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Epica - The Divine Conspiracy CD (album) cover

THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY

Epica

Progressive Metal


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King of Loss
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This is Epica's newest studio album and it marks the defining moment in their young careers (At the moment at least). The band's drummer of several years had left and for this 3rd/4th official studio album, Arien Van Weesenbeek of God Dethroned steps into Jeroen Simons' shoes. This album clearly marks a slight change in direction in the band's sound. The sound is more veering towards Progressive Symphonic Metal and there are parts in songs like Fools of Damnation and the album's title track where the sound strays away from the Symphonic Metal subgenre of Metal into more Progressive tendencies. Also, the album's extremely nice use of synthesizers, symphonic arrangements and choral vocals create a contrast between Mark Janssen's coarse and extreme brutal growls and the band's constant use of "Death Metal breakdowns". This album is no normal Symphonic Metal album, this album sets the band far apart from the competition and is most definitely, the most complete and best Epica release yet.

This also ranks as one of my favorite albums of 2007!

4.4/5

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Send comments to King of Loss (BETA) | Report this review (#135275)
Posted Tuesday, August 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars Awesome, just awesome.

The first time I heard this album, I just thought ‘Wow’. I like ‘The Phantom Agony’, I love ‘Consign to Oblivion’ and ‘The Score’ was unique and beautiful, but this is just AWESOME, man! ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ is not completely original by any means, not that the band have took some drastic measures or anything in song writing and such. It still has the same format as ‘Phantom’ or ‘Consign’ (Orchestrated track as an opening and epic track as an ending), and the sounds are a bit similar here and there, except it’s heavier on overall, and also more orchestrated thus making the album more ‘epic’. However, this album is very nicely…excellently done! This is like ‘If you can’t make something that really DIFFERENT, then make something SPECIAL with what you have’…or something like that, uh you get my point. Yes, this album IS special, other than being their heaviest album so far, this album is also easily their BEST so far, easily. I mean, if you like their previous works before, then you’ll likely LOVE this one.

Like I said before, nothing’s really new in this album, but what matter most is the QUALITY of what the band have done here. The tracks, they all are SUPERB man, straight from the short and great opening ‘Indigo’ you’ll catch the epic atmosphere of the album. It’s then getting better with the strong track that follows it (as usual) ‘The Obsessive Devotion’, an awesome track which clearly represents the band styles, only with more power, didn’t I said this is their heaviest album? But hey, if you think that this album is only about heavier songs, than it’s NOT completely true. The band not only strengthens their metal side, but also their symphonic side as well. Throughout the album you’ll hear lots of great orchestration and powerful choirs blended brilliantly with (gothic) metal. ‘Chasing the Dragons’ is one of my favorite songs here, superb track with great vocals, especially around the middle part when the metal and symphonic mixed with each other, it’s really great! These together with the next track ‘Never Enough’ are both really excellent I’d say it’s the highlight of the album for me. The end part of the track where Simone Simmons screams is really awesome it’s never ceased to amaze me every time I listen to it. And although there’re fewer ‘peaceful’ moments in this album, that’s not a downfall at all because there’s still ‘Safeguard to Paradise’, very beautiful ballad song that balanced things out…a bit. As for the epic track, better check it out yourself, you won’t be disappointed!

Overall… uh, need I say more that this album is awesome? Just listen for yourself. If you’re into this kind of music (symphonic metal or whatever it called), or especially if you already like Epica, then this one is a MUST! Four and a half stars, even if it’s not a masterpiece, it’s quite close enough. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to kazansky (BETA) | Report this review (#137730)
Posted Tuesday, September 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Gatot
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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Oh .. finally I got a chance to listen to this album by a band that I have known the name before but never got a chance to listen to it by my own ears. At first spin, the music could easily infuse into my ears and my mind and in fact I did enjoy it so I made couple of spins to get familiar with the music. It's not that difficult for me because the music is similar to any symphonic power metal bands : Kamelot, Nightwish, Within Temptation, or in fact Sonta Arctica even though each of the band has its own musical characteristic. The vocal quality of Simone Simons can be compared to (was) Nightwish' Tarja Turunen even though Simone is in soprano style. Overall, the music is tight in terms of composition and overall flow of songs in the album. Each song has catchy notes in terms of melody on vocal line as well as solo. The symphonic style with layers of keyboard are prevalent throughout the songs contained in this album plus some vocal harmonies and choirs.

As usual with power metal bands, the album starts with an overture through "Indigo - prologue" (2:05) followed by a blast of power metal music on "The Obsessive Devotion" (7:13). The double pedal bass drums bring the music in fast tempo with keyboard based rhythm section followed by heavy riffs provided by bass guitar that let Simone vocal to enter backed by male vocal in growling style which makes the music more powerful. At minute 3:00 there is a short break where keyboard provides string section in eastern music style. The music interlude starts on 3:45 with string arrangement followed by guitar work and a music blast augmented by choirs and growling vocal. The music turns into higher tone at the ending part.

