EPICA is a band that requires little to no introduction, with many highly acclaimed albums and songs under their belt, among which such classics as “The Phantom Agony” (2003), “Design Your Universe” (2009), and “The Quantum Enigma” (2014), as well as the “Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns” suite or crowd favorite “Consign to Oblivion.” In time, the Dutch symphonic metal outfit established themselves as a solid live act, performing at important European festivals like Hellfest or Wacken but also on American soil at ProgPower USA or 70000 Tons of Metal. On March 9th, 2012, the band released “Requiem for the Indifferent,” an album that sparked a fair amount of discussion within the fandom, even though the general response was a positive one.
When a band releases an album as excellent and near perfect as, in EPICA’s case, “Design Your Universe,” there are two paths to take: either try to do something different or try to replicate your success. Either way, the follow-up record won’t measure up to its predecessor. That is a given, and we’ve seen this ebb-and-flow in the quality of consecutive releases many times. Even if “Requiem for the Indifferent” features all the trademark EPICA elements, the album is a bit less than the sum of its parts. For all intents and purposes, it’s still a strong release with a lot of variety to offer, while still showcasing the beauty and exuberance of symphonic metal.
As always, Simone Simons’ angelic vocals make every song all that much enjoyable and pleasant to the ear, while Mark Jansen’s growls are used in just the right amount so as to give balance to the tracks and juxtapose the album’s lighter moments. As for the orchestral and choral arrangements, these are perfectly integrated with the rest of the instruments so as to make the songs more lavish and ornate, without overpowering the guitars or drums. Such is the case of the album’s ballad, “Delirium,” where the choirs are effectively used to create a fuller and more luscious soundscape, while Simone’s light and dulcet tones seem to float atop the piano and flurry of vocals. However, these flourishes take a backseat as the metal element is the main focus on this album, giving “Requiem for the Indifferent” a heavier and more aggressive edge.
Symphonic pieces “Monopoly on Truth” and “Serenade of Self-Destruction” are fast-paced and enjoyable, though a bit by-the-numbers, and are not the only ones that feel like standard EPICA tracks. On the plus side, this is a band where everyone involved in the songwriting and/or performing is a creative force in their own right, which in turn leads to strong musicianship all around. The reason why even the songs that could be labeled as “filler tracks” – because of their predictable structure – are above average in quality and execution, making for satisfying – if not even entertaining – listens. A case in point is the lead single, “Storm the Sorrow,” whose tried-and-tested format feels familiar, but the execution makes it exciting and entertaining. The same goes for many of the cuts from the second half of the album, especially “Guilty Demeanor,” “Stay the Course,” and “Deter the Tyrant.”
The title track has a nice middle-eastern flair that makes it a stand-out piece on the album, though “Fools of Damnation” or the more recent “Code of Life” are slightly better compositions overall. Still, the juxtaposition of Simone and Mark’s signature singing styles makes this song feel very dramatic but quite energetic at the same time. Another highlight is “Internal Warfare” where the keyboard/guitar solo is well executed and makes it into a dark and theatrical number. Both “Deep Water Horizon” and “Avalanche” benefit from exquisite orchestral arrangements that really complement Simone’s vocals, but the real treat is the way these songs change into fast-paced death metal, at least for a few moments, before switching back to symphonic metal.
Bottom line: though not EPICA’s best (or worst for that matter), “Requiem for the Indifferent” is definitely one of those albums that almost every band needs to make in order to go on to do greater and better things. In this particular case, it’s the price they had to pay for both “Design Your Universe” and “The Quantum Enigma.” One might even call it a transitional album, without losing any of the richness of sound that EPICA is known and appreciated for. No matter how you look at it, the main merit of “Requiem for the Indifferent” is that it proves that EPICA are a band that deliver even when they are experimenting or simply going through the motions.
Written by Andrea Crow
Monopoly on Truth
Storm the Sorrow
Requiem for the Indifferent
Deep Water Horizon
Stay the Course
Deter the Tyrant
Serenade of Self-Destruction
- Simone Simons – lead vocals
- Mark Jansen – rhythm guitars, grunts, screams, orchestral arrangements
- Isaac Delahaye – lead guitars, orchestral arrangements
- Yves Huts – bass guitars, engineering
- Coen Janssen – synthesizer, piano, orchestral & choir arrangements
- Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums, grunts