|Review: Epica - The Divine Conspiracy|
|The Divine Conspiracy|
Label: Nuclear Blast
Year released: 2007
Genre: Symphonic Metal
Review online: November 19, 2007
Reviewed by: Bruce Dragonchaser
for:The Divine Conspiracy
Rated 4/5 (80%) (21 Votes)
You've got to admire Epica's plums. Depending on how you look at it, the Dutch orchestral power metallers are defining their own sound in a crowd of a thousand spurious imitators, making their third release a questionable, debatable success. Unlike the many others that were standing at Commercial station waiting for the gravy train to arrive, Epica have stripped their overblown sound down a notch, and instead of stuffing the album full of fat, juicy, Gothic Metal pop songs, they have produced a record that is their most progressive to date, with the majority of the tracks trailing over six minutes, fluctuating between styles and alternating passages.
The trademark choirs and orchestras are in place, Simone Simons' wailing mezzo-soprano still dominates, but guitarist/founder Mark Jansen seems to be stamping the symphonic beauty with his nasty, venomous barks to a greater degree than normal. Instantly, this separates the band from the one that recorded the fabulous "Consign to Oblivion" in 2005 and depending on the style of music you favour, you might revel in Jansen's new role as co-vocalist. His aggressive howls and bellows are certainly better than they were in the past, but they are used to such a degree that it simply spoils some of the majestic grandeur. Take the gorgeous "Chasing the Dragon" for example, which opens beautifully in typical Epica balladry, before segueing into the grandest piece of music Jansen has ever penned, just as he flips out with his 'vocal' theatrics into a deluge of Dimmu worship, complete with blast beats and all. What a mess. This actually works extremely well on "Menace of Vanity", with Jansen leading the pelting double bass-spiced verse before Simone takes us to the incredibly catchy, operatic chorus. Opener "The Obsessive Devotion" benefits from the new approach similarly. But as the album takes a huge nosedive with "Death of a Dream", "Living a Lie" and "Fools of Damnation", the formula becomes all too familiar, and you'll find your mind wandering, debating whether to stick in the new After Forever record instead.
"The Divine Conspiracy" itself, is possibly the best track the band have composed thus far, and at 13+ minutes, it certainly gives you enough epic theatricality for your money. The best track on the album is "Sancta Terra", simply because is it the only track not to feature Jansen's piercing growls. Believe me, it's a lot to assimilate, but unlike the many ersatz copycats, "The Divine Conspiracy" keeps you gripped, and warrants hours of playback. Conspiracy, indeed.
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