“Come with me now; be joyful. It is time to enter The Electric Castle!”
After the wild success of the Ayreon Universe shows in 2017, where an audience of international Ayreonauts was treated to a best-of selection of Ayreon’s most popular songs, the Poppodium 013 once again opened its gates to the gentle hordes in September of 2019. 2018 had seen the twenty-year anniversary and the re-mixed and -mastered version of Into The Electric Castle, and thus it was a logical step that this new live show centered around that album, a favourite of many. To the great thrill of not only the fans but the artists as well, Arjen managed to gather most of the cast members of the original album, and the most admirable substitutes for those who couldn’t make it. Continue reading →
Dutch natives, Epica are releasing their second EP – Epica vs Attack on Titan (Nuclear Blast) —based on the Japanese anime series Attack on Titan. The band recorded the EP last summer and released it in Japan last December. Now, the rest of the world will finally be able to get an earful of pure symphonic metal. Attack on Titan, the series, has seen a vast success since its release in 2009 and Epica have achieved a wonderful job on their covers of the Japanese comic series. Continue reading →
2017 will be seen as a monumental year for both Arjen Anthony Lucassen and for Ayreon; the band and its fanatical fan base. Significantly it will mark the first live performances by Ayreon (and a very rare live appearance by the infamously shy and reclusive Lucassen), but also sees a brand new album that revisits the conceptual narrative of one of the band’s most beloved albums, 01011001 (InsideOut). Showing a return to the sci-fi storyline of said album, The Source (Mascot) in fact acts as a prequel piece, and is the most refined and strongest album they have released for some time. Continue reading →
On The Seventh Life Path (Napalm), their seventh studio album, Norwegians Sirenia pull out all the stops to set themselves apart from others in the Symphonic Metal field. It’s refreshing to hear pure synth sounds, as in the intro to ‘Once My Light’, rather than merely a synth-orchestra, though the orchestra is in full force throughout and delivers all the bombast that Symphonic Metal fans could hope for. And from the very first song on the album it is already clear that the choir arrangements are equally dramatic as the orchestrals, with ‘Elixir’ featuring some particularly remarkable choral work.
There is a very pleasant contradiction between the low male vocals and high female lines. This contrast is even stronger because it is generally followed by grunts. Other great choir parts can be found in ‘Insania’, again contrasting with the grunts of Morten Veland, and in ‘Sons of the North’ where the male choral intro is quite unlike any of the other lines on this album. Unfortunately this song had a weird little thing going on with the drums in the verse that made it appear as if the song was skipping. This, however, was soon forgotten owing to the overall quality of the music, especially the disturbing piano solo.
Besides the choir, vocals are provided by Ailyn, who has the soft and sweet voice that is common in this particular genre, although she does sometimes hint at a more powerful voice. Some of the backing vocals on the beautiful ‘Tragedienne’ have a ballsiness to them that I really would love to hear in the main lines. As it is now, I am glad to have the grunts and choirs alongside the softer singing. There is one major exception though: ‘Contemptuous Quietus’ has a very deep classical sound very much like the voice of Simone Simons of Epica. This power really suits the music very well.
This album has a great amount of bombast on a bed of surprisingly heavy metal guitar, drums, and bass, with a layer of catchy licks and synths and a variety of vocals. It has a distinct character that will definitely appeal to fans of symphonic metal.
Once The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast) has had time to work its way into your brain, it’s a highly impressive album. Due to the fact there’s a lot to it, it does require a few listens for it all to separate out, even though the song arrangements have been simplified compared to previous albums’ over-elaborations.
Streamlining serves Epica well, as they no longer get lost in an endless seam of parts. Instead, everyone knows their role and performs it excellently; the guitars are happy to act as a chugging metalcore foil to Simone Simons’ exemplary soprano vocals, or to dial it a down and sit under keyboards or softer chords for the more sugary moments, such as the earworm chorus of ‘The Second Stone’. Equally, with their roaring thick sound, they can step up and drive a song, such as the rhythmic pounding of ‘Victims Of Contingency’.
The whole symphonic metal shebang is nicely spiced up by a full chamber choir and live string ensemble both of whom embellish most tracks, but none so more than ‘Chemical Insomnia’, a mid-album track that starts with a dark riff, picks up pace with strings swirling over the double-bass drumming, a thrashy riff, into a staccato verse, a symphonic, orchestral pre-chorus and a sweet, softer poppy chorus.
There are two minor gripes. Firstly, the 12 minute closing epic is a touch underwhelming and doesn’t reach the standards of the rest of the album – an ‘Of Michael The Archangel and Lucifer’s Fall’ it ain’t… Secondly, at 70 minutes, no matter how well it’s delivered, Quantum is pushing its’ luck a little.
The above may all sound a bit kitchen sink, but the thought, effort and craft bear fruit as The Quantum Enigma is both an excellent album and a collection of great songs and it is churlish to pick when presented with such an expertly put together symphonic metal album. Expertly produced, and in a year when the poppier Delain and the slick machine Within Temptation have released strong albums Epica are more than holding their own with an album that stands alongside Design Your Universe as the best the band have released to date.
Dutch Symphonic Metal outfit Epica are one of the biggest bands in their field. This year they celebrate their 10th anniversary and to commemorate this special occasion, they just released Retrospect (Nuclear Blast), a live recording of their most elaborate show to date. Ghost Cult caught up with keyboardist Coen Janssen to pry open his mind on this special live album, the impact of the band on his life, and Epica’s loyal fanbase. Continue reading →