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Epica: The Phantom Agony

Living up to their band's name, the six members of the Dutch gothic-metal group Epica — led by After Forever's former guitarist and gruff vocalist Mark Jansen and surreal mezzo-soprano singer Simone Simons — have recorded an over-the-top debut album bursting with class (even though it's a wee too long).

Simons is barely in her twenties, but her command of the songs on The Phantom Agony (some sung in Latin) lends them enhanced depth and color. Add stunning choirs and strings, Arabic and South American musical influences, stirring lyrics and an unusually imaginative song about September 11, 2001, told from the viewpoint of the terrorists ("Facade of Reality"), and you've got a warm-sounding yet dark-feeling album that's as elegant as it is chilling.

More complex then The Gathering, less classical than After Forever and with fragments of Lacuna Coil, Nightwish and Within Temptation delicately entwined, Epica is worth keeping an eye on — and not just because the fire-haired Simons may be one of the most engagingly exotic women you've ever seen.

Track Listing:
1) Adyta (1:27)
2) Sensorium (4:47)
3) Cry For the Moon (6:44)
4) Feint (4:18)
5) Illusive Consensus (4:59)
6) Faηade of Reality (8:10)
7) Run For a Fall (6:31)
8) Seif Al Din (5:47)
9) The Phantom Agony (9:00)
10) The Phantom Agony (Single Version) (Bonus Track) (4:35)
Total Time: 56:27

Added: April 28th 2004
Reviewer: Michael Popke
Related Link: Official Epica Web Site
Hits: 5634
Language: english

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Epica: The Phantom Agony
Posted by Ken Pierce, SoT Staff Writer on 2005-01-24 18:45:00
My Score:

For many years the Heavy Metal world was missing the presence of talented women vocalists. Of course we had the wonderful Doro Pesch and Lita Ford but they were clearly few and far between. However, the past several years have seen this void filled to a very satisfying capacity. We can now count on the existence of bands that are fronted by these amazing singers who add both beauty and grace to music as powerful and complex as their voices. Joining the ranks of Tarja Turunen (Nightwish) & Floor Jansen (After Forever) is Simone Simons of Epica.

Epica (formerly called Sahara Dust) have just released their debut effort entitled "The Phantom Agony" on Transmission Records. This CD is a very well crafted piece. As I listened to the CD, I was reminded of the singer named Annie Haslam who performed for the art/progressive band Renaissance back in the mid 70's. Of course I fear that I am dating myself with a reference such as this but the voices were very similar. When I brought it up with Simone of the band she told me that she had never heard of her before. Of course, Simone is only 18 years old. Yes, I said 18, and she sings like I have not heard in some time. She is also a very beautiful girl, so make sure to check out the pics on the site.

Of the 8 tracks on the CD there are a few that stick out as my favorites most immediately. They are "Sensorium", "Facade of Reality", and "Seif al Din". The number of tunes is by no means a reflection on the CDs length as the piece runs a little over 50 minutes. Not bad for a debut. The music is deftly performed by the group who combine haunting operatic chorals and spectacular metal skills. As a drummer I always listen to the drums, and really enjoyed the work by Jeroen Simons. He holds it together quite well. In addition to Simone's high pitched Arias there is the male vocal by Mark Jansen. He uses the growls so prevalent in a lot of Black Metal. At the same time he is providing some serious guitar shredding. After Forever fans might miss his playing, but I think they will enjoy his new band quite a bit. Epica, by the labels title of them is considered Epic Gothic Metal. Yet it is not as gloomy as some Goth pieces I have heard. The opening sequence "Adyta" gives the feel of some religious service or foreboding chant as it begins with a very dramatic choir piece.

Packaging wise, the CD comes with a fully detailed booklet, lyrics and photos and some great artwork imagery. Like other releases this comes in a limited-edition Ecobook version, but I did not have this for review purposes. I enjoy extensive liner notes and lyrics, especially in these high priced music retail markets. The listener should get the most for their money. Fans of Nightwish will be able to enjoy this group for the music is similar enough to be appreciated by them, however, it is different enough to be enjoyed as a totally separate entity. It is a group that I hope tours in the United States for I think they will be a welcome change.

Epica is:
Simone Simons – Mezzo - Soprano
Mark Jansen – Guitars, Grunts, and Screams
Ad Sluijter – Guitars
Geon Janssen – Synths & Piano
Yves Huts – Bass
Jeroen Simons – Drums and Percussion

There are also some considerable Orchestrations as the band employs Violins, Cellos and Violas on the CD. There is also an Epica choir. The list of contributors on that end was too vast for me to provide, so please refer to the band site.

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