Marking 20 years since their debut album The Phantom Agony, Dutch symphonic metallers Epica are reissuing it in a handsome box set alongside early-2000s sequels Consign To Oblivion and The Score, plus a corset-bursting banquet of extra material. Here you can hear the gloriously overblown studio blueprints for even more preposterous live favourites such as Cry For The Moon, Trois Vierges and Solitary Ground.
For hard-core fans of the band, the main treasure here will be Live At Paradiso, a professionally shot concert and live album recorded in Amsterdam in 2006 but never before released, for unexplained reasons.
Perhaps Epica were unhappy with this performance, which captures a relatively inexperienced young band attempting their signature Wagnerian spectacle on a fairly modest budget, and it does plod a little during some of the more Andrew Lloyd Webber-ish numbers. Even so, this is still a slickly shot and mostly excellent set featuring low-key pyrotechnics, topless fire- breathers and multiple prog- metal guests.
Highlights include Force Of The Shore, which sounds like Rammstein covering Sparks, and a majestic Quietus, its thunderous sludge-metal waltz- core overlaid with dainty Celtic folk melodies that practically scream out for dwarves capering around a miniature Stonehenge. In a universe beyond good taste, Epica rule forever.