"Menace of Vanity" (4:13).kicks off nicely with keyboard solo in string section followed by heavy riffs and music with fast tempo combining double pedal bass drums as beat keeper and bass guitar augmented beautifully by keyboard in symphonic style. The choirs and vocal harmonies work really well in this track. "Chasing the Dragon" (7:40) provide a break to a mellow style music with beautiful symphonic arrangements especially on keyboard work. At approx 5:10 the music moves into a grandiose part and followed by fast tempo music that makes it energetic.

"Never Enough" (4:47) is a very beautiful song especially the excellent opening which basically is a combination of heavy riffs by guitar and string arrangement using keyboard augmented by drums and bass guitar. Wonderful opening and it then flows to vocal line with catchy melody. I swear I like this simple song, really! Simple and it produces great energy for me. Wow! I love the riffs man ."jeg - e - jeg - jeg - jeg " ..oh my God .. I love it, really! I also love how the vocal sings this melodic track. At 2:50 the music moves higher with female chanting and makes it a grandiose composition. Bravo, Epica! I do love this piece of music, in its entirety!

"La'petach Chatat Rovetz - the Final Embrace" (1:46) explores acoustic guitar in ambient nuance with nice textures reminiscence of eastern music, especially when percussion enters the music. It's so captivating - especially when I play my amplifier outloud. This is like an opening of a movie. It suddenly moves into a full blast of music in very fast tempo overlaid by powerful metal in "Death of a Dream - the Embrace that Smothers part" VII (6:03). The keyboard is in a style of eastern music. The music flows in high energy and heavy riffs. "Living a Lie - the Embrace that Smothers part VIII" (4:56) is a heavy music with growling male vocal followed by female melodic vocal.

What a coincidence when I was driving to the local FM Station (Trijaya) for a Saturday Night Rock program with a theme of "Religious Side of Progressive Rock" I played this album in my car. When it reached track 9 "Fools of Damnation - the Embrace that Smothers part IX" (8:42) I was surprised with the fact that this song captures Muslim's Prayer Call (adzan) in the middle of the track "Asyhadualla illa ha ill Allah ." (There is only One God - Allah) which made my driving a very pleasurable one and , in fact, my adrenalin was running faster when I heard this song. If I knew this song before I made the setlist I would have probably included this track in the program. Never mind, for next program.

"Beyond Belief" (5:25) is a heavy music in fast tempo followed by mellow and beautiful melody of "Safeguard to Paradise" (3:46) with nice piano work at intro part. Simone enters her vocal brilliantly. I find Simone vocal is similar to Sally Oldfield in this song. "Sancta Terra" (4:57) starts brilliantly with heavy string arrangements followed by heavy riffs which feature female vocal singing.

"The Divine Conspiracy" (13:56) concludes this album wonderfully with great orchestration, catchy melody during singing, great breaks between segments and also tight composition. The key strength is basically its tight composition, combining many styles. The band is genius because this composition is masterpiece, in my opinion. Why? The flow the music is interesting, it's like an epic and moves in different kind of styles and moods. I believe this song will satisfy most of you adore symphonic power metal music, it's really a wonderful track.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#157928)
Posted Monday, January 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Epica's heaviest album to date. By far. If you don't like Mark Jansen's growls, well, you could be in trouble for this album, lol. This album successfully combines the heavy elements from The Phantom Agony and the more refined musical touch of Consign To Oblivion. Simone Simones, quite honestly, may be the best singer in the genre. This album sets her above so many singers, possibly even Floor Jansen from After Forever fame. Her performance is nothing less than amazing.

The guitars and drums, as a general rule, are much louder and much more prevelant. The drums on this album is far better than anything Epica has done in the past. There are some areas on this album that the drummer does such fierce blast beats and double bass rolls that it feels like black metal. In addition to that, there are many progressive elements in some songs, which features some EXTREMELY technical playing. The same can be said about the guitars, there are some extremely technical parts which are covered very well by Ad and Mark. There's even a solo.

As always, the arrangements of the songs is what really sets it apart from everything else. Mark Jansen is a musical and lyrical genious. The album as a whole has a very dark feel, and it is very, very, satisfying. to add to that, it's a concept album! The choir is used constantly, which helps us get that signature Epica feel, and after 3 albums, it has not gotten old. Coen provides amazing keyboard work for the ambiance of the entire album. Everything just fits together so perfectly, and makes it so, so, so....Epica!

Now for the song by song.

Indigo:

Intro in the same fashion as Hunab K'u and Adyta. Maybe not quite as bombastic as Hunab K'u, but it is much more melodic. Has sort of the same sort of melancholy as Adyta, but the production is much better than it was when they made TPA. Good intro, and segways directly into the first real track.

