By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
The most common themes most symphonic metal bands focus on is sci-fi and fantasy. It is because of those two topics that symphonic metal has usually brought to me great joy. However, Epica of Limburg, Netherlands chooses to concentrate on science, mythology, and sometimes theology. After many years, the Dutch outfit known for mixing thrash, death, groove, and progressive metal into their symphonic sound have explored the cosmos, digested different religions, and journeyed through imagination and the human mind. Seven albums in, they decided to investigate the concept of the Omega Point theory, which states that we are fated to spiral towards one point of divine unification. It is of course entitled, Omega. Let us open our minds readers, for Epica is our teachers. Class is in session.
“Alpha – Anteludium” starts Omega off with a short keyboard interlude with Celtic orchestration in the background. This is constructed beautifully by longtime keyboard performer Coen Janssen. Epica then guide us into “Abyss of Time – Countdown to Singularity,” and that’s when the excitement kicks in. Rhythm guitarist and growler Mark Jansen is a snarling beast that intertwines with the harmonious, operatic vibe of frontwoman Simone Simons. She is angelic the whole song while singing about being one with positive energy. They each attack the lyrics with conviction and magnificence. “The Skeleton Key” is the latest single, and it is one the strongest tracks off the album. Dark, haunting, and gripping is how I would describe this song. Jansen and lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye duel it out with vicious riffs, then Delahaye goes for the kill with a smooth slash of his striking solo. “Seal of Solomon” is one of Jansen’s favorite tunes he worked on for Omega, and I can hear why. It sounds so mesmerizing and epic, it is basically Epica at their absolute finest. Besides Jansen’s guttural action and Simons’ searing melody, drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek and bassist Rob van der Loo perform an explosive blast beat that is capped off with another stellar solo by Delahaye.
“Gaia” is where progressive and symphonic metal come together in harmony. The name Gaia comes from Greek mythology, which means the personification of Earth by the primordial goddess Gaia. Simons opens our eyes from the darkness thanks to her enchanting vocals. The choir singing the Latin-written chorus brought the song extra allure. “Code of Silence” brings some Middle Eastern flavor into the mix. The sound is very hypnotic in the beginning, but then the thrash element comes in with a boom! Myrath’s Zaher Zorgati lends his heavy Islamic chants and wails. We are halfway through Omega as we come to “Freedom – The Wolves Within.” Simons and Jansen continue to battle for dominance as this song deals with the never-ending fight for the light to prevail. The swift drumming of Weesenberk is electric as he is very precise with the beat. We now come to the centerpiece of the record, “Kingdom of Heaven ~ Part III – The Antediluvian Universe.” Continuing the “Kingdom of Heaven” saga that Epica started on 2009’s Design Your Universe, the 13-minute tune is broken into six sections. I like how each section of the section has its own personality that sets up mood, like the vicious ‘IV. Duality’ and the whimsical, cosmic ‘VI. The Flower of Life – The Cosmic Spiral.’ Delahaye truly shines with righteous solos that fits the vibes of each tune.
“Rivers” is the perfect song to cool down with after the rampage of “Kingdom of Heaven ~ Part III.” Simons truly shines as the songstress enchants the listener with her virtuous voice that goes along with Janssen’s light piano melody. She has one of most beautiful voices out there today. “Synergize – Manic Manifest” brings Epica back to the groove, symphonic metal sound. The song deals with breaking out the cage of depression and revitalize one’s creative spirits. The solo Delahaye performs is very similar to what Dimebag Darrell and Dave Mustaine would compose if in a symphonic scene. “Twilight Reverie – The Hypnagogic State” shows just how great Epica’s chemistry really is. The Agonist’s Vicky Psarakis comes for some spoken words that helps set Jansen up for his death growls. Omega means the end; therefore, we reach the end of Omega with “Omega – Sovereign of the Sun Spheres.” Broken into three parts, we conclude the odyssey as the unification is complete. They have plateaued with a tune that sends this album out in a blaze of glory.
Picking up right they left off with 2016’s The Holographic Principle, Epica have conducted another superb masterpiece. Omega had everything in there to make it one of the best symphonic metal records created for the new decade. Thanks to combined efforts of the group working along with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, Zangschool BrabantTalent Children’s Choir, and Kamerkoor PA’dam Choir, this album proves the Omega Point theory of unification. To Epica, I salute you. Horns up!!!
Alpha – Anteludium
Abyss Of Time – Countdown To Singularity
The Skeleton Key
Seal of Solomon
Code Of Life
Freedom – The Wolves Within
Kingdom Of Heaven, Part 3 – The Antediluvian Universe
Synergize – Manic Manifest
Twilight Reverie – The Hypnagogic State
Omega – Sovereign Of The Sun Spheres
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