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Epica - Omega Award winner

Epica
Omega
by Kevin Lewis at 15 February 2021, 2:40 PM

Dutch symphonic band EPICA is back with a brand-new album, "Omega," their eighth full-length record. Since their inception in 2002, EPICA has pushed the boundaries of sound with album after album of music that transcends genres and creates these massive stories that leave the listener breathless. "Omega" will be available February 26, 2021 on Nuclear Blast Records.

One of the best things about a new EPICA release is that it is everything you would expect. It is epic. It’s symphonic metal at its’ finest, but it also has power metal built in. And, as always, it has a bit of world music, like the Middle Eastern feel during “Code OF Life” mixed in as well. It is thought provoking and complex. The lyrics mean something. The music supports the lyrics. Everything works together as one giant, beautiful work of art.

The record kicks off with the mood setting “Alpha – Anteludium” before diving into "Abyss Of Time – Countdown To Singularity”. This is a symphonic piece with chants, horns, synthesizers and an ethereal aura. It builds slowly, but this is EPICA, so you know this is nothing like what is to come. It only serves to build your anticipation. And your patience is rewarded when track two kicks off.

Abyss Of Time” doesn’t start so much as it launches. With Mark’s signature growls in counterpoint to Simone’s operatic delicacy, this is EPICA at their best. The song is well-paced and has a few good shifts to keep it fresh. The lyrics speak of the void being filled with a single thought. This is the beginning of not just time, but everything we know of as it is now. Then, at 3:07, there is a breakdown that just puts you back in your seat, only to have you jump up and pump your fist in the air. That will be outstanding live.

"Abyss Of Time” is my early favorite on this record and is really vying for favorite EPICA song ever. This is an impressive feat as I have put “Deter The Tyrant” in that place since its’ release in 2012. As many great songs as EPICA has, these two somehow manage to stand out.

The Skeleton Key” begins with a tinkling piano before the riff kicks in, the drops back to melodic metal for the verses. The chorus soars with Simone, then drops into a pit when the growls start. It works, just like it always does. Then “Seal Of Solomon” brings in the first of the Middle Eastern tones. Not just in the music, but also in Simone’s vocalizations. There is more of this blending Middle Eastern sounds in on “Code Of Life”. Highlighting the Middle Eastern feel is the guest vocalist, Zaher Zorgati of Tunisian band, MYRATH.

Jumping down a few tracks, we have “Freedom – The Wolves Within,” the second video single released off the record (after “Abyss”). Beginning with a choir chanting, the song builds up a little before going full force. Once it does kick off, there is another beautiful rhythm that is filled out with dark little guitar riff offset by lighter keyboards and underscored with a bass and drum line that just pummel the senses.

Next, we have another one of the things EPICA is really good at. The long, epic song that shows the band can also go Progressive Metal when they want/feel like it. At 13:25 in length, “Kingdom Of Heaven Part 3 - The Antediluvian Universe” is a winding road the goes on forever, but not long enough. With what sound like Mongolian tones leading into a woodwind sound, going then to strings, the song winds up slowly. This is followed by chants that drive towards the main body of the song.

The drums come out front and set a rhythm that just gallops along, laying the foundation for the transition to the first. The power is unmistakable. Simone is bolstered by the choir as the song goes on. She drops to her lower register, then soars back into operatic, only for the growls to come in and create the counterpoint we’ve come to expect from this band. All of this is before the song is half over. The second half is more of the same phenomenal work.

The third single comes after this. “Rivers” begins with a melancholy tone, leading to a muted piano melody with Simone singing over this. The song takes the time to build very slowly. Simone slowly increases her volume a bit, letting you know there is more to come. The rest of the instruments join in at a little after the three-minute mark, taking the song to another level.

Heading down to the last song on the disc, “Omega - Sovereign Of The Sun Spheres,” you just know this is the song that is going to wrap the record up with a neat little bow, tying all the songs together and bringing the story to a close. More tempo shifts and counterpoint vocals tie everything together. There are more choir chants and another awesome breakdown for good measure. The riff is heavenly and the rhythm solid as can be.

As with any great work, the central theme repeats throughout. EPICA has frequently used religion and creation on their records and this is no different. This feels like it about the creation of not just our world, but the universe itself. “Gaia” is Mother Earth, “The Code Of Life” is the moral compass we follow, “Rivers” are the paths we follow through life, making our way against the tide of life.

Isaac and Mark are an extremely formidable guitar duo, at times keeping pace with the best from German Power Metal or NWOBHM guitar gods. Rob and Ariën are a rhythm section that can go toe-to-toe with any out there. Add to this Coen with his signature arced keyboard and you have one of the best metal bands talent-wise. As a band, they are definitely one of those “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”, and you haven’t even factored in Simone yet. She rounds out the band in a way that is beyond comparison.

Having seen this band live four times now, I know these songs will sound absolutely fantastic live. This record is signature EPICA; complex, diverse, and massive. Omega delivers everything you have come to expect from this group. Once again, EPICA has outdone themselves. One of my greatest hopes is that touring can begin again and they hit the eastern seaboard of the United States again. I will absolutely go see them fir a fifth time. The chance to hear “Abyss Of Time” live is irresistible.

Songwriting:  10
Musicianship:  10
Memorability:  10
Production:  10

5 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Alpha - Anteludium
2. Abyss Of Time - Countdown To Singularity
3. The Skeleton Key
4. Seal Of Solomon
5. Gaia
6. Code Of Life
7. Freedom - The Wolves Within
8. Kingdom Of Heaven Part 3 - The Antediluvian Universe
9. Rivers
10. Synergize - Manic Manifest
11. Twilight Reverie - The Hypnagogic State
12. Omega - Sovereign Of The Sun Spheres
Lineup:
Simone Simons – Vocals
Mark Jansen – Guitar/Growls
Isaac Delahaye – Guitar
Coen Janssen – Synth/Piano
Ariën Van Weesenbeek – Drums
Rob Van Der Loo – Bass
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
     


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