Requiem For The Indifferent
09 March 2012
by Tom Dare
Proving that heavy metal still has much further to go than it thinks in shedding its chauvinistic image, Epica have for some odd reason been clumped under that dreadful “female-fronted metal” definition. It’s a label so meaningless it geta applied to everyone from Nightwish to Arch Enemy. And it’s stopped Epica for getting credit as widely as they should for quite how distinct they are.
In case you were one of those people who has written off Epica as another faux-gothic-symphonic-pop-metal band because they’ve got a singer with a lovely voice and two XX chromosomes, let’s just clarify what they actually do sound like. And it’s not Leaves’ Eyes.
A guitar tone that should scream prog metal to anyone with even a passing knowledge of heavy metal tropes play melodic riffs with plenty of crunch in idiosyncratic rhythms, occasionally flirting with some Eastern pentatonic tunes and the odd (albeit very subtle) nod to extreme metal, while Simone Simons sings gorgeous melodies over the top. At appropriate moments, guitarist Marc Jansen throws in some gruff (though not overly harsh) vocals, or a bombastic choir joins in, or there’s some light symphonic texturing. It’s cheerfully eccentric without being silly or twee, and that’s a difficult balance to strike.
The difference this time around is that Jansen’s been working out a lot of his heavier ideas in his fine MaYaN sideproject, with the result that Requiem For The Indifferent is a more melodic affair, but without sacrificing on heft. It also seems to have done wonders for streamlining the songwriting. While Epica have never been short of a melodic hook, on occasion they’ve not flowed into seamless songs all that smoothly. Here however, ideas are followed through clearly and completely, the result being songs that hang together much, much better, and are more thoroughly enjoyable.
Listen to ‘Storm The Sorrow’ by Epica:
They’ve brought some sodding great hooks as well. ‘Storm The Sorrow‘ is perhaps the most obvious insanely catchy number, but the gorgeous ballad ‘Delirium‘ and the declarative ‘Guilty Demeanor‘ run it close. It’s sufficiently varied and interesting throughout not to drag, or to be weighed down with flab where ideas too similar to each other mutually detract – there’s simply too many ideas for that to happen. This is exemplified by ‘Deter The Tyrant‘, which includes a recording of a speech by the late Libyan autocrat Colonel Gaddafi (though it’s probably worth pointing out that this was added to the album before his death), and highlights that Epica are still dealing with some weighty lyrical content.
Epica may have created some fine music in their career, but they’ve never nailed their sound with quite so much skill as this. Requiem For The Indifferent is tremendous fun, and the kind of album you can suddenly realise you’ve listened to ten times in a week and are still spotting new things you love about it. It’s chock-full of tunes, and skillfully written.
Doesn’t Sound Like: Within Temptation, Edenbridge, Evanescence
Standout tracks: Storm The Sorrow, Deter The Tyrant, Serenade Of Self-Destruction