Released: Sept, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Get ready to travel through space and time and explore vast black holes with Dutch symphonic metal pioneers Epica! Their new album The Holographic Principle is simply a monumentally impressive feat of massive orchestration, grand symphonies, catchy melodies, and top class musicianship. Very much continuing the sound of 2014s The Quantum Enigma, the heavier and more modern sounding style of what the band calls a new era in their career fits perfectly with their already well-established position as masters of the symphonic metal genre. Epica is with this new record definitely living up to the first four letters of their band name!
Epica has long ago firmly established themselves as prime torch bearers of modern metal, having their feet firmly planted in both the symphonic genre as well as melodic death metal. The latter especially has become more prevalent in the later years than in their earlier material, and The Holographic Principle takes these influences to an all time high. The album is darker, heavier, more progressive, and features more growls and melodeath riffs than arguably any of their previous releases. The instrumental soundtrack-like “Eidola” nicely builds up the opening of the album, and already the production is crystal clear. The album’s second single “Edge Of The Blade” follows, and it’s classic Epica. Though the band sounds a lot more modern and mature than earlier, there is absolutely a lot of appeal to fans of their older albums on this album. “A Phantasmic Parade” takes a more progressive approach, and “Universal Death Squad” introduces the first guitar solo of the album, courtesy of lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye.
“Once Upon A Nightmare” is a special kind of ballad one could say, opening up with dramatic instrumentation. A nice showcase of frontwoman Simone Simons beautiful vocals follows, accompanied by delicate piano play by Coen Jansen, before the song erupts into a powerhouse of metal towards its end. “Dancing In A Hurricane” features middle eastern influenced instrumentation, similar to what is previously heard on “Martyr Of The Free World” from Design Your Universe (2009). Although featuring a broad range of stylistic differences in the running order, the pacing on the album is truly impeccable, and at no point was I bored listening to this.
Favorite tracks of the album include the bound to be live staple “Beyond The Matrix”, the somewhat pop-y “Edge Of The Blade”, and the grand finale “The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding Of Reality”. Epica isn’t exactly beginners when it comes to writing 10 minute + tracks without having it sound boring or dragged out, and the title track is a great example of this. Arguably the most memorable moment of the whole album for me comes ticking in at around 7:25.
Although featuring massive production, The Holographic Principle doesn’t fall into the Wintersun Time I trap of burying essential instrumentation behind massive orchestration. The mix is generally well balanced throughout the whole album, with few exceptions (Simone’s vocals a little buried in “Edge Of The Blade”, and the guitar solo in “The Cosmic Algorithm” sounding slightly muffled). Their decision to continue working with producer Joost van den Broek, who also produced The Quantum Enigma, was definitely a good choice.
All in all, this is one of the more spectacular releases of symphonic metal in recent years. Their willingness to push the boundaries of their own sound, creating heavier and more complex content really pays off, and The Holographic Principle just barely takes over The Quantum Enigma’s spot as my favorite Epica release. Those who haven’t already gotten their tickets for the Epica/Powerwolf + Beyond The Black show at O2 Shepherds Bush Empire in London in February next year are strongly encouraged to listen to this new record and let the music speak for itself!
Review by Torbjørn 'Toby' Jørstad