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The Divine Conspiracy

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Album Review

After two albums of generally finely crafted symphonic metal, Dutch ensemble Epica decided to indulge their orchestral kinks to the fullest with 2005's metal-free The Score: An Epic Journey, but they are back to their usual, genre-meshing stomping grounds with 2007's The Divine Conspiracy, which many fans will likely consider their proper third opus. Whatever the case may be, the album gets under way with the entirely symphonic "Indigo" prologue, before slamming into the metallic portion of the program with "The Obsessive Devotion." This, in typical Epica fashion, showcases not only the angelic soprano of Simone Simons, but also a manly baritone choir and ever more demonic death grunts from bandleader Mark Jansen — all of them juggling lyrics in English and Latin! As with all of The Divine Conspiracy's — and indeed Epica's — best tracks (here including "Fools of Damnation" and "Sonata Terra"), the attraction ultimately hinges on exploring the sonic contrasts of light and dark; the punishing intensity of those elephantine guitar riffs and hyperactive drumming cast against the soaring, layered sweetness of the orchestrated strings and keyboards. Remove these contrasts and the fireworks they ignite, and largely uniform offerings like the ballads "Safeguard to Paradise" and "Chasing the Dragon" (overlong, featuring a brief black metal freak-out, and not about a great big lizard, believe it or not) simply leave one wanting more. Similarly, Epica still struggle to compete with hit-penning machines like Nightwish or Within Temptation when it comes to commercial singles with overpowering hooks (see the merely serviceable "Never Enough"). And just when you think Epica had escaped the shadow of the band that spawned them, After Forever, along comes the ambitious but uneven four-song suite titled "The Embrace That Smothers," which, actually originated in Jansen's former group (even though its first five installments appeared on Epica's debut). All that being said, give Epica credit for staying the course (winding as it may be) long enough to deliver the crowning achievement of their career thus far in The Divine Conspiracy's colossal, multi-faceted, 14-minute title track, which closes this LP. Now, if they can only maintain that stellar form for the duration of their next album, things could get really interesting.

Customer Reviews

Finally!

Epica's most amazing album to date is FINALLY on iTunes! Epica is a very unique band, to those of you who are unfamiliar with them. With classically-trained vocals, howling grunts, crunching guitars, theatrical orchestras, and a 14 minute epic, what more could you possibly ask for?? Track-by-track review: Indigo - 8/10: An instrumental intro. Not the best instumental track Epica's ever done, but not bad either. The Obsesseive Devotion - 10/10: Great track. One of Epica's best to date. The contrast between the opeartic female vocals and deathly male howls sends shivers down the spine. Menace of Vanity - 9/10: Great choral track. Most of the track is sung by a chorus, which brings back memories of Mother of Light. Chasing the Dragon - 9/10: Beautiful piano ballad. Gets stronger towards the end, with the orchestra picking up. Reminds me of Feint and Trois Vierges. Never Enough - 9/10: Great radio track. A little more on the pop side, but not so much that it's unenjoyable. La-Fetach Chatat Rovetz - 8/10: Sort of like an intermission? Another instrumental track. Not amazing, but not awful either. Death of a Dream - 9/10: Another great choral track. Lots of great contrast between male&female again as well. Powerful & fast. Living a Lie - 9/10: Lots of chanting, great guitar riffs. Fools of Damnation - 10/10: My personal favorite on this album. Simone really shows off her vocal talent in the chorus of this song. Fans of Evanescence's Call Me When You're Sober will enjoy it immensely. Starts out with some chanting, sounds a little Egyptian, then gets right into the great vocals. Beyond Belief - 9/10: Simone's beautiful voice presides over the rather sadly-atmosphered track. Safeguard to Paradise - 9/10: Another amazing piano ballad. Again, fans of Feint & Trois Vierges will be very pleased. Sancta Terra - 9/10: Very fun song, with quite catchy chorus and music. Showcases Simone's voice very well. The Divine Conspiracy - 15/10: A 14-minute epic. It includes everything that Epica is known for. Latin passages, crunching, pounding guitars and riffs, great male/female contrast, beautiful vocals, lots of chanting, and the use of an amazing theatrical-sounding orchestra. DEFINATELY worth buying the whole album for, so don't miss out on it! All in all, this album is worth every single last cent. So buy the whole thing!! Similar Artists: Nightwish, Xandria, Within Temptation, Evanescence, Delain, Luca Turilli's Dreamquest, Visions of Atlantis, Etc.

Could be so much more

The only reason I don't give this album 5 stars is because it is so chock full of ridiculous death vocals. They're just out of place the vast majority of the time. They rarely add anything (beneficial) to the music; indeed, they mostly serve to detract from it. The arrangements are beautiful, as are Simone's vocals. This band could be so much better if they eliminated or significantly limited the monotonous grunts and "demon" screams. If the male vocalist can sing for real, then by all means he should - I love a good hard rock/metal male voice in counterpoint to a female vocalist - but the death stuff is, quite frankly, just silly.

A Nightwish clone? Not quite.

This band is far different from Nightwish. Any discerning ear could tell the difference. This isn't my favorite Epica album (Consign to Oblivion, anyone?), but it's still pretty good. The contrast between Simone's gorgeous voice and the growls continue to be exciting, and the songs all have a medieval feel about them. My only complaint is that a few of the songs aren't quite memorable. Not quite filler, but just not awesome enough to make me jump for joy over the album. Still pretty good, though; I thoroughly enjoy it each time I listen.

Biography

Formed: 2003 in Reuver, Netherlands

Genre: Metal

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Originally calling themselves Sahara Dust, Holland's Epica formed in early 2003 when After Forever guitarist Mark Jansen decided to break away from the group he had helped found in order to start an operatic metal project all his own. After drafting teenaged mezzo-soprano Simone Simons, guitarist Ad Sluijter, keyboardist Coen Janssen, bassist Yves Huts, and drummer Jeroen Simons, Epica entered Wolfsburg, Germany's Gate Studio with a classically trained choir and...
Full Bio
The Divine Conspiracy, Epica
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  • $9.99
  • Genres: Rock, Music, Metal
  • Released: Aug 28, 2007

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