EPICA — The Holographic Principle

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EPICA - The Holographic Principle cover
4.75 | 13 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2016

Filed under Symphonic Metal


1. Eidola (2:39)
2. Edge Of The Blade (4:34)
3. A Phantasmic Parade (4:36)
4. Universal Death Squad (6:38)
5. Divide And Conquer (7:48)
6. Beyond The Matrix (6:26)
7. Once Upon A Nightmare (7:08)
8. The Cosmic Algorithm (4:54)
9. Ascension - Dream State Armageddon (5:16)
10. Dancing In A Hurricane (5:26)
11. Tear Down Your Walls (5:03)
12. The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding Of Reality (11:35)

Total Time 72:03

Japanese Bonus Track:

13. Immortal Melancholy (Piano Version)

Bonus Disc - The Acoustic Principle:

1. Beyond the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (4:30)
2. Dancing in a Gypsy Camp (4:28)
3. Immortal Melancholy (Acoustic Version) (3:13)
4. The Funky Algorithm (3:30)
5. Universal Love Squad (3:45)

Total Time 19:26

Bonus Disc - Instrumental Version:

01. Eidola (2:39)
02. Edge of the Blade (4:34)
03. A Phantasmic Parade (4:36)
04. Universal Death Squad (6:38)
05. Divide and Conquer (7:48)
06. Beyond the Matrix (6:26)
07. Once upon a Nightmare (7:08)
08. The Cosmic Algorithm (4:54)
09. Ascension - Dream State Armageddon (5:16)
10. Dancing in a Hurricane (5:26)
11. Tear Down Your Walls (5:03)
12. The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding of Reality (11:35)

Total Time 1:12:03


- Mark Jansen / Grunts, Guitars
- Coen Janssen / Synths, Grand Piano, Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Tubalar Bells, Orchestral Toms, Gran Casa, Djembe, Congas, Finger Cymbals, Tambourine, Additional Samples & Effects
- Simone Simons / Vocals, Backing Vocals
- Ariën van Weesenbeek / Drums, Grunts, Spoken Word (#9), Orchestral Snare Drum, Orchestral Toms, Timbales, Congas, Bongos, Cymbal a Deux
- Isaac Delahaye / Guitars, Mandolin, Balalaika, Bouzouki, Ukulele, Orchestral Toms, Djembe, Congas, Bar Chimes, Tambourine, Triangle
- Rob van der Loo / Bass

Guest/session musicians:
- Marcela Bovio / Backing Vocals
- Linda Janssen / Backing Vocals
- Cato Janssen / Child's Voice (#1)
- Paul Babikian / Elven King's Voice (#7)
- Ben Mathot / Violin
- Ian de Jong / Violin
- Sabine Poiesz / Violin
- Floortje Beljon / Violin
- Loes Dooren / Violin
- Vera van der Bie / Violin
- Marieke de Bruijn / Violin
- Mark Mulder / Viola
- Frank Goossens / Viola
- René van Munster / Cello
- Geneviève Verhage / Cello
- Eilidh Martin / Cello
- Jurgen van Nijnatten / Trumpet
- Marnix Coster / Trumpet
- Henk Veldt / French horn
- Alex Thyssen / French horn
- Paul Langerman / Trombone
- Lennart de Winter / Trombone, Bastrombone
- Jeroen Goossens / Flute, Piccolo, Bassoon
- Thijs Dapper / Oboe, Oboe d'amore
- Jack Pisters / Sitar
- Igor Hobus / Orchestral Snare Drum, Orchestral Toms, Congas, Djembe, Darbuka, Gong, Suspended Cymbal, Tambourine
- Maarten de Peijper / Additional Snare Drum
- Joost van den Broek / Additional Snare Drum, Additional Samples & Effects

Kamerkoor PA'dam Choir:

- Maria van Nieukeeken / Director
- Alfrun Schmidt / Soprano
- Annemieke Klinkenberg-Nuijten / Soprano
- Dagmara Siuty / Soprano
- Martha Bosch / Soprano
- Ruth Becker / Soprano
- Silva da Silva Martinho / Soprano
- Annette Stallinga / Alto
- Annette Vermeulen / Alto
- Cecile Roovers / Alto
- Natascha Morsink / Alto
- Guigo Groenland / Tenor
- Joost van Velzen / Tenor
- Koert Braches / Tenor
- Matthijs Frankema / Tenor
- René Veen / Tenor
- Previn Moore / Tenor
- Allard Veldman / Bass
- Andreas Goetze / Bass
- Angus van Grevenbroek / Bass
- Jan Douwes / Bass

About this release

Format: Digital, CD, CD-Digipak, CD-Earbook, Vinyl, Boxed Set (CD & Vinyl)
Release date: September 30th, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

Thanks to adg211288 for the addition and diamondblack for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

Kev Rowland
I can’t put my finger on it, but there is definitely something that lifts this 2016 album to a higher plane than the one that came out just two years earlier. The intensity is still at the very high level, but Simone seems to be more in control on this one, as opposed to sometimes being swept away. It is bombastic, it is massively over the top, and the guitars have reined in just ever so slightly, although at times they still race off like bolting horses that have been given their heads. It is an overpowering aural assault on the senses, and I love it. The closest way I can think of describing it is like being at a version of Handel’s “Messiah” with full choir and orchestra, but with Slipknot also being involved!

