Epica - The Phantom Agony

Year of Release: 2003
Label: Transmission
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:51:00

"Pain and beauty are melted to a musical experience that will saturate all senses of the listener." With these words, the press release of the stunning debut album of Epica begins. A new chapter in the successful book of Gothic Metal is written by guitarist and composer Mark Jansen (ex-After Forever), so forget everything you have heard so far and prepare yourself for the awesome beauty of Epica. Inspired by the Arab culture, Epica brings a unique blend of classical orchestra and choir, brutal grunts and screams and the exquisite mezzo soprano vocals of Simone Simons. Produced by Sascha Paeth (Rhapsody, Kamelot), Epica has given the world one of the most impressive debut Gothic Metal albums.

From the moment you hear the first notes of "Adyta," you are captured by the beautiful and mysterious atmosphere of The Phantom Agony, where Arab and Latin influences are mixed with powerful drums and shredding guitars and garnished with grunts and screams by Mark Jansen. Vocalist Simone Simons is a true revelation, as she seemed to have walked right out of an opera, straight into Epica, and it is a pure delight to hear her sing. The use of a real choir as well as choir samples add to the atmosphere in the songs. "Cry For The Moon" has an intro that could have been written by Ravel, as it sounds a bit like the "Bolero," and is one of my highlights of the album, a "catchy" melody with lavish choir and orchestra, but also fast and powerful drums and heavy guitar riffs. The music of The Phantom Agony, reflects various cultures, but there is also room for a more serious topic, as "Fa?ade Of Reality," deals with the events happened on September 11, 2001 and small samples of the British Prime-Minister, Tony Blair, are mixed in the music. This combined with the, partly Latin, lyrics, gives you some food for thought. For a moment, you get the feeling that "Run For A Fall" is a real ballad, but no, in the second half the aggressive, but controlled drums and screams fall in, although only for a moment. "Seif Al Din" is an interesting song as it holds various influences: musically there is the Arabic sound in the orchestra, but also in the lyrics (La lllah lllallah, Mohammad rasul Allah), but there is also a strong reference to Rhapsody, by a spoken part by Simone Simons. And then, when you think you have had it all, they leave you with one last song, the title track "The Phantom Agony," which proves the saying "saving the best for last"! I think there are no words good enough to describe this song. This song is the very definition of everything Epica is and stands for.

Of course, if you listen to The Phantom Agony, you hear a sound which is very similar to After Forever, no surprise as Mark Jansen was one of the main songwriters in After Forever. Also in the artwork are references, like the snake and last but not least, three songs have as subtitle "The Embrace That Smothers Part ...," continuing the line from After Forever's debut album Prison Of Desire. However, do not make the mistake to view Epica as just a clone of After Forever! Epica is an entirely separate band with their own sound, that differs enough from After Forever, as it is less metal and more classical influences and quite different vocally. With superb production and great artwork, Epica is ready for the world. The question you face is ... are you ready for Epica?

Similar bands: After Forever, Nightwish

[This review originally appeared July 2003 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]
Adyta "The Neverending Embrace" / Sensorium / Cry For The Moon "The Embrace That Smothers - Part IV" / Feint / Illusive Consensus / Fa?ade Of Reality "The Embrace That Smothers - Part V" / Run For A Fall / Seif Al Din "The Embrace That Smothers - Part VI" / The Phantom Agony

Simone Simons - vocals
Mark Jansen - guitars
Ad Sluijter - guitars
Yves Huts - bass
Coen Janssen - keyboards
Jeroen Simons - drums

The Phantom Agony (2003)
We Will Take You With Us (2004)
Consign to Oblivion (2005)
The Score - An Epic Journey (2005)
The Road To Paradise (2006)
The Divine Conspiracy (2007)
Design Your Universe (2009)
The Classical Conspiracy (2009)
Requiem For The Indifferent (2012)
The Quantum Enigma (2014)
The Holographic Principle (2016)

We Will Take You With Us (DVD) (2004)
Retrospect - 10th Anniversary (DVD) (2013)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin NL

Added: December 19th 2004
Reviewer: Marcel Haster
Artist website: www.epica.nl
Hits: 1265
Language: english


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