The Obsessive Devotion:

This track kicks off, and all one can think is holy [&*!#]. The cheesiness of Dance of Fate is completely gone. Thirty seconds into this song I knew that this was going to be my favorite Epica album. Starts off with a heavy and very symphonic intro and goes directly into the verses sung by Simone, Mark, and the choir. Simone's vocals have improved to a level that I did not think was possible for her. The singing is more similar to that on Consign To Oblivion, but, it is INCREDIBLE. Many heavy parts with growls, and they are done perfectly. The 7 minute monster nears the end with a spoken verse by Simone (...all I wish, is to get RID OF THIS OBSESSIVE DEVOTION!!!) followed by a heavy riff and more growls by Mark. The intro riff comes back in, and the song ends. What a killer.

Menace of Vanity:

This song is even heavier. Simone is completely absent from this song; it's only Mark's growls as the choir. Very fast, heavy and aggressive, one of those songs that you wonder doesn't the drummer's legs fall off doing this live?. Not a particularly long song at 4ish minutes, and there is a nice symphonic break with drums and guitar. Definitely a headbanger, but probably my least favorite track on the album. It's a bit too repetitive for my tastes.

Chasing the Dragon:

This happens to be the best song Epica has ever done, and one of the best songs I've ever heard. At nearly 8 minutes, it has constant changes and leaves you absolutely breathless. The first few minutes contain the most beautiful ballad Simone Simons has ever done. I cried when I first heard it. No joke. The song evolves as the drums come in to join the intro acoustic guitar. Then the strings come in, as the song continues to evolve. The distorted guitar joins, and out comes Mark's growls. The song now becomes a ballad/death metal hybrid, lol. And then bang! An incredible keyboard/synth interlude comes in (which is actually fused with electronica if you listen closely ) and this song just loses itself. The drums and guitar come into full swing, and it leads us to a fiece black metal part by Mark (think near the end of the song Consign To Oblivion). After that, the strings come back in, and transitions us back into the ballad which closes the song. This song is so amazing. Favorite Epica song ever.

Never Enough:

Well, it's a single. I think that says enough about it, lol. It's the only song that can really be considered mainstream or for the masses. Has a very simple song structure, but Simone still does a great job. Again, there are growls, but this time, I think they are actually out of place. Simple song, but still a good one.

La'fetach Chataz Rovetz:

Sort of an interlude song. Serves as an intro for The Embrace That Smothers concept that was done by Mark on previous works. Very arabic, and, well, cool.

Death Of A Dream:

Very epic start with the choirs. As soon as this song starts, it just puts you into it. Alternating vocal lines between Mark and the choir, done very nicely in my opinion. Interlude with an arabic melody that is really cool. Then bang! Sander Gommans from After Forever does some growls. I personally prefer his growls to Mark's because they're so much more deep, and, well...evil. But Mark has him schooled on screaming! Simone and Sander trade off some vocal lines as the song starts to get more and more epic. Closes with vocals by Simone and the choir over a heavy riff. Fantastic song.

Living A Lie:

Intro has the church choir feel which directly leads into growls. Not a particularly fast song, but has a good balance of singing by Mark and Simone. A Latin speech is done in the middle of the song (which I have no idea what it translates to) which goes into another heavy riff with choirs. The song continues to move along, and at the end there is some chanting to lead into the next song.

Fools Of Damnation:

Definitely a high point of the album. Starts off very arabic with chanting and Simone singing. Again, Simone's vocals are so clean and pure that is nothing less than breathtaking. The song builds, and Mark has some growls over the very arabic melody. Leads into a very long instrumental break which really showcases Epica's talent. Closes with more choir, Simone, and Mark over some heavy riffs. Amazing song in general...the most progressive on the album.

Beyond Belief:

I actually find this track quite forgettable. While not mainsream as Never Enough is, the song still has a very simple song structure. But, Simone still has a great performance, and wow! Ad's guitar solo! It may be short, but hey, it's good! And the fact that there is a guitar solo in an Epica song is good enough for me.

Safeguard to Paradise:

The official ballad of the album. Again, Simone is beautiful. I prefer Chasing the Dragon, but this is still really good. Overall, a beautiful song, and it's nice to have a little break from the constant heaviness of this album.

Sancta Terra:

Another song with a big arabic feel. Good song with Simone shining. I believe this is the only metal song that Simone gets to sing without growls. In the mid section of this song, we can hear some of Simone's very operatic vocals to contrast with her more poppy vocals on the majority of the album. Big ending with choir. Very sastisfying.

The Divine Conspiracy:

Very epic, starts off similar to a movie score. Very similar in many ways to the title tracks of Consign To Oblivion and The Phantom Agony. Some Simone, alot of choir, and alot of grunts. Another really heavy part like in the end of Consign To Oblivion. This is actually my least favorite of the title tracks, because, to me, it seems slightly uninspired. But, it's still a killer track, a very good conclusion to a very good album.

Conclusion:

This album is a must-have. The most amazing Epica has put out by far. Very heavy, very technical, and this is hard for me to say, but very progressive as a whole. Epica proves itself to be worthy to be listed in the prog archives. So, please, GO BUY IT!