I was playing these two albums back to back the other day, and even without looking I knew when this one had started as there is a definite lift, a step up in just about everything. Symphonic over the top progressive metal just doesn’t get any better than this. This is not something that can be played as background music, but rather demands full attention of the listener at all times, as this is all-consuming, and not for the fainthearted. I really do hope that the guys decided to come down to this part of the world for a show one day, as they must be incredible in concert. This is essential, nothing more, nothing less.
Symphonic metal is a not a genre that is typically associated with producing releases that will necessarily scratch the itch that most metalheads feel for genuinely heavy, powerful music. Instead it's associated with metal's more radio friendly side. That's actually a stereotype, one that both fans and detractors of the genre have been guilty of, as symphonic metal is hardly the only genre capable of putting out hook-laden tracks. Hell, even some melodic death metal bands like Arch Enemy or Scar Symmetry can write a damn catchy song. But I will be fair, most artists that play symphonic metal don't do much to dispel the impression. Except perhaps just one. They are Epica from the Netherlands and The Holographic Principle (2016) is their seventh main album.

I actually think that back when they started Epica were on the same page that most symphonic metal bands either start on (and often stay on) or end up on. However even as early as Consign to Oblivion (2005) they were showing signs of being something more and that really came to fruition on The Divine Conspiracy (2007), an album that they really upped their game on, that in my review for it back then I described as 'giving the symphonic metal genre a good kick up the backside'. Epica's music is heavier and more complex than most symphonic metal acts ever intend to be and even among those who do use growls they seem to have more of an actual footing in the death metal camp, something that really came out on previous album The Quantum Enigma (2014) and the song Victims of Contingency. And instead of becoming more accessible with age it seems as if Epica is a rare case of going in the opposite direction, showing a willingness to experiment in the progressive metal field as well as delivering grandiose symphonic metal. But what makes them so great is that they know how to find a balance between all their elements, which also includes some power metal influence, that really makes their music work as well as it does. It's a knack that sadly most symphonic metal bands seem unable to get the hang of, one that makes Epica masters of what they do and in this case also gives The Holographic Principle many claims to being the band's best album to date.

There isn't any better evidence for Epica getting more adventurous with each album than their choice for this album's lead single, Universal Death Squad, which may just be the most progressive track they're kicked off an album's promotion with. While more obvious single choice Edge of the Blade has also been given the music video treatment, this was the first taste Epica gave their fans for The Holographic Principle and to me it seems like that was a statement about what they're really about. And they certainly following through with the promise that Universal Death Squad makes on the rest of the album, which contains some of their most complex material so far, as well as some of the most epic. Symphonic instrumentation and progressive complexity go hand in hand together very well.

This is the kind of album that quickly asserts it's tracks as memorable pieces of music thanks to the different approaches that Epica has to creating symphonic metal. Even the intro track Eidola is worth a special mention, being excellent in its own right before the full songs take over, starting with Edge of the Blade. A Simone Simons dominated song except for a notable growled section by Mark Jansen once it's well under way, it's a great choice to get hooked into the album, reminding me a bit of Never Enough from The Divine Conspiracy. It's following tracks such as the trio of Universal Death Squad, Divide and Conquer, and Beyond the Matrix and then later The Cosmic Algorithm, the very catchy Dancing in a Hurricane and of course finale The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding of Reality that strike me as the album's best cuts though. That said, the track to track flow of The Holographic Principle is excellent. There is never a moment where the material Epica have delivered could be considered lesser, not even slightly. It's an extremely consistent release, but then that's what I rely on them for. I'd consider Requiem for the Indifferent (2012) to be a slight blip on their record, but otherwise everything since The Divine Conspiracy has been upper echelon music. That's a track record that no other symphonic metal band has matched, not even Nightwish.

