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Epica - The Phantom Agony

=Staff's pick

Adyta (The Neverending Embrace)
Cry For The Moon (The Embrace That Smothers - Part IV)*
Illusive Consensus*
Facade Of Reality (The Embrace That Smothers - Part V)
Run For A Fall
Seif al Din (The Embrace That Smothers - Part VI)
The Phantom Agony*

Genre Opera Metal
Simone Simons
Tracks 9
Mark Jansens
Grunts, Guitar
Runningtime 52 Min.
Ad Sluijter
Label Transmission Records
Yoes Huts
Release 03 Oct. 2003
Jeroen Simons
Country Holland
Coen Janssen
Similar artists Nightwish, Rhapsody, Within Temptation

Out of the ashes from the band After Forever rises a new band called Epica, and from the mastermind of Mark Jansen a new band in the genre of operametal has seen the daylight. The number of bands within this genre is constantly rising and now we can add another Dutch band besides Within Temptation to the list, and instead of just ripping of Nightwish, Epica actually manages to push the development further on with this kind of music.

After the first track that is a intro the album starts by sounding very much like Nightwish and when the singing begins you could trick many people that they actually is listening to the voice of Tarja from Nightwish, but then the differences starts to occur and the sound of Rhapsody springs to mind. Simone Simons has a beautiful mezzo-soprano voice and in my opinion is the only vocalist that really is equally good as Tarja.

Cry For The Moon is a track that could in fact summon the entire album, it starts with a floating voice in a calm drum driven intro that reminds me of the soundtrack from the movie 1492 by Vangelis before it turns into a musical sounding refrain sung by a choir only to then pick up in pace similar to the mighty sound of Rhapsody and at last to be completed with some growling before it hits the chorus again. As beautiful the female voice is, as terrible the grunts from Mark Jansen is, he may be the founder of the band but his growling techniques needs to be practised a bit more. There is no wrong with growls in the part of the music there it is now, its simply that it sounds more like a barking dog rather than good grunts, it sound like he is singing from too far at the back of his throat. Unfortunately this will bring down the grade on the vocals, since they are two that is handling the singing I must concern both in the grade, but Simone's voice alone is definitely worth a nine on the scale.

Epica is back up by an eight-piece orchestra through the entire album and usually a fully orchestrated album can be a bit too much if the pace is too slow in the music, but they have made it work apart from the sleepy power-ballad Feint that is too much of the sweet stuff for my taste.
On the rest of The Phantom Agony the arrangements of the orchestra is greatly done with help from Robert Hunecke-Rizzo (Heavens Gate, Luca Turilli) so that the sound of the orchestra doesn't take over the music or becomes too much, as it is now it helps to enhance the might of the music being perfectly balanced. But this raises the question how this band will work out live if they doesn't bring the orchestra with them, it is not always that fun to see a band playing live when half of the music if pre-recorded, hopefully I will get a chance to see them live to straighten this out.

The influences is many to find but with the opera sense Nightwish is a close comparison added with the mighty parts of Rhapsody, but where is the guitars? The thing that I miss the most is guitar-solos, there is many places on the album where it could easily fit in, but it does not appear, but on the other hand I find the drumming being most excellent, Jeroen Simons has a way of playing that really appeals to me.

One of the reason behind the choice of the name Epica is as a tribute to one of their favourite band, the not so unknown band Kamelot that has released an album named Epica earlier this year. The influences of Kamelot can be heard in their sound along with the other elements I have mentioned, and the similarities doesn't end there, behind the producing you find Sascha Paeth that also has been producing Kamelot as well as Rhapsody.

The Phantom Agony is a really good album and even if Epica manages to stand out a bit I wouldn't raise the album to far towards the sky. How good they ever might be it will be hard for them to turn the name Epica into serious fame since they are moving in the shadow of Nightwish. Nightwish has set a high standard for this type of metal and Epica is the one band that is closest and perhaps even already alongside with them with this great debut, but they will probably need to make at least one more album as good as this before they will get credits for their originality, and I'm already looking forward to the follow-up because I want more of this quality.

See also review of Consign To Oblivion






8 chalices of 10 - Thomas

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