Epica
Omega


3.5
great

Review

by Mythodea USER (19 Reviews)
February 25th, 2021 | 57 replies


Release Date: 02/26/2021 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A much needed catch of breath

It’s been a while since we last heard from the Dutch, which is quite unusual for a band with a mostly tight schedule, releasing an album every two years since their debut The Phantom Agony in 2003. Their steady, yet fast-paced evolution, result of their assurance of their compositional and instrumental prowess, seemed to climax with the 2016 album The Holographic Principle , and – global pandemic aside – it is not specifically weird to see the band occupied with side-quests, releasing renditions of Attack on Titan songs, a book, and an EP, which while not valuable to their catalogue, kept their audience entertained, attracted new fans and gave them incentive to continue.

Five years later, we find a band resting on their well-deserved laurels. Omega (stylized as Ωmega) is simply a variation on a theme, neither continuing the motif of higher, harder, faster (the «steroid effect» as I like to call it), nor trying anything new. Any Epica release is more or less going to have a standard sound either way, and after almost twenty years of recording, the listener is guaranteed to find some specifics: the cinematic opening track, an accessible song purposed for a single release, a mellow ballad, a complex title track and a long epic. However, it seems to be the first album in a decade to keep a lower profile than its predecessor, with a more controlled compositional approach and more homogeneity.

That’s not to say that the end result is anything close to disappointing, of course. All songs manage an excellent balance between their symphonic and metal nature, with focused heaviness bringing back memories of their Divine Conspiracy days. Indeed, Epica were starting to tread dangerously close to mastermind’s Mark Jansen’s other band MaYan, which was in the first place a vehicle to express his harsher, more death metal tendencies. Working again together in the same place like in their formative years, Epica crafted songs that didn’t rely on metal aggression to sound refreshing and bombastic. Take a listen, for example, to Seal of Solomon and Code of Life . Hitting the right spot of intelligent songwriting and oriental catchiness, decorated by either creative soloing by the band’s dexterous axe-man Isaac Delahaye, or somber wailings over their signature powerful rhythmic stomping (drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek and bassist Rob van der Loo are a beast duo), they surface as strong assets on the new album.

With layers upon layers of meticulous instrumentation, rich dynamics, and careful cutting of any redundancy, Freedom – the Wolves Within keeps the attention undiminished until the album’s magnum opus, Kingdom of Heaven Pt. III – The Antediluvian Universe . The third installment of a series that started over a decade ago, clocking in 13 minutes, is not only one of their longest tracks ever, it’s actually one crowning achievement for the symphonic genre. The song evolves without burning out early in, and when six minutes have passed by unnoticed, we witness a creative explosion: a graceful piano intermission (by the amazing Coen Janssen) gives way to a labyrinthine, multilayered climax, where harsh vocals, awe-inspiring choirs and reprises of older themes all mesh together in a groovy interplay, until defusing with an eerie, theatrical demeanor.

As far as the lyrics are concerned, they are once again the typical Coelhian one-liners on self-consciousness, advanced intellect, shallow environmentalism and a well-intended yet naive encouragement for global unity. Epica still deliver bland commandments on doing this and that, and we have to accept that this is also one of the unchangeable trademarks of the band (Damn it Mark! Psychologists are supposed to make questions, not answer them!) Some interesting trivia: Omega deals with a theory of «The Omega Point», in which humanity spirals towards a point of unification and community. The lyrics on any Epica album never shied away from serious topics – such as politics, religion, and mental illness – which was enough for them to be seen as profound, but the end result has always been cheesy enough to accompany wine tasting.

Of course, Epica’s instantly recognizable characteristic is the vocal dichotomy, the Beauty and the Beast schema that gothic and symphonic bands are so attracted to. Simone Simons is the undeniable diva of the symphonic metal scene, all the more so now that other divas seem to have left the limelight. Her vocals are as bright as ever, with moments like the ending of Synergize Manifest capturing a fragility that I have come to miss since the music got more aggressive and hard-hitting. On the darker side of the microphone stands Mark Jansen with his distinct albeit underdeveloped growling, fulfilling his role satisfyingly, even with some fun shrieks delivered.

Epica are nothing but professionals, and I don’t predict any left-field decisions in their music as is the case with many of their contemporaries (i.e. softened sound, electronic prominence, pop flirting, or straight up abandoning metal). Between the album’s apparent strengths and expected clichés, nests an artistic consistency rarely found in the realm of symphonic metal. You would be all too right to reject the new album as more of the same, if Epica had ever let you to believe that experimentation was their modus operandi – which was never the case. This is precisely why any differentiation has always been welcome, but never the reason Epica were important in the first place. In a genre so prominent to anachronisms and caricaturing, Epica manage to rise as pioneers, because of their distinct formula and stellar production, concerning both fifteen year old goths and experienced audiophiles. Album #8 is another quality product, complete and capable of standing on its own, and while it most definitely can’t claim to be a culmination by any stretch of the word, it can still find a place in our music library as an enjoyable listen. Besides, when the bonus tracks include gypsy and funky renditions of the songs, it becomes obvious that behind the pretentious song titles and pseudo-intellectualism, there is a band having fun, and in a world more and more hostile to musicians it is a relief to see big names still finding meaning in pushing the stone up the mountain.



