Departing from their usual full-length albums, EPICA this year graces us with an EP entitled The Solace System (out now, Nuclear Blast Records). While only having six songs it still brings out their unique but well known symphonic metal sound; as would be expected after eight albums. Simone Simons and Mark Jansen both once again deliver a brilliant beauty & beast vocal style which has become a common feature in their music. Though at times Simons vocals are a bit low in the mix and hard to understand.
Lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye, and rhythm guitarist Mark Jansen work flawlessly once again to bring out the driving force needed to keep the songs going through their many style changes. Coen Jansen, the keyboardist has some good moments on the album; but for a large part is a background instrument; though still providing an essential role, as do the beautiful orchestral parts. Rob van der Loo on bass works well with drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek to provide a great foundation to the songs, with a fairly typical metal style.
Title track “The Solace System”, starts off strong with a standard EPICA sound, and helps to build the energy which carries through the rest of this album, only dropping down on the second to last song, “Immortal Melancholy”, which is an acoustic piece. Featuring only acoustic guitar, Simone’s vocals, and background string and wind instruments it is quite wonderful. It showcases her vocals wonderfully, and shows off the talent of the backing string musicians on the disc. However it does seem a bit disconnected from the rest of the album as neither the previous song, nor the following track flow into or out of it at all.
According to comments by Simons, “During the early writing process of The Holographic Principle, we found out that we were blessed with a huge amount of songs. The songs that didn’t fit on our album are now available for you on this special EP! I hope you guys will enjoy these songs as much as we do!” So perhaps the lack of a flow from one song to the next, or a general theme/concept in this album, as opposed to previous ones can be forgiven. However the record definitely does feature six great songs in their own right; just don’t enter into listening with the expectation of hearing a concept album like with previous offerings.
All in all, The Solace System is a great collection of songs that definitely add to EPICA’S ever expanding repertoire. Showcasing the skills of each of its members, and fitting in nicely as an added bonus to last year’s album. Here’s hoping though that their next opus will once again be a full-length one with a real flow and concept to it. And not simply a handful of songs they cut from a previous album.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Wheel of Destiny”, “Immortal Melancholy”
-PRICE STEVENSON IV