Review Date: April 2020
Rocket88 has been around for a few years now but in my mind they are one of the most exciting new metal-friendly publishers. Some call it marketing to a niche, some call it ‘boutique’ but however you describe it they have published some pretty sweet books about Opeth, Devin Townsend, Dream Theater, Sepultura, Lacuna Coil and their newest title, THE ESSENCE OF EPICA
In 2013 Epica released a cool multi-disc, package called RETROSPECT to celebrate 10 years and to me this is sort of a 15th Anniversary project, even though it came out in 2019. THE ESSENCE OF EPICA is a really nice hard bound coffee-table book. I will admit that the cover lacks a little flair but it is what is inside that really counts. All the Rockett8 books are well designed, laid-out and presented with some extra class like the built-in, red-ribbon bookmark. For the record, I’m reviewing the 208 page, ‘classic’ edition. For the truest fans there is also an autographed ‘signature’ edition with extra goodies, art prints and a nice presentation case.
The first book about the band is fully endorsed and it presented as an illustrated history with full participation with all the band members past and present. Naturally the book follows a chronological retelling of the lives of the members from their earliest days as children in the Netherlands.
Divided into seven chapters the book consists of countless quotes from the band members who tell their own individual story and the story of the band. The quotes are kept to manageable lengths and are filled with many great anecdotes and facts about the evolution of the band. All the ex-members, most of whom left on good terms, contribute as well as do many of the bands producers, giving the book a very inclusive and comprehensive feel. Even the most devout Epica fan will have many delightful land interesting facts revealed about the band. The band, who are generally known for being a bit more classy, avoid too many explicit tales of road debauchery, your quintessential sex, drugs rock and roll stories, because, quite frankly I don’t think they have too many! Simons probably has more intimate stories than all the guys combined. Motley Crue’s tell-all book THE DIRT has no threat of competition from Epica! That is not to suggest it is boring, but it is a different type, a different class of band.
THE ESSENCE OF EPICA is loaded with lush visuals and as a younger band there has been more access to technology, more exactly, better quality photography, and digital photography, than say a band like black Sabbath or Judas Priest, who, when they were starting out, didn’t have everything constantly documented. Accordingly, an editor working on an Black Sabbath book might only have a very limited pool of existing, usable, hard copy photos from the 60’s and 70’s, where as when the Epica book was assembled I imagine the challenge was which photos to use out of hundreds, maybe even thousands of digital images from the 90’s and later. Consequently, the quality of the photos is superb all the way through, clear and sharp. The images range from candid to formal to staged to spontaneous from the stage to the streets, it has it all. I don’t know if it was intentional but there seems to be a blue-green motif running through many of the pages
I feel there might be enough room in the market for another Epica book, maybe one written by some die-hard fan who will capture and chronicle a lot of the technical stuff that maybe the band doesn’t always think would be interesting to fans; things like a list of all the tours and tour dates, a member by member gear break-down, a comprehensive discography, riders, scrap-book stuff etc. Until that happens this is truly the best documentation of the band, essential essence as it were.
There is a connection between the US Power Metal band Kamelot and Epica. Not only did Epica choose the name of their band from the Kamelot album, vocalist Simone Simons is married to Kamelot keyboardist, Oliver Palotai. Why is this important? Well Rocket88 has announced they are publishing a book on Kamelot as well! Until that comes out check out THE ESSENCE OF EPICA!