Rarely has any band been more aptly named than Epica. While everything woven by the Dutch outfit has come clad in multiple layers, its sheer intricacy has sometimes lessened its overall impact, not helped by crazily complicated titles and excessive running lengths.
The faithful can rest assured that there’s a few more of those on Omega – but it’s all been a bit much for some. For their eighth album, released more than four years after their last full-length, Epica are clearly emerging from a transformative process that has honed their strengths.
Omega is almost certainly this band’s greatest achievement. The delivery is no less majestic but, crucially, a lot of the overly circuitous arrangements have been brought to heel. You still get over an hour of music, but now it feels less like a puzzle and more like a jubilant catharsis. Songs as memorably emotive as Gaia and The Skeleton Key are moving Epica not just in slightly new directions, but into higher leagues.
It gets better: Seal Of Solomon and Freedom – The Wolves Within are symphonic-metal behemoths, as choral hooks the size of York Minster flow thrillingly from passages led by Simone Simon’s exquisite singing and more metallic sections fronted by co-vocalist and guitarist Mark Jansen. Simone’s talents are pushed to the fore on Rivers, a gentler song that blossoms into a stunning passion play, while the Eastern-tinged Code Of Life is yet another brilliantly orchestrated showpiece.
Omega proves that as bombastic as symphonic metal gets, it’s no different to any other genre in that, ultimately, it’s all about the songs. And these songs are Epica’s best.