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Epica - The Solace System album review

More octave-vaulting rock operatics from the mad-eyed lady of the Lowlands

Cover art for Epica - The Solace System album

Dutch symphonic metallers Epica don’t stray too far outside their heavily fortified castle of baroque bombast on this quick-turnaround sequel to last year’s well-received The Holographic Principle album.

A six-track mini-album that manages to sound both compact and cinematically huge, A Solace System once again makes fertile use of the strong textural contrast between the sonorous mezzo-soprano of Simone Simons and the bestial growl of main songwriter Mark Jansen, who also plays the rapid-fire guitar solos that serve as bridges between stacked operatic choirs and blasts of pure speed-metal grind.

Most of these thrillingly uber-kitsch compositions roar along at breakneck speed, with stylistic gear shifts that occasionally grind awkwardly. That said, both the title track and Decoded Poetry are exhilarating hard-rock cousins of Carl Orff’s ultra-dramatic modern-classical faveCarmina Burana, while Simons also gets to showcase her range on the fragrant orchestral power ballad Immortal Melancholy, an unusually restrained and lovely detour into romantic introspection.

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.