Epica - The Divine Conspiracy
True to our indie ideals, Dutch symphonic metal outfit Epica are well-versed in the hardships of developing a fanbase in local scenes and patiently pounding away as it spreads. After two above-average records and a pretty decent film score, the guys (and girl) of Epica really set about striking their finest blow while the iron was hot, as they say. The results of their efforts have been dubbed The Divine Conspiracy. There is plenty of weight to the album, to say the least. Some of a respectful nature; some just dead.
What strikes you, after the typical symphonic intro and the 7-minute gothic sway and flow of "The obsessive Devotion", is mostly the increased heft and punch of the overall sound; never have Epica sounded so much like a metal band. Riffs and runs on the guitar are now as much of the picture as the symphonic elements and strained, silly pushes towards power-metal cheese. These are the things that, in my opinion, kept them down in the past, and it's good to hear their shift in direction. "Menace of Vanity" and "Chasing The Dragon" are two of my favorites, and you can't discount the single "Never Enough".
So then, why the average rating? Well, the 2nd half of the album is almost deep enough to warrant another disc altogether. There's an apparant lack of variation in their core songwriting style and mannerisms that becomes painfully obvious at this point as well. At 75 minutes, it's not like most listeners will still be paying attention to the same songs being played at varied tempos anyway. Still, credit is due to Epica for their successes and landing a deal with Nuclear Blast, and for their persistence in making it as far as they have. But i'm not sold on them as a creative entity. I think they're making too big of leaps at an epic sound and not letting it come naturally, over-producing and under-appreciating the music itself. It's almost as if they sell themselves short, which is sad considering the wealth of talent they've been blessed with. But they definitely are improving, no doubt about it.
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