EPICA — The Divine Conspiracy

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EPICA - The Divine Conspiracy cover
3.69 | 35 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2007

Filed under Symphonic Metal


1. Indigo (Prologue) (2:05)
2. The Obsessive Devotion (7:13)
3. Menace of Vanity (4:13)
4. Chasing the Dragon (7:40)
5. Never Enough (4:47)
6. La'petach chatat rovetz (The Final Embrace) (1:46)
7. Death of a Dream (The Embrace That Smothers, Part VII) (6:03)
8. Living a Lie (The Embrace That Smothers, Part VIII) (4:56)
9. Fools of Damnation (The Embrace That Smothers, Part IX) (8:42)
10. Beyond Belief (5:25)
11. Safeguard to Paradise (3:46)
12. Sancta terra (4:57)
13. The Divine Conspiracy (13:56)

Total Time: 75:34

Bonus disc
1. Higher High (5:26)
2. Replica (4:11)

Total Time: 9:38


- Mark Jansen / guitars, vocals
- Simone Simons / vocals
- Coen Janssen / synthesizer, piano, choir vocals (Bariton) on #10
- Ad Sluijter / guitar
- Yves Huts / bass guitar

Guest musicians

- Ariën Van Weesenbeek / drums
- Sanders Gommans / vocals on #7
- Olaf Reitmeier / acoustic guitar on #4, choir vocals (Bariton) on #10
- Amanda Somerville / spoken word on #2, choir vocals (Alto)
- Gjalt Lucassen / vocals of Priest on #8
- Jeff Wade / spoken word on #9
- Linda van Summeren / choir vocals (Soprano)
- Bridget Foggle / choir vocals (Soprano)
- Cinzia Rizzo / choir vocals (Alto)
- Previn Moore / choir vocals (Tenor)
- Melvin Edmondsen / choir vocals (Bass)

About this release

Release date: August 28th, 2007
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Thanks to the t 666, adg211288, diamondblack for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

I remember discovering this album and laughing with joy as I listened to it the first time. I absolutely LOVED the theatrical orchestral arrangements layered underneath heavy metal guitars and drums, the operatic soprano of Simone Simmons juxtaposed with the growling death-metal vocals. I will be honest here - I have never been a huge fan of death-metal growling. It has turned me away from some bands - some that I later decided to give a fair trial and was able to enjoy despite the growls, and some I never could get into. I like to compare death-metal growling to hot sauce - different people have different tolerance levels of it, but there's almost always a point at which it's too much, and another point at which it's just right and makes a dish oh so interesting. Epica, I believe, is one of those bands that uses just the right amount of growling - juxtaposed with the operatic soprano vocals, it makes things oh so interesting, and this particular album of theirs has become one of the most frequently played in my collection.
When it was released in 2007, Epica's The Divine Conspiracy was the album that I felt really gave the genre of symphonic metal a good kick up the backside. At a time where I was finding most of the symphonic metal bands I was hearing could be labelled as just another Nightwish clone here I found a band who were anything but. They weren't exactly new having already released two metal albums (as well as a classical album) but this was my introduction to their more progressively inclined and extreme symphonic metal sound. I think that it is essential for fans of the genre, and that it has the potential to make new fans of the genre for the people who never really ‘got it’ before.

The Divine Conspiracy is far more extreme than many symphonic metal albums, employing the use of both an operatic female singer (Simone Simons) and a death grunter (Mark Jansen). While other bands may employ this setup, Epica perfect it. Simone has a beautiful, strong voice which has an impressive range of tones, while Mark’s growl is stronger than those heard in some bands that employ growling as their only vocal type. The duo’s skills are perfected on The Obsessive Devotion, Menace of Vanity and Living a Lie in particular. The music behind them is much heavier than some heard within this genre, with riffs that would fit just as well within melodic death metal. In fact if the symphonic elements and Simone were removed, the remainder of what was left of The Divine Conspiracy would almost be a melodic death release, proof in my mind that the band are pushing the symphonic genre into more extreme territory.