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user ratings (66)
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
SitarHero
February 25th 2021


12841 Comments


"It’s been a while since we last heard from the Dutch,"

This sentence looks like it's missing a subject.

Nocte
Staff Reviewer
February 25th 2021


14070 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

It's been a while since I've heard from the Dutch...he could be onto something.

Digging: ACAUSAL INTRUSION - Nulitas

CaliggyJack
February 26th 2021


6483 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

There are two things I hate in this world...



1. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures...

Willie
Moderator
February 26th 2021


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

So many of these Symphonic Metal bands suffer from what I like to call "Nightwish Syndrome". Basically, their studio albums are super polished with the symphonic/choir parts mixed way too high, and the 'metal' parts buried in the background. Then you hear the same songs in a live setting with the metal parts at the forefront and the symphonic/choir parts buried in the background and the songs are fucking awesome. This album doesn't change that opinion.



Example:



Consign to Oblivion (studio): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-7X1_xoIZk

Consign to Oblivion (live): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkqyyUTCMUQ



Digging: Amy Shark - Cry Forever

SitarHero
February 26th 2021


12841 Comments


The buried guitars in the studio recordings are probably to help them get airplay and not be *too* heavy. But guitars rule in a live setting so you can't not have them.

Willie
Moderator
February 26th 2021


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

I'm sure there are 'reasons', but it keeps me from listening to the studio albums more often than not. I literally only listen to the Story Time live album from Nightwish because it sounds so much better than their studio albums (and Floor sings the songs better, too). For Epica I only really listen to the Retrospect - 10th Anniversary live album, and a few official live songs from Youtube that I've ripped the audio from (one being that Consign to Oblivion song I linked to above).

SitarHero
February 26th 2021


12841 Comments


Ah gotcha. Yeah, it's kind of a shame that the studio mix isn't a bit beefier. Even Simone sounds a bit thin and reedy on it in comparison to the live version.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
February 26th 2021


24299 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

That live footage of Consign to oblivion was pretty cool.



Still gotta check this but, what I heard sounds like a good time.

Digging: Arabrot - Norwegian Gothic

Willie
Moderator
February 26th 2021


18912 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

It is a good time. Based on their live shows, I just can't help but think about how it could sound. I'll actually probably end up rating this around a 3.5.

Mythodea
February 26th 2021


6076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

@Willie Have you checked The Classical Conspiracy live album? Similar to Retrospect, but to me better executed and half the setlist is covers from popular scores and classical pieces. It's a must.



Studio vs live Consign to Oblivion is an unfair comparison to make, since Epica in 2005 didn't have the heaviness that later members brought (Arien's drumming is by far heavier for example). I feel like more recent albums translate the same in the live shows.



@SitarHero I think that's the way to refer to people from the Netherlands. The Dutch.



@CaliggyJack I missed the joke, tbh

rockandmetaljunkie
Contributing Reviewer
February 26th 2021


9556 Comments


Pos'd because...we support the greek reviewers of sputnikmusic

Mythodea
February 26th 2021


6076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Why, thank you sir! But my greek identity has nothing (meaningful) to do with reviews! Support greek bands, more like ;)

Travelhead
February 26th 2021


71 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Simone Simons is the undeniable diva of the symphonic metal scene, all the more so now that other divas seem to have left the limelight."



Whaaat? Simone is not a diva. Don't make me laugh.

Mythodea
February 26th 2021


6076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Maybe we give different meaning to the word.



She's definitely a diva in the sense that she steals the show with undeniable stage charisma and flair. She does indulge into subjects of appearance (She has a beauty-vlog) and has been criticized for some obnoxiousness (definitely not comparable to other nosy divas), though



Is that the reason you downvoted?

TheNotrap
Staff Reviewer
February 26th 2021


15991 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

Except for a few songs here and there I don't think I've ever heard a full album by these guys. I have to change that. Pos'd.



Edit: Well, judging by my ratings I seem to have listened to Requiem for the Indifferent ;)

Digging: Grave Miasma - Abyss Of Wrathful Deities

Mythodea
February 26th 2021


6076 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It mustn't have left any serious impression if you've already forgotten about it. This is more consistent than Requiem... , however, so maybe you're going to dig it a bit more.

Toondude10
February 26th 2021


14481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Honestly ever since they ditched Sascha Paeth, they've been much more appealing to me. I rather prefer the more polished production rather than the diluted, compressed sound of their earlier albums.

Divaman
February 26th 2021


10396 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'd say Simone is totally a diva, in the most positive sense of the word. Her performance almost completely stole last year's Ayreon LP.

Digging: Dinosaur Jr. - Sweep It Into Space

Poet
February 26th 2021


6088 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This band has everything that should make them one of my favorite bands, but they've never caught on that way. Simone has a nice voice, but I've always felt she was overshadowed by almost every other woman vocalist in the genre. It sounds too thin for the music that the band creates.

Toondude10
February 26th 2021


14481 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I'll admit I liked this more than I thought I would.



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