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Tag: female fronted

Review: Epica – The Solace System (EP)

Release date: September 1, 2017
Rating: average (3)

Line-up:
Simone Simons – vocals
Mark Jansen – guitar, vocals
Isaac Delahaye – guitar
Rob van der Loo – bass
Coen Janssen – keyboard
Ariën van Weesenbeek – drums

Epica, to me, is the best example of a band that steadily climbed towards success. Nightwish may be the better known band in the genre, but Epica make up for that with hard work – they seem to have been working harder than their Finnish counterpart have for the past five years. Just look at how well they have been developing. They aren’t just another symphonic metal band anymore; Epica have become a symphonic metal powerhouse with all the bells and whistles. Not only do they collaborate with highly acclaimed orchestras and choirs for their very well-frequented shows and studio albums, they also release well-produced videos and have one of the biggest metal labels at their side since ten years.

Epica have even been working so hard that they wrote enough material for their latest full length record “The Holographic Principle” to release an EP called “The Solace System” with the songs that didn’t make it to the album, and this EP is more than overdue to be reviewed. So my first question here is: Why would a band do that? If the material isn’t good enough to make it to a full length album, then it probably isn’t good enough for an EP either. Yes, that is a harsh statement, but these days, I don’t believe that any band can afford releasing mediocre material when everybody knows they can do better. (In this case, though, I do have to add that there are a couple of tracks on “The Holographic Principle” that sound like garbage.) Also, if Mark Jansen and co. are so eager to put out all the material they have been writing, I’d rather have a new Mayan album, as I always liked their quasi Epica-side project more.
Of course, this EP doesn’t sound bad: Take tracks like “Architect Of Light” and “Decoded Poetry” or the heart-warming ballad “Immortal Melancholy” (Epica are great at ballads in general) – beautiful tracks that could have easily made it to “The Holographic Principle” in my opinion. But the rest, and even the aforementioned tracks, sounds so typical of Epica it’s almost ironic. This doesn’t have to be a negative point – if that’s what you want, be my guest. For me, it’s just not enough.
Also, what in the name of God is Simone doing on this EP? Her voice lacks any kind of warmth and emotion. Yes, everyone who knows me also knows that I had a hard time getting used to her vocals until I finally had to admit that she does a pretty good job – sometimes at least. Most of the time, her vocals sound like charivari to me. Additionally, beginning with the last full-length record “The Holographic Principle”, her voice has increasingly been sounding way too autotuned and quite bland most of the time. I much preferred the vocals in Epica ten years ago – just listen to “The Divine Conspiracy” and you will understand what I am talking about. Back then, Simons’ long notes had power and grip to them. Now she is doing … whatever she is doing. I am not attempting to understand what that exactly is, but she is definitely struggling.

The main problem, however, is that Epica are getting predictable: Choirs, epic melodies, heavy riffs and confusing vocals, we know the drill by now. The purpose of this EP probably wasn’t pushing boundaries, I will admit that, so for what this is, it’s solid. I just can’t help but think that Epica have released much better material before. “The Solace System” is average – not more and not less.

Tracks:
01. The Solace System
02. Fight Your Demons
03. Architect Of Light
04. Wheel Of Destiny
05. Immortal Melancholy
06. Decoded Poetry

Review: In This Moment – “Ritual”

Release date: July 21, 2017
Rating: average (3)

Line-up:

Maria Brink – vocals
Chris Howorth – guitar
Randy Weitzel – guitar
Travis Johnson – bass
Tom Hane – drums

Maria Brink must be one of the most provocative artists in modern heavy music. While she is easily mistaken as someone who is all about shocking everyone with her looks, I truly acknowledge her genius: Few vocalists express their emotions as openly, very few don’t deter from addressing personal tragedies as directly as Maria Brink. I will always remember the lyrics and the video of the song “Sex Metal Barbie” – In This Moment turned all the hatred that the band ever received into one of their most powerful and equally disturbing songs. I am sure that many won’t agree with me, but I believe that Maria Brink is not technically a role model, but an important female figure in today’s music industry: She has many talents, does whatever she wants, isn’t afraid of criticism and has a hugely empowering impact on women who don’t fit into today’s society.

Alright, after my little sortie into feminism, let’s get into the music. People have very divided opinions on In This Moment, which is no surprise considering their style and their offensive lyrics. Ritual once again falls into that category: The music In This Moment are presenting on this record is very little different from what they usually offer, which doesn’t have to be a bad thing. However, that’s not the case when the music isn’t the best in general. To me, it always seems as if In This Moment have a lot more potential than they actually deliver. The aforementioned single “Sex Metal Barbie” showcases exactly the kind of energy, emotion and musical genius this band is capable of. Luckily, there are some tracks on “Ritual” that go into the right direction, namely “Black Wedding” featuring nobody else than Rob Halford. This song makes you want to dance and sing along immediately and the lyrics and the melodies just go together so nicely. The rest isn’t bad. It really isn’t. On the one hand, I usually can’t get the main melody of “River Of Fire” out of my head for at least six hours after listening to that song. In This Moment have also succeeded with their cover of “In The Air Tonight” originally performed by Phil Collins, as it really is a great mix of the original and their own style. “Joan Of Arc” and “Witching Hour” give me serious American Horror Story vibes, the atmosphere on these tracks is just amazing. “Oh Lord”, the first single off the new record, on the other hand, is a little unspectacular, just like all the other tracks on Ritual.

The bottom line is that this album doesn’t feel like one hundred percent. In This Moment are somehow stuck at seventy-five percent. Ultimately, I believe that if you enjoy In This Moment, you will enjoy this record, period. But after listening more closely, I can only conclude that this record will never satisfy a music enthusiast’s need for creative, unique and sophisticated songwriting. I will continue to listen to those three to five songs by In This Moment that I like and that’s it.

Tracks:
01. Salvation
02. Lord
03. Black Wedding
04.  In The Air Tonight
05. Joan Of Arc
06. River Of Fire
07. Witching Hour
08. Twin Flames
09. Half God Half Devil
10. Me Importa
11. Roots
12. Lay Your Gun Down

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