EPICA truly has become a household name in the worldwide symphonic metal scene. After the release of the in 2016 released “The Holographic Principle,” the band has had their biggest tour in years, released two EPs, took a short break to write and publish their very first book; in short, the band has had quite an intense few years. If you ever wondered if there is no stopping EPICA, you are correct! Proof of that is “Omega,” the symphonic metal outfit’s 8th studio effort, released on February 26th, 2021, via Nuclear Blast Records.
When I think about EPICA, the first thing that pops up in my mind is the incredible orchestrations that go along with their music and the killer intros. “Omega” is no exception to the rule as it starts off with “Alpha – Anteludium.” With a crescendo, it smoothly flows full-force into the lead track, “Abyss of Time – Countdown to Singularity.” When this track was originally released as the first single, my reaction was, hey cool, this is probably one of the best tracks that EPICA released in a couple of years now. I wasn’t completely wrong. This track is an instant reminder of EPICA‘s past songs and yet it has a lot of refreshing things to offer, the breakdown is surprisingly progressive, yet there is so much more this album has to offer. “The Skeleton Key,” for instance, is maybe not the highlight of this album, however, it’s filled with intriguing verses that create tension, a relatively minimal approach for EPICA, and that magical sound of a children’s choir that the band has been masterfully incorporated in “Omega.”
Once upon a time, EPICA didn’t stray away from Oriental influences in their songs, and there are a handful of songs where these influences come back to life. “Seal of Solomon” is one of those examples and even better is “Code of Life,” which is probably one of my favorite tracks on the record. The song also features Zaher Zorgati (MYRATH) doing some atmospheric Arabic vocals, which blend in nicely with Simone Simons‘ operatic singing. It’s very subtle and a detail you might easily miss, but it’s there and it gives the song an extra punch. “Gaia,” on the other hand, may perhaps be one of the shorter tracks on this album, but does not fall short in sound, as it’s probably one of the most extravagant songs to be heard.
“Freedom – The Wolves Within” was released as the second single and shows perhaps the more poppy, catchy side of EPICA. However, it’s “Kingdom of Heaven Pt.3 – The Antediluvian Universe” that I’ve been looking forward the most. The “Kingdom of Heaven” songs have always been some of my all-time favorites and the center-piece on this album devotes almost 14 minutes to that story. The build-up is incredibly beautiful and could easily serve as the score of an adventure movie (pro-tip, this song also works excellent separately after listening to part 1 and 2 out of the context of this album). This track is beautiful from start to finish and even though its length might make you believe it might be the most challenging track of the album, it’s very easy-to-the-ear and shows the band’s matured songwriting over the years. Case in point is Coen Janssen‘s incredible piano solo midway through. The intensity is broken with the fragile “Rivers” that shows the more sensitive side of Simone Simons‘ vocals, with this beautiful power ballad, EPICA stays away from the pitfalls of ballads, making it an incredible atmospheric and minimal journey that surprises and immerses the listener into its unforgettable universe.
The band picks up pace again with “Synergize – Manic Manifest,” which is a perfect illustration of how the band have created a beautiful ebb and flow of their older and newer sound, incorporating both poppy elements with a more extreme and aggressive sound; while the start is incredibly hooky, midway through blast-beats and growls lurk around the corner and take you by surprise. This is topped off with a groovy guitar solo. I can’t help but think this is going to be an incredible live song with Mark Jansen playing with the audience while he growls “Rise!” The track blends in perfectly with the next song, “Twilight Reverie – The Hypnagogic State,” which features Vicky Psarakis (THE AGONIST) as a voice-over. The song is one of the catchiest, with a very powerful chorus.
I guess it was logical that an album named “Omega” ends with its title track, “Omega – Sovereign of the Sun Spheres,” and with it, EPICA ends their album in style combining all their efforts in an impressive 7-minute track that incorporates all the main EPICA elements in one: an orchestral frenzy with powerful vocals, progressive guitar parts, and so much layer it demands a replay instantly.
When an album is as close to perfection as is “Omega,” it can become a bit tricky to write a proper conclusion. The overabundance of adjectives like incredible, magical, etc. in this review speaks of its quality as a whole too. Nevertheless, for long-time EPICA fanatics, “Omega” comes as a beautiful bridge between the older material (eg. “The Phantom Agony”) and their more radio-friendly albums (eg. “The Holographic Principle”), it’s almost as if EPICA took the time to reflect on their entire career, not only blended their different styles perfectly together but also incorporated a new refreshing identity, creating something so familiar, yet different. On top of that, Joost Van den Broek‘s production for this record is phenomenal, not only do the songs sound big, they also have a certain edge to them, that makes them feel more natural. It may come across as a cliche to end this review with, however, with “Omega” the band has truly re-invented the meaning of epic in EPICA.
1. Alpha – Anteludium
2. Abyss of Time – Countdown to Singularity
3. The Skeleton Key
4. Seal of Solomon
6. Code of Life
7. Freedom – The Wolves Within
8. Kingdom of Heaven Pt.3 – The Antediluvian Universe
10. Synergize – Manic Manifest
11. Twilight Reverie – The Hypnagogic State
12. Omega – Sovereign of the Sun Spheres
Simone Simons – lead and backing vocals
Mark Jansen – guitars, growled vocals
Isaac Delahaye – guitars
Coen Janssen – piano, synthesizer
Rob van der Loo – bass
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums, vocals
Nuclear Blast Records