record that is sure to be the most talked about of this year!   Review: Naomi Rigley]]>

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