Ain’t EP’s brilliant? They’re like albums right, but don’t cost the same as an album. Brilliant! Instead of “tour editions” that fleece the fanbase, stick the previously unheard tracks on an EP. Brilliant! That’s what Epica have done. Rather than release a “tour edition” of last year’s ‘The Holographic Principle’, they’ve stuck six tracks from the same sessions and released them as an EP – ‘The Solace System’. A continuation of where ‘The Holographic Principle’ left off, ‘The Solace System’ works both as a sequel of sorts, and as a stand alone release. Newcomers to Epica might use the EP as a stepping stone to the Dutch sextet’s previous output.
Everything that one would expect on a release from Epica is present and correct. Simone Simons’ gorgeous operatic, clean vocals blend seamlessly with the guttural growls from Mark Jansen (‘Decoded Poetry’ particularly stands out), the juggernaut drumming and pounding low end bass, intricate guitars, contrasting synth work, and of course the bombastic, majestic arrangements. The title track opens the EP and could be classed as “all of the above”. Simons jostles with Jansen after a glorious over-the-top choral intro, the juxtaposition of both vocal styles working perfectly alongside each other. The cinematic string arrangements are scintillating and never overpowering, unlike several other symphonic metal releases. ‘Fight Your Demons’ and ‘Wheel Of Destiny’ are the heavier moments on the album, with the latter having more of a traditional thrash metal guitar sound during the opening few minutes. These thrash moments give way to a vocal tour de force from Simons, similar to the one that graced her guest appearance on ‘The Source’ from Ayreon. Do check the album out. You want some thunderous bombast to scare the neighbours? Crank up ‘Architect Of Light’ and they’ll think that you are re-imagining the Omen movies in your living room. There’s so much going on during these five minutes that your head will explode! Cinematic arrangements, towering choral vocals, and a pounding drum groove that changes between break neck speed and a slower, crushing vibe that will have you banging your head. Jansen’s growls are thick and pour from the speakers, but the choral vocals take the gold medal. It can’t all be darkness though, and Epica offer up some light on ‘Immortal Melancholy’. Call it a ballad, if you like. It’s three minutes upon which Simons showcases her full range. Disney-esque, but only if Tim Burton had taken over.
Epica grow in stature with each release, and regardless of the fact that these songs have been around for over a year, ‘The Solace System’ is undoubtedly the strongest symphonic metal release so far this year.
Available now on Nuclear Blast
Review: Dave Stott