The first time I heard this album, I was completely blown away. The second, third, and now tenth time I have heard this album, I’m still blown away. This is symphonic rock/metal taken to astronomical heights, complete with superbly composed music, incredible production quality, and what is now one of the most gorgeous, refined voices in the genre. Simone Simons sings like a siren on this CD, and your jaw will be dropped by how good she sounds. There are also grunts performed by Mark Jansen, which are entirely effective and add that special edge to the music. The chorus is spectacular, as is the orchestra, here utilized to perfection. The whole album clocks at a healthy 75 minutes, and not a second is wasted.
1. Indigo (5/5) The best introduction Epica has ever done. A haunting, strings-driven choral piece, it perfectly sets up the tone for the rest of the album.
2. The Obsessive Devotion (5/5) This one plain-old rocks. Grunts and guitars drive it for an adrenaline-packed seven minutes, and Simone is heard for the first time. And boy, does she sound good.
3. Menace Of Vanity (4/5) A little generic and a bit similar to the previous track, but it’s still quite good.
4. Chasing the Dragon (6/5) I think this might be my favorite. It maintains a spellbinding beauty for all of its seven and a half minutes, and you never do want it to end. Simone has never sounded better than she does here, with a huge range of the utmost purity and sweetness in her voice. The climax here also rocks, just for the record.
5. Never Enough (4.5/5) The first single off of the album (and if you want to check out the video, make sure that you see the vastly superior extended version). Though it’s probably the most commercial song here, it lacks not in quality or catchiness. A passionately sung, vengeful piece of music, it features some fantastic Arabic flourishes and a concluding note by Simone that packs more power than a steamroller.
6. La’fetach Chataz Rovetz (4.5/5) A rare instrumental piece, and quite a nice break. It is tranquil yet engaging, exotic yet very pleasing to hear.
7. Death of a Dream (5/5) A harrowing, ferociously beautiful song. And surprise surprise, Simone sounds incredible.
8. Living a Lie (5/5) Another great one, featuring Latin and Gregorian-sounding chanting to add to the effect.
9. Fools of Damnation (6/5) I don’t think Epica songs get better than this song. It’s incredible, with savage grunts, heavy Arabic influences, some wicked cool organ playing, and blindingly captivating singing.
10. Beyond Belief (4.5/5) Some particularly good singing and guitar here, though the voices in the middle are a tad out of place.
11. Safeguard To Paradise (5/5) A lovely ballad, almost dripping with the beauty of Simone pouring her heart out against the strings section.
12. Sancta Terra (5/5) More Arabic influences here, with exceptional harmonies between Simone and the choir (and the men in the choir sound especially good).
13. The Divine Conspiracy (5.5/5) The title song puts the “epic” in “Epica.” Yes, it’s 14 minutes, which might be a little daunting, but how could it claim to be epic if it wasn’t? An orchestral intro and outro frame this masterpiece, which itself is everything you could ever hope for. I’ll leave it at that.
If you want to buy this CD just because Simone is au naturel on the cover, go right ahead. But I promise that you will be in for much more of a treat than just that.