The song writing here is very progressive, song structures more so than actual sound. A good portion of the songs clock in at over 5 minutes, with more only just under. Despite the long track times (particularly the closing title-track, 13 minutes 57 seconds long) there is never a time when an itch to hit the skip button takes hold, because not a single second of The Divine Conspiracy’s 75 minutes is boring, even the intro and interlude songs keep my attention fixed on this album. On the first listen by the time the interlude song (La’petach Chatat Rovetz) arrives you will already have heard that The Divine Conspiracy is no one trick pony. You will have already had the anthem that is The Obsessive Devotion and Menace of Vanity, the mostly classical Chasing the Dragon and the almost poppy Never Enough (don’t let the fact that Never Enough is a bit poppy put you off, yes it does sound like Epica tried to write a hit single, but it’s still awesome, still heavy, and fits in well with this album) that by the time the second section of songs comes around, you’ll know that you can expect the next proper song to take on any form, and by doing this Epica have created an album that will keep your attention from the word go.

It is a concept album, but I’ve found the actual sound of the music so involving that I haven’t even tried to interpret the story that is running all the way through, I’ve been too busy rocking out to this beauty, and no, I’m not talking about their frontlady. From what I can tell the story has something to do with religion (according to wikipedia the story is that God created all religions and that humanity is supposed to discovered that they are all one and the same), but if you’re like me, you won’t care what the band are singing about, because you'll be listening to it intently. This is possibly the strongest symphonic metal release since Nightwish put out Oceanborn almost a decade before, and perhaps goes one better.

(Review originally written for Heavy Metal Haven)
While this album does showcase a lovely voice from Simone Simons, other musical elements are pretty lacking. Riffs are straightforward. Midtempo is the norm. And while some songs are longer, with exception of the title track they maintain a standard, albeit extended, structure without developing into new movements or ideas.

The sound is what you'd expect from a standard symphonic metal band if you threw some Evanescence in as well. Therefore there are prevalent pop music elements all over the place. That being said, the orchestra added in with synthesizers from Coen Jannsen is much more prominent, to the point where much of it overpowers the guitars. As to be expected, other instruments aren't too heavy and rely on straightforward riffs.

While most of the songs are pretty uninteresting they do have the title track. "The Divine Conspiracy" is epic in the sense of composition and sound. Large choirs dominate the chorus and there is some wonderful mid-song instrumental interplay. The growls aren't terribly outstanding, but that has more to do with the album anyway. It is confusing as to why Epica would keep this album so unbalanced by making an album of mostly straightforward gothic symphonic metal songs while ending it on a bombastic 'epic' of sorts.

All in all, you are not going to find anything innovative on this album. There are much more 'epic' sounding symphonic metal albums out there, and Epica tries to be a bit too ambitious toward what they actually sound like. Within Temptation is poppier, but they don't necessarily try to be the most epic. Nightwish sounds epic, but they also have power metal elements to back it up. As for now, this album shows that the thing that Epica has going for them is Simone.
Epica's "The Divine Conspiracy" is another one of those orchestral metal albums with an operatic female vocalist in the same vein as Nightwish, Within Temptation and After Forever's style. In this case the female vocalist is Simone Simons and she is as accomplished a singer as Tarja or Sonja. The album is conceptual running tracks together and keeping a thematic content dealing with life, eternity, existence, good and evil. The opening track 'Indigo' is more or less a lush orchestral introduction to usher in the heavier tracks to come. The majestic structure prepares us for the onslaught of metal power riffing guitars and fast blasts of thrash on 'The Obsessive Devotion'. This is a sublime track with gorgeous strings overlayed with metal hooks, very brutal, haunting and dark. This is followed by 'Menace of Vanity'; a mediocre chanting carries it along and both Simons and Jansen take turns at vocals. 'Chasing the Dragon' follows, a beautiful balladic song with sweeping piano arpeggios and a minimalist soundscape.

'Never Enough' is a pop oriented track driven by Simons scintillating vocals and could easily be a single. 'La'petach Chatat Rovetz - the Final Embrace' is an orchestrated introduction to the next track, acting as a transition. 'Death of a Dream - the Embrace that Smothers part VII' is a 6 minute fast paced, heavy track that is majestic and uplifting.

