Review Summary: Epica release a predictable but solid 5th album.
Epica are a band that spawn much debate. On one hand they have produced some of the most intricate and epic symphonic metal to date ('Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns' springs to mind), but on the other they seem to have released the same album over and over. Generally weak and poorly composed 'The Divine Conspiracy' was certainly overhauled in 'Design Your Universe', which showed flourishes of genius and brilliance. The question is- will their new album show a new improved band, or a band who are being held back by their own direction?
The answer is, evidently, both. After the slightly cheesy orchestral opener (standard Epica fare) we are pulled straight into 'Monopoly on Truth', a fast-paced and enjoyable symphonic romp. This song is very much a standard Epica song, it would feel at home on any of their older albums, but it's certainly a fun and satisfying listen.
Simone is, as always, the brightest light in this album; her simply angelic vocals carry even the weakest of tracks and she, if possible, sounds even more perfect on this album. Mark Jensen's occasional growls are appropriately deep and strong, although one is sometimes left wishing he was slightly more articulate with his grunts. Songs such as the title track show the powerful co-operation of the two vocal styles, although Simone's cleans certainly upstage. This song has some interesting middle-eastern elements and a creative structure that leaves it one of the album's highlights.
Instrumentally this is a perfectly solid release. Solos are present on many tracks and they are generally pulled of with technical skill and are well-composed, for example the solo on 'Monopoly on Truth' or the keyboard/guitar solos on 'Internal Warfare', a dark and dramatic track. The orchestral elements are as always well produced and enhance the music in just the right ways, although just as on the older albums they have a tendency to stray into the realm of over-the-top and unnecessary.
However, this is by no means a perfect release. Far too many tracks could be given the unfortunate label of 'filler', as they follow a completely predictable song structure with almost no variation or unique features. Aside from the always-pleasing voice of Simone these songs slip under the radar almost completely, detracting from the flow of the album. Lead single 'Storm the Sorrow' has a pleasant and catchy chorus, but laughably boring verses and and an all too familiar song structure.
There is a 'ballad' on this album, similar 'Tides of Time' from Design Your Universe. 'Delirium' makes fantastic use of choirs to create an entrancing sound which carries the song as lead vocals float over the surface. While not exactly a stunning acoustic, the song acts as a perfectly executed chill-out track which functions as a much-appreciated break from the fast paced and heavy songs that dominate most of the album.
All in all a fan of Epica will almost certainly adore this release, it takes everything that made Epica a great band and improves it, if only slightly. However any who had doubts about the band before will certainly not be converted by Requiem for the Indifferent, as it still a very standard Epica romp that does little to change the group's direction.