4.3/5 stars.

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Send comments to Jshutt64 (BETA) | Report this review (#158135)
Posted Tuesday, January 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
sleeper
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars On the face of things, Epica seems like many other groups, a power metal band with a classically trained female lead singer and a guitarist that does death metal growls, however this band is a step up from all those other groups because of one thing, the composition and orchestration of the songs. Many bands use the full orchestra sample to add to the depth of the sound in a song, but in Epica's case they use it as an integral piece of the music in an intelligent fashion, its not there just to provide the big grandiose sweeps but to add real depth and complexity to the music, used at its best on The Obsessive Devotion, Fools of Damnation and The Divine Conspiracy. A middle Eastern touch to many of the songs adds a unique feel to it as well. After becoming familiar with this album I can honestly say that Simone Simons is the most impressive female singer that I've heard, using her rich voice in the operatic style to its fullest whilst still remaining fully intelligible, something that I find is sometimes missing from that other famous operatic metal singer, Tarja of Nightwish. This is also one of the most captivating albums I have heard in the Progressive Metal category (not including the Experimental/Post metal and Tech/extreme genres) for a long time, something I put down to the combination of Simons singing and the aforementioned compositional strengths of the band, the music wasn't at all predictable in short and not a hint of the pretension that could have easily accompanied the orchestra.

That's not to say that this album is perfect as their are some faults. Firstly is the male vocals of Mark Jansen. At times he can sound rather good with that growling voice of his, really fitting into the music, but at times it can stray dangerously close to being terrible and just not fitting in properly. I cant help feeling that a deeper vice from someone like Kamelot's Roy Khan or Symphony X's Russel Allen would have worked much better for a decent amount of the male vocal lines, of which there are quite a few. The other major fault is in some of the musicianship. Its not that the band are low quality players reaching above their ability, because they do demonstrate in numerous places on the album that they can play very well, its just that they choose to play in a much less technically challenging way than they could, and this is something that I would really like to see them do. Overall, though, an excellent album and well worth every penny.

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Send comments to sleeper (BETA) | Report this review (#164936)
Posted Tuesday, March 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I have been listening to progressive music of all kinds for over twenty years and I must say that this album reaches a top position in the category and stand up well in competition with any other progressive album. The record deliver really strong and well produced songs, competent musicians, wonderful female vocal and interesting concept. It is definitely progressive symphonic metal but I don't think the genre matters when it comes to real good music. Anybody with real music interest will like this album after giving it a chance. The more I listen to the record the more I love it.This is by far the best album from Epica and I just can't wait for their next release.

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Send comments to PeopleBeerKing (BETA) | Report this review (#172083)
Posted Saturday, May 24, 2008 | Review Permalink
The T
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I was expecting another power-metal-with-progressive-elements band a la AFTER FOREVER here, with a female singer and the casual use of orchestras. But I was partially wrong.

EPICA surely plays power-metal, but the progressive elements are much more evident here than in many other similar bands. First, the songs are intelligently written, with a few of almost epic length and with structures that, if traditional, tend to at least fool the listener into thinking they're quite different. Second, the orchestra and choir here are not used as a gimmick or mere background but as an integral part of the sound, sometimes even adding to the riffs. Think on a more power-metal version of THERION. The mixing of the metal and orchestral elements really creates a band that deserves to be called progressive.

Much has been said about Simone Simons' vocals, and I have to agree in this case: her voice is fantastic. Mixing the operatic with the more pop-oriented, Simons delivers an excellent performance and a great contrast for Mark Jansen, who does all the growling in the record. It's important to notice that, again, we're not in the presence of a mere gimmick here. The dark vocals have a lot of importance in the record, carrying some vital sections either in the way of low-pitched death growling or its higher black metal variation. Jansen shows skills in being able to switch between the two at ease, but in the end, of course, he's completely overshadowed by Simons beautiful voice. She can carry a melody in any direction. She can soothe you with her peaceful chant or encourage you with her heroic cry; force you to imagine a lonely, blue lake or a lavish, red Opera stage.

The music is very riff-driven, with several power-metal elements like double-bass drums and epic choruses, but scattered throughout the disc are sections of outstanding beauty but also of sudden violence, where the music, for a few seconds, borders on death or black metal.

The obvious influences here are female-fronted bands like AFTER FOREVER or even NIGHTWISH, power-prog bands like SYMPHONY X or KAMELOT, but also some less-obvious ones as AYREON and THERION or even Hollywood music like Jerry Goldsmith's "The Omen" soundtrack. The musicianship is top-notch, with excellent performances of all the artists involved, even though the real star here is the vocalist, followed closely by the interaction of guitars and orchestra in a way that seems coherent, necessary, and which works perfectly. The good alternation of fast-and-energetic songs with quiet interludes (a few even with some oriental melodies) is another success.

