The name of the new album from Epica is Ωmega. With Epica you actually often know what you are going to get and by no means I think that that’s a negative thing. I’ve been following this band for a really long time and I can’t think of an instance where they disappointed their very loyal and ever-growing fan base by radically changing their course. However, while this is a strength, it could also in potential be a weakness. A band like Epica who has been around for almost 2 decades can easily fall into a routine and become predictable. Therefore, I was very excited to listen to Ωmega and what the album was going to bring to the table in their long-standing catalog.
What I immediately notice upon listening to the well-known instrumental intro Epica always begin their albums with and to continuation of that in the single Abyss of Time – Countdown to Singularity, is that once again there is a very prominent use of a choir. While this is not strange for an Epica album it really seems that the band hearkened back to earlier times. The choirs bring some grant and urgent feeling that immediately feels very cinematic and this continues throughout the whole album. This doesn’t mean however, that the aforementioned is the perfect example of this. No, it is clear why this song is chosen as a single. The chorus gets stuck in your head pretty easily and it is easy to sing along to. This is something Epica already did back in the day with for example the beautiful Cry for the Moon. But by comparison this song takes much more inspiration from the more recent Epica albums. And despite that the song still feels fresh to me for some reason.
Last year vocalist Simone Simons had a big role on a new album from Ayreon, Transitus. Here she showed that she is very versatile and professional and she continues to do this on Ωmega. In The Skeleton Key Simone’s versatility and that of the band is perfectly portrayed. A haunting piano melody, that is constantly present in this song, gives intro to the powerful grunts of Mark Jansen. You would think that this song will become very heavy but this is not the case. In the same melody of the piano, Simons begins to sing the first verse. It is all very menacing, dynamic and thoughtful, after which she begins to use her soft angelic voice in the chorus. The song is extremely well crafted and progresses fluently. In the second part it even has a child’s choir. Guitar solos are also present and the warm sound of Isaac his Gibson warms my heart.
I personally wouldn’t say that this album brings something that feels very new or that I am very surprised by the choices that have been made. But that still doesn’t mean that I think it is bad and it especially doesn’t mean that the album is uninspired or uninteresting. On the contrary. To me, someone who has a history of supporting and following this band, Ωmega feels like an album where lots of things come together. Memories of the olden days are fluently mixed with some of the more modern choices the band has been making through the years. If you have never listened to Epica before and you are searching for an album to find out what this band is capable of and the kind of quality and professionalism this band possesses by simultaneously getting to know what the band is all about, then Ωmega is the perfect album to start for you. And as for the more seasoned fans, it brings evolution and professionalism and individual development while staying true to the Epica formula. It has the accessibility from the more recent albums as well as the complexity of the older stuff. Simone Simons guides the band with her exceptional vocals and sheer determination. You can hear how she developed and challenged her voice over the years. I think this lady can only grow more and more in what she is doing because that’s the message she conveys every time she sings on the record or is on stage. But the other band members seemed to have had a great time recording this album as well and it seems that Ωmega gave every individual band member their time to shine. Take for instance the stronger presence of grunts by Mark Jansen that seem to be sung with a lot more freedom and heart than ever before. And then there is also the powerful and ever steady drums from Ariën van Weesenbeek. This guy is absolutely everything and continues to amaze me to this day! The band really feels like one unit and this has never been clearer than on the third part of Kingdom of Heaven, The Antediluvian Universe. On every Epica album there is one song that lasts at least 10 to 15 minutes which serves as kind of an epic showcase. In Kingdom of Heaven, everything comes together masterfully and by that I do not the only mean the elements that are present on Ωmega, but I have the feeling it also shows with how much dedication the band has worked on this album in these strange and troubled times. It feels like they devoted all their energies and their souls to deliver this album and to let the message of freedom of mind and body come across more than ever before. I can easily relate to this and in the crisis we are in now it is more important than ever!
There’s one more song I wish to talk about and that this the beautiful Rivers. This song shows, better than anything else on the album, how great of a singer Simone actually is. I can’t express how incredible I think her vocals are in this one. It is so beautiful that I encourage you all to listen to it, because to me it is without a doubt the best track on the album!
Aren’t there any negative points to this album than? Well, if I have to think of something, then it might be the fact that the massive choirs, at times created a wall of sound which felt to me like I couldn’t hear some of the details very well during the heavier parts. But all in all, Epica delivered a great album which perhaps is one of the best they made in more recent years. It also shows that even though we live in strange and uncertain times, music is the one constant we can always count on!
Thank you Epica!