The band of course are as well playing as ever. Along with their usual instruments Epica have incorporated a whole host of other instruments onto the album. Band members Isaac Delahaye (guitars) and Coen Janssen (keyboards) notably play a small host of additional instruments between them. Mandolin, Balalaika, Bouzouki and Ukulele for Delahaye and Glockenspiel, Xylophone, Tubalar Bells for Janssen. For guest musicians we have a group of violins, a pair of viola, a few cellos, as well as an assortment of brass instruments like trumpets, French horn and trombone and some woodwinds like flutes, bassoon and oboe. There is also a sitar present which is played by Jack Pisters who has also worked with After Forever, Ayreon and The Gentle Storm. In the vocal department Simone Simons remains in top form and is as enchanting as ever, while Mark Jansen's growls continue to add the extreme edge of Epica's music. It's kind of funny but in most symphonic metal bands the biggest issue with the music is that a female vocalist with a stunning voice is having to share vocal time with a growler so you'd be forgiven to thinking that might be a problem here too, except it's not. Epica has always made this kind of interplay with Simons and Jansen work. It's another reason why they are the best at what they do.

Making a call on what Epica's best work is certainly isn't an easy task. There is no clear cut candidate for that distinction. The Holographic Principle is just the latest of their albums to be in the running. I think that compared to their other albums this one does feel quite similar to The Quantum Enigma but I wouldn't call it a rehash. They've hit on a sound that really works for them by this point and the results continue to be stunning. I'd say this even goes one better than the previous at the very least, while it, The Divine Conspiracy and Design Your Universe (2009) all have different claims on that top spot. I'm not completely sure on which deserves it the most yet (my inclination right now is to say this one but that may be due to the high that any new album worth its salt always provides) but what I do know is that if you like the symphonic metal genre at all, then this is one album you absolutely have to have in your collection.
The past couple of years have not been the best for symphonic metal fans, and I personally have not heard many albums from the genre lately that have impressed me much, but one band I can always count on to deliver is Epica. I first discovered them with their second album Consign to Oblivion, which immediately hooked me in, becoming one of my favorite albums in the genre, and they’ve only gotten better over the years. Ever since guitarist Isaac Delahaye came in and gave their music more of an edge, starting with their fourth album Design Your Universe, the band has been easily the most ambitious and most consistently satisfying symphonic metal band by far. Their last album, The Quantum Enigma, in particular, felt like the band had pushed as far as they could possibly push, combining the heavier sound of their newer albums with all the symphonic and choral aspects of previous releases to create what I consider easily the best symphonic metal album I’ve ever heard. So heading into their seventh full-length release, The Holographic Principle, I was both excited to see what the band would do next, and also a bit nervous, because I figured it would be impossible to top their previous album. After giving The Holographic Principle several listens, I’m no longer sure about that. One thing I know for sure: Once again the band has exceeded all expectations and delivered another outstanding release that stands far above the rest of the pack.

After a couple albums in a row where they evolved their sound quite a bit, and experimented a little, The Quantum Enigma felt in many ways like the ultimate album for them, the realization of everything their previous releases had been building towards, so it’s no surprise that with The Holographic Principle they have settled down a bit, and made minor tweaks to push their sound just a bit further. In short, this album feels like they have taken all elements of their music and pushed them all to the extreme, with everything from the guitar riffs, to Simone’s vocals, Mark’s Growls, the symphonic elements (now with a huge, full orchestra) and choral elements feeling even more epic than ever before. The one thing that feels like it’s been focused on most is increasing the heaviness, and while their previous three albums were already quite heavy at times, this album has some truly killer riffs and is by far their hardest hitting release to date. At the same time, the orchestral elements are still as prominent as ever, and the band used some percussion as well as other unique elements at times, making it a packed album, to say the least.

One area where Epica really stands far above the pack is the production. Something I’ve struggled with lately on many symphonic and even symphonic power metal albums has been the mixing, as many bands have fallen into the trap of either putting the orchestra on top and letting it overpower the metal instruments, or watering everything down so it sounds like a muffled mess. Thankfully, Epica has avoided this, instead of pushing the guitars quite high up in the mix, while still leaving plenty of room for the vocals, drums, keys and orchestra to shine. In short, it’s the one recent symphonic release where I can say everything feels perfectly balanced, and I wish more bands could pull off having so many elements in their music and making it sound perfect the way this band can.

Moving on to songwriting, which has always been a strong point for the band, and once again, the band does not disappoint. Where The Quantum Enigma was an awesome album anchored by probably their best song ever, this release doesn’t have quite as big a high point, but if anything I’d say the songs are even more consistently amazing if that’s even possible. As expected, “ Eidola” is an excellent intro track, with a very cinematic feel. It seems a bit darker than most of their intros and it gets pretty epic and intense towards the end, leading in nicely to the first full song, “Edge of the Blade”. This track is once again the kind of opener fans would expect, storming out of the gates with fast-paced guitar riffs and the orchestra is in full effect immediately, before Simone’s ever more angelic vocals take over during the verses, and then it speeds up again for the epic chorus where the choirs take over. Mark’s growls make their first appearance during an intense bridge section, and overall it’s an excellent opener that serves as a perfect example of what to expect from the band at this point. The following track “A Phantasmic Parade” is mostly slower, and a bit more focused on choral vocals, though it speeds up for another epic growled section later on. It’s worth noting, that compared to past releases, this album feels like the band has mostly stuck to a formula, so most of the songs use similar elements in similar ways, but it’s the way every song is so well constructed, and how they each come with their own surprises and memorable moments, that makes the more straightforward approach to songwriting not become a problem in the least.