In the end, we have a very good album that shares some of the mistakes that other bands in this style make in their works (similar songs, simple structures, virtuosic-yet-not-creative performances, cheesy latin-language intros). But the experience is a highly enjoyable one, the virtues overcome the flaws by far, and ultimately the album satisfies the listener. This is excellently-crafted power-prog-metal music, and an excellent if not essential addition to your collection.

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Send comments to The T (BETA) | Report this review (#173314)
Posted Sunday, June 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
4 stars No scrimping

While "The divine conspiracy" is numerically Epica's fourth album, we should consider it their third, as "The score" sits apart as an orchestral soundtrack. Released in 2007, maintining a pattern of presenting their albums every odd year, this is a collection to satisfy those who were impressed by "The Phantom Agony" and "Consign to oblivion".

The main difference here when comparing the album to its predecessors is that the tracks have been developed more fully, the running times tending to be noticeably longer. The opening "The obsessive devotion" for example, when combined with the "Indigo" prologue, runs to an impressive 9 minutes. The piece immediately draws upon all the artillery Epica are renown for using, with orchestration, operatics and growling all combining in a veritable cacophony. The growling is a bit more intrusive throughout the album than we are used to, but it is sufficiently well disguised by the bombastic arrangements.

"Menace of vanity" features some of the most impressive chorales from Epica to date, the song being even more over the top than "The obsessive devotion". "Chasing the dragon" slows things right down at first, starting out as a gentle vocal piece before developing into a fine power ballad. Simone Simons offer one of her captivatingly emotional performances here as this epic piece twists through various moods before closing in a climactic burst. "Never enough" is a more orthodox song with a relatively straightforward composition being enhanced by a magnificent arrangement.

Four consecutive tracks in the middle of the album continue the "Embrace That Smothers" theme which last graced the band's debut. Here we have parts 7 to 9, preceded by their own mini-overture, "La'petach Chatat Rovetz - the Final Embrace". Part 7, "Death of a Dream" brings the growling to the fore a bit too much for my tastes, although thankfully it is again only used briefly. The piece is more than rescued by Simons' fine vocals and some excellent orchestration. "Living a lie" continues in a similar tempo and mood while featuring more impressive chorales. The final part of this play within a play, "Fools of damnation" alters the mood somewhat by introducing a distinctly eastern atmosphere. The track soon breaks out as a pulsating epic metal song running to almost 9 minutes. This song has more in common with bands such as Symphony X than the usual comparisons with the likes of Nightwish and Within temptation. It is generally heavier with a greater focus on the guitar riffs and pounding drums.

"Beyond belief" returns us to the more accessible power rock of their previous albums, although the track still includes a number of twists and turns along the way. "Safeguard to Paradise" is the first genuine ballad on the album, Simons offering a touching vocal accompanied by piano and sympathetic orchestration. "Sancta Terra" maintains the slower tempo, building to some fine operatic choruses.

The album closes with the 14 minute title track, a piece which reminds me a lot of Rhapsody's most indulgent, and thus most impressive, numbers. The piece weaves its way through pretty much every style and sound the band have incorporated on the album thus far. The centre piece of the track is an eclectic instrumental passage ranging from cinematic orchestration to the first genuine if all too brief burst of lead guitar we have had.

With a running time of over 75 minutes, no one could accuse Epica of scrimping. The extreme length of the album is due not only to an abundance of material, but to the full development of that material. Those who enjoy the band's style of epic metal in limited doses would be well advised to avoid listening to the album as a complete piece; unlike may prog albums, it does not demand to be listened to in that way. For those who enjoy their epic metal a bit on the heavier side, while retaining all the bombast and pomposity which defines it, here we have the ideal album.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#202650)
Posted Saturday, February 14, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Epica have finally proven themselves. This album is a step away from anything done before, a step away from the established norms of gothic metal and a step into a symphonic world that other symphonic bands never touched. What Epica have done is what the progressive bands of the 70's had done, and that is take an inspiration from real classical music. Many symphonic bands are completely metal bands and just throw in symphonic elements to craft a bigger sound. Epica, on the other hand, merge their sound with classical music to create true orchestral metal. Many fans don't like that, complaining that the middle of the title track is boring and that the song drags on too long, for example. In my opinion, this album is at times utterly amazing, but still a bit short of what they are truly capable of.

For those unfamiliar with Epica, they are a part of the new wave of symphonic goth metal which includes Within Temptation and After Forever, but by this point in their careers, Epica has also crossed into the broader symphonic scene which includes Nightwish and Kamelot. Of all these bands, Epica mixes the orchestra the loudest and most bombastically, and also features the most complex parts. At first they sounded like an imitation of After Forever, but by now they have taken an interest in classical music, especially soundtrack music and romantic era composers, that sets them apart. They have also taken an interest in underground metal bands, even having performed covers of bands like Death in the past. This tie with death metal, black metal, and thrash metal has helped their sound considerably, leading to much better metal riffs than those found on Nightwish or even Kamelot.

