by Joe Mis
Staff Writer —
Requiem For The Indifferent is the latest release from veteran Dutch rockers Epica. Founded in 2002, this female-fronted symphonic-orchestral-progressive-death-Gothic-metal group continues to refine and perfect its somewhat over-the-top sound in what is the band’s 6th release. Epica normally blends in a bit more of the darker side of metal and thus comes across a little “heavier,” but this new album is a bit different in tone and style.
Epica’s lineup remains unchanged, featuring guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen, Simone Simons (lead vocalist – and fine mezzo-soprano), Coen Janssen (keyboards), Yves Huts (bass), Isaac Delahaye (guitar), and Ariën van Weesenbeek (drums). The stability of the core lineup only adds to the performances of the band, as their teamwork is outstanding throughout. Simone Simons has an amazing voice that combines the operatic ability of Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) with the power and flow of Amy Lee (Evanescence). Requiem For The Indifferent allows her to sing in a more conventional style, forsaking some of the operatic power, although she calls upon it on many occasions. Mark Jansen is the second vocalist as usual, handling all the death metal grunts, groans and growls. His voice contrasts nicely with Simons’ smooth flow, and keeps the dual vocals the real keystone of Epica’s sound – although on this release they are perhaps more akin to the “beauty and the beast” style, rather than that operatic metal / death metal. The remaining members of the band are all excellent musicians fully capable of handling the over-the-top bombastic style and contrasts of Epica’s music, although the tone of Requiem is a bit softer and calmer than their previous CDs.
Fans of Epica’s last release Design Your Universe may be a bit surprised by the change in tone. Design was intense and almost brutal, in-your-face and totally over the top. Requiem is a much more controlled album, featuring many more symphonic passages, vocal subtleties – more orchestral elements overall. Their musical arrangement continues to be complex and technical, but the tone is much more introspective, almost a redefinition of Epica’s sound. However, the contrasts of fast/slow, light/dark and rough/smooth continue to be the real keys to Epica’s music. The progressive traditions of tempo changes, intense riffs and instrumental passages are there, but they now tend more towards the softer end more than the super-heavy.
The first three songs (“Karma,” ”Monopoly On Truth” and “Storm The Sorrow”) have more of the old school Epica sound, although the vocal balance change is apparent. Simone’s sings more often away from her operatic style, and there is a greater emphasis on choral vocals. The band is tight, with the dual voices of Simons and Jansen leading the rest of the band through its paces. The guitar lines are strong and intricate, the bass line wonderfully complex, keys and synths are lush, and the drums manic but appropriate. Of particular note are Simone’s outstanding vocals and the great drum work on “Storm The Sorrow.” The first major departure from Epica’s core sound is the beautiful ballad “Delirium.” The track opens in epic style with some choral humming, fades into some superb keyboard work by Coen Janssen and amazing soft and sweet lead vocals – an excellent song from every aspect. Normal intensity returns on “Internal Warfare” along with some excellent death vocals by Mark Jansen, while Middle Eastern tones, many prog tempo changes, and tight guitar riffs permeate the epic title track “Requiem for the Indifferent.”
The quick keyboard “Anima” leads into the darker “Guilty Demeanor” – a more conventional symphonic / progressive track with a driving rhythm line. A mellow orchestral opening and moody lyrics makes the fluid “Deep Water Horizon” an interesting and powerful song that builds in intensity until it reaches a huge booming finish – symphonic at its best. “Stay the Course” is the heaviest track with more emphasis on Epica’s death metal roots thanks to Jansen’s lead vocals-grunts-roars. “Deter The Tyrant” has a very choppy guitar line and tidy drums, and “Avalanche” seems to be a soft and peaceful ballad until Jansen’s roars kick in at mid-point – another vocal masterpiece. The album closes on a high with the epic “Serenade Of Self-Destruction.” This one track embodies all of Epica’s trademarks and continues their “over-the-top-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” style – quiet then roaring, slow than fast, clean then death, keys, guitars, orchestra, bass, chugging riffs, blast beats, opera…Whew!
Each track is layered with complex arrangements of standard rock instruments, orchestra instruments, choir vocals; everything that should be in symphonic metal and then some. As usual for Epica, this mélange somehow comes out well balanced, with no particular aspect of the music dominating the album. The production and engineering are excellent, as one comes to expect from a symphonic metal recording.
Epica’s new sound might take some of their fans by surprise, but the change only further separates them from the pack of imitators. Epica has proven that they are maturing in tone and skills while continually exploring (and pushing) the boundaries of the genre they helped to create. Fans of orchestral or progressive metal will enjoy this release. Requiem For The Indifferent is an excellent album, and a fine example of pure symphonic metal.
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Simone Simons (vocals)
Mark Jansen (guitars, grunts & screams)
Isaac Delahaye (guitars)
Coen Janssen (keyboards)
Yves Huts (bass)
Ariën van Weesenbeek (drums)
2. Monopoly On Truth
3. Storm The Sorrow
5. Internal Warfare
6. Requiem For The Indifferent
8. Guilty Demeanor
9. Deep Water Horizon
10. Stay The Course
11. Deter The Tyrant
13. Serenade Of Self-Destruction
Label: Nuclear Blast
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10