Album Review: EPICA The Holographic Principle
The Quantum Enigma was a powerhouse of an achievement for Epica. Everything that we love about Epica and symphonic metal in general was fully represented and done the absolute best way it possibly could be done. I could pop in that album right now and listen to it in its entirety and completely enjoy myself still. Which only leaves the question of how they could possibly follow up such a huge release. The Holographic Principle will either establish a huge trend of success for the band, or prove that lightning really can't strike the same place twice.
Epica is truly a band who does the symphonic metal genre justice. They never really innovate much, but they take what’s already out there and just do it the best way it can be done every time. So, on this new album, it’s likely you’ll correctly predict the sorts of sounds you’re going to hear. Tons of full orchestral accompaniments, lots of choir taking the vocal reigns, Simone Simons in the clean leads, occasional guttural growls, and genuinely heavy metal as its strong foundation. These are not only the exact same elements in every Epica album so far, but also in every symphonic metal band out there right now. However, Epica has always been a little more on the heavier side, drifting towards more of a death/thrash flair with a little bit a progressive thrown in a for a little flavor. “The Cosmic Algorithm” is probably the heaviest song that demands you headbang to it. And yet, when you have these heavier songs, the orchestral and symphonic ideas never relent a single iota. Every song has a very balanced mix of each of the elements which make for each song being a brilliant amalgam.
"Edge Of The Blade"
I probably tend to nerd out over the orchestral and choir portions of Epica more than anything else, but if you really give this album a good listen you won’t be able to blame me. Much like in The Quantum Enigma, the choir is not present just for a few accents or atmospheres; the choir takes up a huge portion of vocal duties overall. The Holographic Principle is about 50% clean singing, 25% growls, and 25% choir. That really ends up being a lot of exposure of the choir. I really think the choir has improved since the previous album. They sound even more grand than they did on the previous release, and they already sounded pretty fantastic already. “A Phantasmic Parade” is one of my favorite examples of how well the choir interplays with the other vocals. Simons has the majority of vocals here, but trades back and forth with the choir with seamless transition during the choruses. And then the bridge gets a huge dose of heavy which is when we get our fix of the growls as well. “A Phantasmic Parade” is a near-perfect representation of how each of these elements work together flawlessly on the entire album.
Epica’s overall goal appears to simply be to make an album that was ultimately better than Quantum, which could not have been easy to accomplish. One of the ways they did this was record the orchestra with as many acoustic instruments as possible, which includes all manner of strings, winds, drums and percussion. To my knowledge, Quantum only had an acoustic string section. But if you watch their behind the scenes footage showing the making of The Holographic Principle, you will see various shots of stringed instruments, brass, woodwinds, and even drums and ethnic percussion instruments. Maybe you won’t be able to notice a dramatic sound difference in the end, but the effort the band makes to present as much of an authentic experience as possible is palpable. I personally think it pays off in spades, and creates a vivid and engaging atmosphere when you listen to it. You never want to stop listening to it when you start, because you just want to keep hearing where the album is taking you.
Epica has truly crafted another masterful and brilliant work of symphonic metal in The Holographic Principle. I think anyone who has ever liked a little bit of symphonic music, or the score from a movie or video game would fall completely in love with this album and Epica. But make no mistake; this is full on symphonic metal, so it’s probably not for those who are just looking for something heavy. It has great heavy elements, but the purpose of the album is more for the blend of the melodic elements to the heavy. If that is more your area, then this might be one of the best albums you have heard in a long time. The Holographic Principle is certainly the best album I have heard since Epica released The Quantum Enigma.
"Universal Death Squad"