Epica’s latest EP, The Solace System, contains six tracks that were recorded during the sessions for their most recent full-length album, The Holographic Principle. Though these tracks were not considered the best fit for the album, they take the faster, heavier Epica we were introduced to in that album to even further extremes. Isaac Delahaye’s guitar solos are stronger and more intricate than ever, while Arien van Weesenbeek earns his nickname of “The Beast” ever more fully.
The EP opens with John Williams-esque symphonic grandeur in the titular The Solace System. The track is heavy and pumping, with the choir a strong presence. Crunchy guitars complement a powerful vocal entry from Simone Simons, then punctuated judiciously by Mark Jansen’s growls. The track seems to capture everything Epica have ever been, creating an almost overwhelming wall of sound. Without a doubt, this track introduces us to the heaviest, crunchiest Epica we’ve ever heard, at least until later in this very EP. Deeper into the track, the synchronicity between Delahaye’s solos and the symphonic elements is superb.
Fight your Demons opens with a fast and bombastic intro, and the symphonic elements are more reminiscent of Klaus Badelt and his work on the Pirates of the Caribbean score. Where The Solace System was arse-kickingly heavy, Fight your Demons introduces a stronger sense of urgency through Simons’ vocals and the climactic symphonic elements. The track moves into an instrumental section that is cosmic in nature, with Delahaye and Jansen’s driving guitars riffing through drum-heavy symphonic parts. A tremendous bass rumble courtesy of both Rob van der Loo and the orchestra lead into Delahaye’s frenzied solo, played with fury that would rival even Dream Theater.
Architect of Light begins with an apparently gentle intro, but quickly leads into brass grandeur. This track’s heaviness has a bit more breathing room than the previous two, but picks up in pace with the entrance of the choir. There is a stronger focus on the choir and symphonic elements in this track before the heavy riffs break in, as well as more of a showcase of Simons’ silken vocals.
The riffs and drums of Wheels of Destiny are almost classic Metal, sitting alongside well-timed symphonic interjections. The guitars are almost Blackened in their evil cadence, alongside ominous vocals from Simons and powerful growls from Jansen. These verses contrast with the most uplifting chorus with its lilting keyboards provided by Coen Janssen, and the very melodic, almost Malmsteen-esque guitar solos.
Immortal Melancholy is the only slow track on the EP, with acoustic guitars exhibiting an almost mediaeval style, along with Simons’ contemplative vocals and majestic symphonic elements.
The heaviness returns with a vengeance with Decoded Poetry, a strong and riff-laden track. The melody however, is still led by Simons’ vocals. This track is the strongest showcase of Jansen’s growls, rumbling and crushing their way through the track only to be contrasted with monastic choral parts. The track closes with fast, discordant guitars and heavy drums building up an evil vibe as even the symphonic parts become wild and frenzied. This is Epica unleashed at last in their full, bombastic, Metal fury.
The only weakness of this collection of tracks is that they don’t have a lot of breathing room, particularly in the first half. With all but one of the tracks under six minutes long, they’re quite short by Epica’s standards. Nevertheless, the EP unleashes absolute fury throughout, confirming the band’s claims prior to the release of The Holographic Principle that they will be going more extreme than ever. Epica’s energy is only growing stronger, and I eagerly await an Australian Principle tour.