Friday, 16 March 2012

Review: Epica - Requiem for the Indifferent

 Truly, there is no band more suiting of a name like "Epica" than the Dutch sextet we have come to look at today. Everything they've done is just so... epic. It's one of the most accurate names since Japanese heavy metallers Loudness proved themselves not to be the quietest of bands around. And so their fifth album Requiem for the Indifferent proves them once more to be a band whose namesake reputation remains intact, standing strong.


 Symphonic metal albums sort of carry the same rules as family adventure movies in a way. In the sense that when creating a follow-up, a sequel, or in this case, a... 5th film in the franchise, it should comprise of similar characteristics of the first film only bigger. And this is something Epica have total understanding of here. And so, on Requiem for the Indifferent, the levels of lavish sweeping symphonic backdrops well-constructed to fit in with the thrashy and chug-tacular guitar performances from Mark Jansen and Isaac Delahaye that reveal an influence from the best in speed and power metal. And the fitting performance of the symphonic and metallic elements in highlighted from the very beginning of the album which sees the joining between Karma and Monopoly on Truth, which in it's over-the-top playing with an air of fantastical grandeur creates an audible image of what The Lord of the Rings would have been like had it been a series of metal albums.
 The vocal performances are also crucial in upholding this sense of fantasy and epic wonder. One of Epica's main traits is the contrasting styles between frontwoman Simone Simons and Mark Jansen, as the pairing of Simons' ethereal operatic grace and Jansen's near morbid guttural growling is cleverly brought together revealing an extra dynamic and fearlessness int heir performance. Tracks like Storm the Sorrow and the album's major title track execute this feature well which really builds up the introduction of the growling, where listeners know that it's time for extra brutality.
 Now symphonic metal is always a genre that's managed to divide opinion, with some believing it's too cheesy and artificial, and when it goes fully over-the-top, there is perhaps some sense in that. Requiem for the Indifferent would be a difficult album for anyone to make an emotional connection with but when Epica mean to unleash an atmosphere of melancholy, tracks like the mournful delicate Deep Water Horizon does the job pretty well. But it's when you want music with a real sense of driving adventurous force that the force of songs like Internal Warfare and Deter the Tyrant come to full effect.
 So, when the target audience of symphonic metal are people who dig fantasy, metallic grandeur and little chance to drop down to reality, the exquisite lavish performance on this album is very much a crowd-pleaser. How well it would translate into the real world is questionable but then if you like things mental and skillfully performed then this album, like the name of the sextet behind it, is Epic...a.

 Epica's Requiem for the Indifferent is out now via Nuclear Blast.

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