'Living a Lie - the Embrace that Smothers part VIII' continues the multi part epic but the piece de resistance is definitely the wonderful 'Fools of Damnation - the Embrace that Smothers part IX'. This section has many time signature changes and some inspired instrumental breaks. The incredible blend of symphonic ambience and heavy riffing distortion works well. There are shades of light and dark between the soft soprano vocals from Simons and the caustic growling from Jansen.

'Beyond Belief' is a brilliant mix of operatic vocals, orchestra and crunching guitars. The excellent track ends on a heartbeat effect segueing to the hypnotic, haunting Gothic 'Safeguard to Paradise' that showcases Simons' crystalline vocals, an absolutely beautiful treasure.

'Sancta Terra' follows with symphonic horns and strings. It is mostly Simons singing and has slow passages mixed with blitzing fast metrical patterns, with many time shifts in pace and choral sections. The choral ensemble give the track a Gothic cathedral feel, and this multi layered vocal treatment is a highlight of Epica.

The last track is the multi movement suite epic played with virtuoso instrumentation. Simons is in full voice and lifts the ambience. 'The Divine Conspiracy' is a 14 minute classic with many different time sig changes and sections. There are female choral voices in a foreign tongue, then an operatic voice soar over the sound. There is a dreamy ambience which is broken by angular guitar riffing and Jansen's growls that darkens the atmosphere. There are some inspired riffs and the mixture of thrash and classical opera is delightful. The music is tight and creates a wall of sound.

Overall this is a stunning concept album with the mood ranging from heavenly to extremely sinister. It is my first intro to Epica and it was a pleasant surprise. The concept on the album means many things; "the divine conspiracy opens up reality, time is not the entity, life is what it's meant to be". The crunching guitar assault is juxtaposed with full blown orchestra throughout. It is an emotional experience, uplifting and dark at intervals. Take the Epica test now.

Members reviews

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.
Epica have finally proven themselves. This album is a step away from anything done before, a step away from the established norms of gothic metal and a step into a symphonic world that other symphonic bands never touched. What Epica have done is what the progressive bands of the 70's had done, and that is take an inspiration from real classical music. Many symphonic bands are completely metal bands and just throw in symphonic elements to craft a bigger sound. Epica, on the other hand, merge their sound with classical music to create true orchestral metal. Many fans don't like that, complaining that the middle of the title track is boring and that the song drags on too long, for example. In my opinion, this album is at times utterly amazing, but still a bit short of what they are truly capable of.

For those unfamiliar with Epica, they are a part of the new wave of symphonic goth metal which includes Within Temptation and After Forever, but by this point in their careers, Epica has also crossed into the broader symphonic scene which includes Nightwish and Kamelot. Of all these bands, Epica mixes the orchestra the loudest and most bombastically, and also features the most complex parts. At first they sounded like an imitation of After Forever, but by now they have taken an interest in classical music, especially soundtrack music and romantic era composers, that sets them apart. They have also taken an interest in underground metal bands, even having performed covers of bands like Death in the past. This tie with death metal, black metal, and thrash metal has helped their sound considerably, leading to much better metal riffs than those found on Nightwish or even Kamelot.

The individual performances are quite noteworthy. There is a new drummer on board named Ariën Van Weesenbeek, a session drummer who previously worked for God Dethroned. He has drummed considerably more intense and heavy than the previous drummer, but also more creatively and more dynamically. My only complaint is that sometimes he sounds a bit sterile, playing too perfectly. Mark Jansen and Ad Sluijter team up to write some utterly sick guitar riffs, and much more technical than the previous album, but the sickness is not a constant, and sometimes the best riffs even sound out of place when played right after a riff that isn't so great. Simone has improved as a vocalist, although she has quite a way to go before she enters the pantheon of great vocalists. She has learned a lot about singing more emotively, and has several moments such as the song Fools of Damnation or the beginning of Death of a Dream that show her potential.

I won't go into an individual review of the songs themselves since it has already been done by other reviewers. My general opinion is that this album has a few weaker songs and a few stronger songs, but it is best viewed as a whole. A couple songs do warrant a mention however. Indigo is the most beautiful orchestral opening to an album I have ever heard. I rate it higher than the opening to Kamelot's Ghost Opera. The title track is an epic that blows all of their other epics out of the water.

Overall, this album is a step up from their previous one, and almost a masterpiece but not quite.

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