Monday, August 28, 2017

EP Review: Epica - The Solace System

Epica is one of those bands that I'm supposed to enjoy, because they combine many elements of successful metal, but I can't say that I ever have. Their music is so densely packed that their full-length records are just too much for me. The focus it takes to listen to one without drifting out is something I'm not often able to muster. So while they're a good band, they have never done much for me. But here we have the release of an EP, tracks that didn't fit the theme of their last album, which might be a benefit, at least for me. In a shorter burst, am I finally able to embrace Epica? Let's find out.

With six songs clocking in at just short of half an hour, Epica doesn't give us an opportunity this time to be overwhelmed. Sometimes more is not more, and being amazed shifts into being made a fool.

The title tracks kicks things off in typically bombastic fashion, with swelling choirs and epic-scope thinking. As the song goes through the verses, it hits the main melody, with some fantastic staccato strings giving color to the sound. That moment is fantastic, but the actual melody that Simone is singing isn't nearly as interesting as what the music is doing. She's a great singer, and it's criminal to not give her stronger melodies to work with.

And that's what strikes me most about this EP. Epica is a band of immense talent. They burn through their symphonic metal with technical mastery, and they add in strings and orchestrations that pump every song to the extreme. Musically, they are amazing. The problem is that they don't give that same attention to the vocals. Simone is the visual focus of the band, but she needs to be the aural focus as well. Her voice is special, and Epica simply doesn't write choruses that live up to her talent. A song like "Architect Of Light" is splendid, until the chorus comes and we get some very unmelodic singing, and choirs on top of choirs, to the point where Simone is completely washed out.

What I'm saying is that "The Solace System" is the first Epica release in quite a while I've been able to sit through in total, and it reinforced what I already thought of the band. They are massively talented, but they focus so much on composing their instrumentals that they lose sight of what I think is the most important element, even for a giant metal band; melodies you can connect with. If they ever figured out how to write those kind of vocals lines, Epica would take over the world. Right now, they're still a great band that frustrates me that I can't enjoy them more than I do.

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