The individual performances are quite noteworthy. There is a new drummer on board named Ariën Van Weesenbeek, a session drummer who previously worked for God Dethroned. He has drummed considerably more intense and heavy than the previous drummer, but also more creatively and more dynamically. My only complaint is that sometimes he sounds a bit sterile, playing too perfectly. Mark Jansen and Ad Sluijter team up to write some utterly sick guitar riffs, and much more technical than the previous album, but the sickness is not a constant, and sometimes the best riffs even sound out of place when played right after a riff that isn't so great. Simone has improved as a vocalist, although she has quite a way to go before she enters the pantheon of great vocalists. She has learned a lot about singing more emotively, and has several moments such as the song Fools of Damnation or the beginning of Death of a Dream that show her potential.

I won't go into an individual review of the songs themselves since it has already been done by other reviewers. My general opinion is that this album has a few weaker songs and a few stronger songs, but it is best viewed as a whole. A couple songs do warrant a mention however. Indigo is the most beautiful orchestral opening to an album I have ever heard. I rate it higher than the opening to Kamelot's Ghost Opera. The title track is an epic that blows all of their other epics out of the water.

Overall, this album is a step up from their previous one, and almost a masterpiece but not quite.

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Send comments to Nuke (BETA) | Report this review (#231255)
Posted Wednesday, August 12, 2009 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Epica's "The Divine Conspiracy" is another one of those orchestral metal albums with an operatic female vocalist in the same vein as Nightwish, Within Temptation and After Forever's style. In this case the female vocalist is Simone Simons and she is as accomplished a singer as Tarja or Sonja. The album is conceptual running tracks together and keeping a thematic content dealing with life, eternity, existence, good and evil. The opening track 'Indigo' is more or less a lush orchestral introduction to usher in the heavier tracks to come. The majestic structure prepares us for the onslaught of metal power riffing guitars and fast blasts of thrash on 'The Obsessive Devotion'. This is a sublime track with gorgeous strings overlayed with metal hooks, very brutal, haunting and dark. This is followed by 'Menace of Vanity'; a mediocre chanting carries it along and both Simons and Jansen take turns at vocals. 'Chasing the Dragon' follows, a beautiful balladic song with sweeping piano arpeggios and a minimalist soundscape.

'Never Enough' is a pop oriented track driven by Simons scintillating vocals and could easily be a single. 'La'petach Chatat Rovetz - the Final Embrace' is an orchestrated introduction to the next track, acting as a transition. 'Death of a Dream - the Embrace that Smothers part VII' is a 6 minute fast paced, heavy track that is majestic and uplifting.

'Living a Lie - the Embrace that Smothers part VIII' continues the multi part epic but the piece de resistance is definitely the wonderful 'Fools of Damnation - the Embrace that Smothers part IX'. This section has many time signature changes and some inspired instrumental breaks. The incredible blend of symphonic ambience and heavy riffing distortion works well. There are shades of light and dark between the soft soprano vocals from Simons and the caustic growling from Jansen.

'Beyond Belief' is a brilliant mix of operatic vocals, orchestra and crunching guitars. The excellent track ends on a heartbeat effect segueing to the hypnotic, haunting Gothic 'Safeguard to Paradise' that showcases Simons' crystalline vocals, an absolutely beautiful treasure.

'Sancta Terra' follows with symphonic horns and strings. It is mostly Simons singing and has slow passages mixed with blitzing fast metrical patterns, with many time shifts in pace and choral sections. The choral ensemble give the track a Gothic cathedral feel, and this multi layered vocal treatment is a highlight of Epica.

The last track is the multi movement suite epic played with virtuoso instrumentation. Simons is in full voice and lifts the ambience. 'The Divine Conspiracy' is a 14 minute classic with many different time sig changes and sections. There are female choral voices in a foreign tongue, then an operatic voice soar over the sound. There is a dreamy ambience which is broken by angular guitar riffing and Jansen's growls that darkens the atmosphere. There are some inspired riffs and the mixture of thrash and classical opera is delightful. The music is tight and creates a wall of sound.

Overall this is a stunning concept album with the mood ranging from heavenly to extremely sinister. It is my first intro to Epica and it was a pleasant surprise. The concept on the album means many things; "the divine conspiracy opens up reality, time is not the entity, life is what it's meant to be". The crunching guitar assault is juxtaposed with full blown orchestra throughout. It is an emotional experience, uplifting and dark at intervals. Take the Epica test now.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#277120)
Posted Friday, April 09, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars WOW...and i mean WOW, where do i begin with this one. The Divine Conspiracy is the 2007 release from Epica and in my opinion without a doubt their best to date, everything about this album is....well epic, from the opening instrumental INDIGO - PROLOGUE and the single NEVER ENOUGH to the awsome THE OBSESSIVE DEVOTION and the fantastic 13 minute title track THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY, yes Epica really have stepped it up a notch and while im not saying that their other albums before (or indeed after this one) are bad this is Epica at their creative peek, there opus if you will, i doubt that their newer albums are gonna top this both for strength of songwriting, musicmanship and even just on power, you can feel the power ozing out of every pour of this release, every note, every guitar chord every keyboard part is perfectly executed and in the right place, it just fits. The production as well is just first class prog-metal dounding as well, and while it may have its flaws (some may say its too clean or not creative enough, but i beg to differ) its power/prog, its not ment to have a raw sound, its ment to be very clean and polished and the producer really did a good job at that;

