Epica - "Requiem For The Indifferent" (CD)
"Requiem For The Indifferent" track listing:
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
Reviewed by CROMCarl on February 25, 2012
Nightwish and Within Temptation may have defined the genre that is absurdly called “female-fronted metal,” but Epica was the band that took that basic premise, nurtured and progressed it, and then created a style which is instantly recognized and often imitated. It is a style that can be traced back to early After Forever to the original incarnation of Epica, Sahara Dust, all the way to present. “Requiem for the Indifferent” successfully takes the band’s entire past and gives it an extra twist.
On first blush, the new release from this highly talented Dutch band will take you off guard, especially if you are expecting the band to continue the dark subtle brutality that was “Design Your Universe.” The release will definitely take a second pass before you start to realize that you are witnessing a band redefining itself within itself. This feat is no easy task.
Two main themes of the album jumped right out for me: progression and vocal delivery. Epica has always been a progressive band, but with this release the past seems almost ordinary. There are enough quirky moments, time changes, “doodle riffing” and atmosphere to please any fans of progressive metal. However, unlike Opeth, Epica does not get a total makeover. There are enough changes with “Requiem” to make diehard fans say “whoa.” Over the course of my first listen, I thought back to Mark Jansen starting the MaYaN project partly due to his need to step away from Epica as he couldn’t readily think of a way to make a better album than “Design Your Universe.” In hindsight, what MaYaN did was seemingly draw the brutal poison of “Design Your Universe” and bring back a greater progression to Epica, as “Design” seems simple by comparison.
Secondly, Simone Simons has taken her vocals to another level here, as if that could have been possible. In the past, Simone’s range was unparalleled, but she did have a tendency to go from sweet straight to full operatic. On “Requiem” she seems more “wide open” with her range, as if she found and embraced yet another aspect of her voice. There are points where she takes it to a new level and “goes for the throat,” like on “Monopoly on Truth” and then there is an introduction to a new “breathy” low erotic type vocal, which took me completely by surprise, as heard on the stunning ballad “Delirium.”
Running through the course of this album, the changes do not become fully apparent until “Delirium,” as the “Karma” intro and subsequent tracks “Monopoly on Truth” and “Storm the Sorrow” are typical Epica. There are two things everyone can absolutely count on with every Epica release: the choirs will stun and dazzle, and Mark Jansen’s vocals remaining one of the best in the death metal style. Quite simply put, “Delirium” is one of the best ballads Epica has ever written. The opening a capella style humming choir intro just shines with a Van Canto like touch. While it doesn’t harken back to vaudeville days quite like Nightwish’s “Slow, Love, Slow,” there is a similar erotic undertone, especially with Simone’s amazing range and Coen Jansen’s piano work.
For the fans expecting a little more brutality a la “Kingdom of Heaven,” you will find some solace in the absolutely amazing track and my personal favorite song “Stay the Course.” This is the heaviest of the lot with a really neat keyboard accent on the end of each chord which injects a burst of excitement. Mark is in top form taking the lead while Simone accents him, rather than the standard formula. As if right on cue in the middle, Jansen pulls off another brilliant Tom Warrior-esque “UUUWAHHH.” The addition of a burst of black metal blast beats, a usually brief but notable staple in the Epica repertoire, is always a welcome treat. As a fan of the full spectrum of metal, it is this perfect marriage of styles that makes Epica a favorite.
“Requiem for the Indifferent,” the title track, has a lot more of the Middle Eastern elements that permeate the entire album adding a touch of Myrath, if you will. When the song kicks in, the opening riff is quite reminiscent of “Kingdom of Heaven” with choruses straight from the “Consign to Oblivion” album. The track is one of the most complex and progressive on the release ranging from the subtle to full on black metal. It will undoubtedly go down in Epica’s history as one of the best use of choir choruses.
Also worthy of honorable mention is the near ten minute opus “Serenade of Self-Destruction." The song starts with the slow intro with Simone’s mellifluous vocals to “keyboard vs. guitar riff” straight from “Blank Infinity.” The choir kicks in a la "Resign to Surrender" and Mark starts the first verse with perfect growls as the deadly evil orchestra kicks in with a Therion type vigor. The midsection has a primo use of percussion and orchestration with more Middle Eastern flair.
For fans looking for the not so subtle darkness that surrounded "Design Your Universe," “Requiem for the Indifferent” will certainly take you off guard on first listen. This album represents yet another progression for a band that has an unending ability to sound different, but unyielding desire to successfully blend in all the elements a listener would expect. It comes as no surprise that the orchestration, choirs and musicianship is unparalleled in symphonic metal. Mark Jansen’s vocals appear a tad less utilized than on "Design," but his presence makes a major impact. The blend of his growls with Simone’s range are the best "beauty and beast" vocal combination in the business, bar none.
Highs: The perfect blend of styles define the pinnacle of symphonic metal.
Lows: Fans expecting more brutality a la "Design Your Universe" might be shocked.
Bottom line: Epica pulls off yet another symphonic masterpiece that is as much "different" as it is "indifferent."
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