Review Summary: Epica is a very entertaining album that is an amazing listen from beginning to end.
Power metal can be a very hard genre to play well. Due to the dramatic and theatrical nature of the genre, it is all too easy for bands in power metal to sound over-dramatic and cheesy. Bands such as Rhapsody of Fire
frequently end up sounding almost comically over-the-top with their attempts at making their music dramatic. However, Kamelot has never fallen victim to cheesiness or overdrama. They know how to create a theatrical atmosphere, but, more importantly, they also know where to draw the line. And on an album like Epica
, these skills are vital.
is a concept album based on the play Faust
, but it's not a typical concept album. The story isn't handled in a heavy-handed or pretentious manner. The story is subdued, and is only there if the listener chooses to immerse themselves. Moreover, lack of knowledge of the story will not affect how one perceives the album, for it can still carry itself purely on it's musical merit.
The one member who stands out most is vocalist Roy Khan. Khan always manages to sound powerful, but not forceful. He is more than capable of providing dramatic performances on tracks such as "Center of the Universe" and "Lost & Damned", but he also excels at giving a subdued (but still emotionally powerful) performance on "Wander" and "On the Coldest Winter Night". His flair will keep any listener interested in the album, because he knows exactly what to do and when to do it.
All the other band member are first-rate musicians as well. Thomas Youngblood's guitar work is very fluid and diverse, and is always perfectly set within the song. Casey Grillo is quite the drummer as well. The drumming isn't anything new, but Grillo makes most of his drum performances interesting, and he provides a vital piece of the puzzle. Glenn Barry's bass playing blends with Grillo's drumming to create a rock-solid back bone that keeps the music going full speed ahead.
is immediately accessible and enjoyable, with the opening track "Center of the Universe" pulling the listener right in. After repeated listens, however, the album's subtleties and intricacies will begin to sink in. Songs such as "Descent of the Archangel" and "III Ways to Epica" will likely be more enjoyable after several listens. The lyrics are also easy to understand, and yet are very well-written, much more so than most would expect of a power metal band. The lyrics far transcend the cliché fantasy themes that many would anticipate. From "Center of the Universe":
"If the war by heavens gate released desire
In the line of fire someone must have known
That a human heart demands to be admired
Cause in the Center of the Universe
We are all alone"
Now, that's some brilliant lyricism.
is a superb power metal album, and will be well enjoyed by fans of the genre. And if one has any hesitations about the genre, one listen of Epica
should immediately put any negative preconceived notions to rest.