Epica ‘The Solace System’ – Album Review

        Do you like soaring vocals? Do you like symphonic orchestration in metal? Do you also like growls that sound like they’d be at home in any death metal band? Then you may want to check out Dutch band Epica, if you haven’t already that is. Their writing process for their most recent masterpiece, The Holographic Principle, yielded so many great songs that they couldn’t fit them all on the album. The reasoning behind this wasn’t lack of quality, but, according to guitarist/ growler Mark Jansen, “This is only based on the fact that the record should not exceed 76 minutes,” explains Mark. “Since we didn’t like the idea of a double CD, we finally decided to release an EP with six brand-new numbers, which were created during the creative phase of The Holographic Principle”. The result of that decision is the 6 song EP, entitled The Solace System, which will be available September 1st, 2017. I am here to tell you that these 6 tracks are epic, and a great introduction to the band for new listeners. I had heard older music by them before, and was unimpressed.   I thought the vocals didn’t match the music, but here I am older and wiser, and, because of this EP, now totally into what they do. “Architect of Light” sticks out on this album like a beacon of melodic greatness. The way the orchestration raises the heavy music up to level of intensity, beauty, and melody really grabbed me. Add Simone Simons’ beautiful voice to this, and you have a truly magical metallic creation. Simone’s voice is beautiful, soaring highs, and sometimes I almost get an operatic feel to her very high notes. One thing this group does so well is to make everything flow together in a way where the orchestration never overpowers the guitars, all the while the guitars are also working with it to create some very beautiful harmonies, there is never a spot where I feel that one is covering up the power of the other. “Immortal Melancholy” is superb. Simone’s angelic voice over a beautifully written acoustic guitar, with slight orchestration added for flavoring. This track shows the contrast between the heavier side of their music, and the light, and sows how versatile they are as artists. Mark had this to say about the song, “I was relaxing with our producer Joost van den Broek when we suddenly had the idea to write a guitar ballad, because up to now we only had ballads with the piano. The whole song was written in an afternoon. I wanted to have this song on the album so badly, but the majority was against it and was voting for another track. So I’m all the happier now that the ballad finally gets an important place on The Solace System!” Another track to look out for is called, “Decoded Poetry”. There are some seriously heavy moments to this song, and Marks growls add a level of brutality to a song that Simone had just left us with beauty. The mix of the two is outstanding, and I can’t speak enough about how much that alters the feel of the song, in a very good way.

The Solace System is a wonderful release from Epica. I just listened to it again as I wrote this (I had listened to it many times over the last few days), and when the last song ended I was disappointed that it was over. Now I plan to go into their back catalog, and listen to them deeper. They are that good, that with just 6 songs they made a fan out of me. So, go and listen to them, and wait for this to come out. September 1st, 2017 available via Nuclear Blast records.

I wanted to point out one thing really quick. In my recent reviews, you will see that I am adding quotes from the musicians themselves. When I get downloads from Nuclear Blast they are full of added information about the album, and they also contain they quotes I use. I love that they do this, as I feel it’s always good to hear what the artist says about what they have created.

I also want to thank everyone that has sent me music. Nuclear Blast has been extremely gracious to me, Napalm Records, Eclipse records, and so many more. And a huge shout out to Chimera Magazine, for without them welcoming me into the fold, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to talk about something we all love, MUSIC!

Tom Hanno

Chimera Magazine