For almost two decades Simone Simons has been pushing boundaries with Epica, the symphonic metal heroes matching orchestral grandeur with high concept prog metal. With each new release pushing the band's artistry to new levels, its little wonder they have become steadfast heroes of the symphonic metal world, scaling back none of their conceptual ambitions whilst still exploring prog-death elements that maintain their ties to the underground.
The band's seventh studio album The Holographic Principle honed these elements to stunning effect, rewarding them with a top 10 charts placement in their native Netherlands when it peaked at No 4. Hammer spoke to Simone Simmons to find out just how they keep raisin their game...
The Holographic Principle was your seventh studio album. Does it get harder to keep raising your game?
“With each album, we challenge ourselves to become better musicians. Every album is a record in time of who we are at that moment, and The Holographic Principle was conceived during an extremely busy time in our career; in between touring we’d be in the studio, and on tour we’d be working on songs with our producer, Joost [van den Broek], who came with us so we could meet deadlines. So The Holographic Principle is a high-energy album – almost hyper-energetic! – but there are some awesome songs on it.”
There was a five-year gap after The Holographic Principle – a lengthy hiatus for Epica. What triggered that?
“We felt a little burnt out. We learned from The Holographic Principle that it was impossible to keep that up. We were like a machine, pooping out albums every two years and touring the world simultaneously! Some of us have kids now, so we all decided we wanted a little break from touring and songwriting with a deadline. That was the biggest thing that we learned; we were going at such high speed, it was getting a bit much.”
Which song are you most proud of, vocally?
“I really love the ballad Once Upon A Nightmare. When I wrote the lyrics, I had no clue what I was going to write about, and my husband said, ‘Why not draw inspiration from The Elder King?’ Which is basically a very dark fairy tale that describes this white creature taking away little children in the middle of the night. I became a mother after The Quantum Enigma , and I thought, ‘I like [this song]’, but afterwards I was like, ‘No, I don’t like this! Now I’ve got to sing this song that’s reminding me of this creepy thing!’ But it’s art. All our music and lyrics are personal to a certain extent, but I had to disconnect from that in order to be able to put the right emotion into that song, but not make it too personal.”
What’s your standout memory of making The Holographic Principle?
“The timing of it was bad for me because I had a cold, so I was struggling with sniffles, but my voice was still powerful. Sometimes you get lucky – you get sick but you can still perform, and sometimes you feel good but the voice is gone. My most vivid memory was on the tour, when I was almost set on fire. It was in Tilburg during our 1,000th show, so of course we added pyrotechnics and all that great stuff. At the ending of the album’s title track there was a curtain of sparklers coming down, and I was standing right underneath it, singing away, thinking, ‘Why is my scalp burning?’ That was not so nice! But I enjoyed the whole cycle of the album; I could go crazy with outfits and make-up. Because ‘holographic’ is all the colours of the rainbow, I could go completely nuts!”
Epica's live album Omega Alive is due December 3 via Nuclear Blast