Indigo - prologue - 8/10 The Obsessive Devotion - 10/10 Menace of Vanity - 9/10 Chasing the Dragon - 10/10 Never Enough - 9/10 La'petach Chatat Rovetz - the Final Embrace - 8/10 Death of a Dream - the Embrace that Smothers part VII - 9/10 Living a Lie - the Embrace that Smothers part VIII - 10/10 Fools of Damnation - the Embrace that Smothers part IX - 10/10 Beyond Belief - 8/10 Safeguard to Paradise - 9/10 Sancta Terra - 9/10 The Divine Conspiracy -10/10

My Conclusion? Perfect...thats all i can say..a power/prog masterpiece, if its your grene well worth the money

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Send comments to FarBeyondProg (BETA) | Report this review (#287578)
Posted Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
Isa
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars |B-| A beautiful combination of symphonic metal and medieval neo-romantic classical music.

The Divine Conspiracy, the most recent of Epica's discography as of this review, really does show blatantly symphonic metal at its best. The female vocalist Simone Simons is well known in the metal community for a good reason, and she has my utmost approval as a classical singer myself. Even though she doesn't sing with a classical style, it is nonetheless quality singing. This is legit composition here, incredibly lush and convincing choral and orchestral parts of the modern medieval neo-romantic style, the sort of thing you'd here playing D&D-based RPGs, as well as world music influence. It's still metal in the vein of Nightwish, but Epica's music is far more developed and artistic than their Finnish counterpart, with much more instrumental variation and mixture of genres. The lyrics are great, often addressing philosophical and political concepts without being overly pretentious or biased. The band has a very mature sound already, and it will be interesting to hear their follow-up works in the next few years.

The opener of the album introduces the medieval neo-romantic style with orchestra and chorus (singing in Latin!). Tracks 2-5 are the most accessible and "metal" of the album, which is common with a lot of prog; first few tracks hook the listener in to the band, then the album gets more artistic and creative, expanding the ears of the listener, and this album is a perfect example of this. La'petach Chatat Rovetz: The Final Embrace presents a middle-eastern world music composition, very delightful and fits into the flow of the album beautifully. The series of the Final Embrace are the best and most "prog" sounding tracks on the album, Living a Lie starts of with classical melismatic chant in asymmetric meter - what more could I ask for as a huge fan of Gregorian Chant and prog? What's more there is a Catholic prayer in Latin, enunciated correctly (for once) which blows my mind as an orthodox Catholic. This is probably the best track on the album in general. Fools of Damnation starts of with middle-eastern singing style most associated with Islam, which then leads into the best chorus of the album talking about totalitarianism and an instrumental section with asymmetric meter, organ, classical singing, back into the chorus. Absolutely solid. The album continues with more decent tracks; Safegaurd to Paradise is a neo-romantic ballad that really shows off Simon's vocal abilities and the band's softer and more intimate side. The album comes to a great close with the 13 minute opus album title track.

The only main problem I have with this problem is how long it is. While there is a lot of good variation of sound in each track, the tracks all start to sound very similar after an hour, mainly as a result of the symphonic metal influence; the heavy guitar riffs sound very the same for many of the songs. Each track is fantastic on its own, and the album flows very well, but you can have too much of a good thing for too long, which is definitely the case with this album.

If you like symphonic metal, especially on the more progressive side, this album is essential for you. Overall I strongly recommend this to progressive metal listeners, especially those who like the kind of modern classical music that you here in medieval-based RPGs. The two genres combine beautifully, which Epica demonstrate with this solid album.

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Send comments to Isa (BETA) | Report this review (#292988)
Posted Sunday, August 01, 2010 | Review Permalink
Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Ambitious, powerful, epic goth/symphonic metal

I'll never be a metal expert because I don't listen to enough of it, but I make a point to hear different genres when I can. All I knew about Epica was the frequent comparisons to Nightwish and other female-fronted metal bands, the so called "beauty and beast" thing which I'm sure drives them all crazy, but to me Epica is on the finer side of these groups. Guitarist Ad Sluijter describes the band's sound as "a bridge between power metal and gothic metal" and this sounds like a fair description.

