A beautiful combination of symphonic metal and medieval neo-romantic classical music.
The Divine Conspiracy, the most recent of Epica's discography as of this review, really does show blatantly symphonic metal at its best. The female vocalist Simone Simons is well known in the metal community for a good reason, and she has my utmost approval as a classical singer myself. Even though she doesn't sing with a classical style, it is nonetheless quality singing with a sense of vocal control and technique. This is legit composition here, incredibly lush and convincing choral and orchestral parts of the modern medieval neo-romantic style, the sort of thing you'd here playing D&D-based RPGs, as well as some world music influence. It's still metal in the vein of Nightwish, but Epica's music is far more developed and artistic than their Finnish counterpart, with much more instrumental variation and mixture of genres. The lyrics are great, often addressing philosophical and political concepts without being overly pretentious or biased. The band has a very mature sound already, and it will be interesting for me to hear more of their follow-up works in the next few years.
The opener of the album introduces the medieval neo-romantic style with orchestra and chorus (singing in Latin!). Tracks 2-5 are the most accessible and "metal" of the album, which is common with a lot of prog; first few tracks hook the listener in to the band, then the album gets more artistic and creative, expanding the ears of the listener, and this album is a perfect example of this. La'petach Chatat Rovetz: The Final Embrace presents a middle-eastern world music composition, very delightful and fits into the flow of the album beautifully. The series of the Final Embrace are the best and most "prog" sounding tracks on the album, Living a Lie starts of with classical melismatic chant in asymmetric meter - what more could I ask for as a huge fan of Gregorian Chant and prog? What's more there is a Catholic prayer in Latin, enunciated correctly (for once) which blows my mind as an orthodox Catholic. This is probably the best track on the album in general. Fools of Damnation starts of with middle-eastern singing style most associated with Islam, which then leads into the best chorus of the album talking about totalitarianism and an instrumental section with asymmetric meter, organ, classical singing, back into the chorus. Absolutely solid. The album continues with more decent tracks; Safegaurd to Paradise is a neo-romantic ballad that really shows off Simon's vocal abilities and the band's softer and more intimate side. The album comes to a great close with the 13 minute opus album title track.
The only main problem I have with this problem is how long it is. While there is a lot of good variation of sound in each track, the tracks all start to sound very similar after an hour, mainly as a result of the symphonic metal influence, especially the heavy guitar riffs that sound very the same for many of the songs. Each track is fantastic on its own, and the album flows very well, but you can have too much of a good thing for too long, which is definitely the case with this album.
If you like symphonic metal, especially on the more progressive side, this album is essential for you. Overall I strongly recommend this to listeners of metal, especially those who like the kind of modern classical music that you here in medieval-based RPGs. The two genres combine beautifully, which Epica demonstrate with this solid album.