An early highlight is “Universal Death Squad”, a heavier, faster paced track where the guitars dominate quite a bit. The orchestral elements and choral vocals are in full effect as always, but it’s the lead riff and especially the excellent guitar solo in the middle that really stand out, though Simone’s higher notes during the chorus are certainly quite impressive as well. “Divide and Conquer” is the first track that feels a bit different. It’s very much dominated by the choir vocals, though it’s also the first track where Mark’s growls show up during the verses to alternate with Simone, and it does have some very impressive and heavy instrumental work, especially later on during a full growled section. Another one of my favorites is up next, in “Beyond the Matrix”, a much catchier, more straight-forward song with perhaps the best chorus on the album, and the choirs are truly epic on this track. It also features a quite impressive solo from Isaac later on. Next is a unique track in “Once Upon a Nightmare”, the closest thing this album has to a ballad. One thing’s for sure, though: This isn’t a typical, simplistic ballad. Nope, it has an extended orchestral opening, and it’s a very atmospheric keyword driven track, with some very memorable and extended instrumental sections, as well a bit of voice over work that adds more atmosphere to the track. Simone does get some impressive vocal lines, but it’s surprisingly not as vocal driven as you’d expect from a ballad. It’s certainly quite interesting, though it took multiple listens for me to fully get into it.

On the flip side, “The Cosmic Algorithm” is another instant winner, with a very fast paced choral section leading into another fantastic chorus, but overall it’s actually one of the heavier, more guitar-driven tracks on the album, and some of the riffs are quite aggressive and killer. Unsurprisingly, it has another excellent guitar solo. The next track “Ascension – Dream State Armageddon ” is slower paced, but has more crushing riffs, as well as some intense growls, to go with the usual great chorus, and an epic section later on where the choral vocals are used in a more haunting way, leading towards a brief voice over section. It’s a very dark and hard hitting track, and certainly another highlight. After that, we have another more unique track in “Dancing in a Hurricane”, a more laid back track, that starts off softly with mostly the orchestra, Simone and some percussion, which is used nicely. The rest of the band slowly comes in as the song progresses, but it’s a fairly calm song overall, with the percussion reappearing later in the track, though it does have one brief intense burst in the middle where the growls show up. By comparison, the next track “Tear Down Your Walls” is much more intense the whole way through, leaning more heavily on the guitar work and Mark’s Growls, but as usual, the chorus is very nice, and so it’s a well-balanced track.

Lastly, we have the epic length title track, which I was a bit nervous about at first, just because I couldn’t see the band possibly topping their previous title track. Thankfully, they didn’t really try, instead of doing a mostly more laid back title track, this time, around. Indeed, it has a rather slow start, using the orchestra and choirs to set things up, before the rest of the band slowly comes in. The first half is fairly calm and melodic, and the chorus is once again outstanding, giving Simone plenty of room to give probably her best vocals on the album, and while it’s certainly not huge and epic like the chorus of The Quantum Enigma, it’s still very effective. Growls are used sporadically in the first half, but the highlight of the track comes a little bit past the halfway point, where the music speeds up, the riffs get more intense, and Mark’s growls are in full force. The track then alternates between this and some epic choir vocals, and it just keeps getting more and more intense an epic for a while, before finally calming down again towards the end. While I wouldn’t quite put it on the same level as The Quantum Enigma, it’s still another excellent example of how to get an epic length track right, providing an excellent chorus, as well as a ton of memorable moments and enough surprises to keep the music fresh throughout its near 12 minute playing time.

After hearing The Quantum Enigma for the first time, I very much doubted it would ever be possible to top it, but while I still consider it the best symphonic metal album I’ve ever heard, The Holographic Principle is certainly not far behind. Once again, Epica has successfully built on their past successes and delivered an album full of everything fans would expect and more, with a focus on heavy guitars, epic choirs, and orchestra, Simone’s always wonderful vocals, and of course, a ton of great growls. Right now, Epica is clearly at the top of their game and they’re clearly far ahead of all other bands in their genre, so everything they release is a must hear, both for longtime fans of the band and the genre on the whole. Really, anyone looking for an album that expertly combines symphonic elements and metal is recommended to give this a listen. Easily my 2016 album of the year so far, and one of my favorite albums of the past decade.

originally written for myglobalmind:http://myglobalmind.com/2016/09/23/epica-holographic-principle-review/

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