"The Divine Conspiracy" is a highly entertaining drama of contrasts. Most obvious is the vocal contrast between the amazing pipes of Simone Simons who sings with both power and formal operatic prowess, and the deathly growls of Mark Jansen. Next would be the shift from the brutal guitar/bass/drums blasting to the quiet and contemplative moments of acoustic guitar and mellow singing, like the gorgeous opening to "Chasing the Dragon." The long and often intricate storybook compositions are fleshed out beautifully by strings and vocal choirs, not unlike what you would hear on certain Therion albums. The metal component is very tight and as mentioned, just brutal at times, at least to a relative metal toe-dipper like myself. "The Divine Conspiracy" is such a long and elaborate work I cannot do a play by play, but the work is big, bold, dramatic, fiery, and occasionally peaceful. The title track closes the album, a sprawling 14 minute beast that begins with grand orchestration and Latin vocals before plunging into the fire, and finally closing with a reprise of the orchestra. Overall I have to be in the mood for such a work, it can be exhausting if you're not prepared for the 75 minute assault. Broken into three lengthy and intricate "acts", the CD's booklet provides complete lyrics and nice artwork to help you navigate. This is a strong 3 ˝ stars for me but just shy of my 4 star criteria. I've heard their next album is even better than this so I'm looking forward to the Epica masterpiece.

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Send comments to Finnforest (BETA) | Report this review (#325904)
Posted Thursday, November 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Another female fronted theatric metal band whose albums explore some seriously demanding compositional and performance territory, like NIGHTWISH. Both groups put out amazing productions in 2007. NIGHTWISH, to my ears, sound a bit more polished instrumentally and symphonically, but the vocal arrangements of The Divine Conspiracy may top Dark Passion Play. (The use of male voices--even growls--seem to fit, work well, within the context of the music and as a contrast to the amazing female vocals of "mezzo soprano" SIMONE SIMONS.) I do not like the keyboards used by Epica (despite the often wondeful 'orchestra' sound accomplished), and the in-your-face machine gun fire kick drum is a detractor, but everything else is wonderful.

Album highlights: the more sensitive, sedate, "Chasing the Dragon" (7:40) (9/10); the Arabian-tinged "Fools of Damnation: The Embrace that Smothers, Part IX" (8:42) (8/10), and: the epic title song, (13:57) (8/10).

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#377658)
Posted Monday, January 10, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars 'The Divine Conspiracy' - Epica (9/15)

With their 2007 output The Divine Conspiracy, Epica wander even deeper into the heart of the symphonic metal genre. Strong orchestral influences permeate the record that otherwise is a classical fit for power metal. Standard genre recipies - likable female vocals, harsh male grunting, speedy but uninnovative drumming, straightforward riffing and symphonic keys - are exploited to the limit here.

Highs

With a haunting symphonic intro ("Indigo"), underlined with latin vocals and a dynamic string-aided power song to follow it ("The Obsessive Devotion"), Epica land a strong start into the experience. The track also showcases that Epica do a excellent job at landing gripping choruses.

Likewise, the album highlight is cleverly positioned on the back end, where the title longtrack unites what makes symphonic progressive metal an interesting genre to many: Strong orchestration, a fine arc of suspense, leading from a fragile center part to a strong climax.

Simone's vocal abilities are great for the most part.

Lows

In a word: Repetition. The orchestral parts get dated pretty quickly, even when they seem to be embedded at all the right positions. Likewise, the drumming is uncreative and dull for most of the time. Although the protagonists clearly have potential technically, they rarely show it.

If you strip the music off the symphonic smoke and mirrors, what you get is pretty average musicianship and songwriting, impressing on the first few listens, but wearing off at an unfortunate pace.

Conclusion

All the strengths and weaknesses of symphonic metal (with a progressive edge), creating a slightly above average experience.

3+ stars.

***** star songs: The Divine Conspiracy
**** star songs: Indigo (Prologue), The Obsessive Devotion, Fools of Damnation, Never Enough
*** star songs: Menace of Vanity, Chasing the Dragon, La'petach Chatat Rovetz - the Final Embrace, Living a Lie, Death of a Dream, Beyond Belief, Safeguard to Paradise,Terra Sancta

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Send comments to ishina (BETA) | Report this review (#591206)
Posted Monday, December 19, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I remember discovering this album and laughing with joy as I listened to it the first time. I absolutely LOVED the theatrical orchestral arrangements layered underneath heavy metal guitars and drums, the operatic soprano of Simone Simmons juxtaposed with the growling death-metal vocals. I will be honest here - I have never been a huge fan of death-metal growling. It has turned me away from some bands - some that I later decided to give a fair trial and was able to enjoy despite the growls, and some I never could get into. I like to compare death-metal growling to hot sauce - different people have different tolerance levels of it, but there's almost always a point at which it's too much, and another point at which it's just right and makes a dish oh so interesting. Epica, I believe, is one of those bands that uses just the right amount of growling - juxtaposed with the operatic soprano vocals, it makes things oh so interesting, and this particular album of theirs has become one of the most frequently played in my collection.

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Send comments to dtguitarfan (BETA) | Report this review (#756162)
Posted Monday, May 21, 2012 | Review Permalink

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