February 22, 2021 Epica – Ωmega (Album Review)
Dutch Symphonic Metal superpower Epica is set to release Ωmega, their first full-length in five years, on Friday, February 26, 2021 via Nuclear Blast.
Formed in 2002, the sextet has become known for massive, multi-layered compositions that cross genres fluidly as they enthrall listeners. Throughout the past 19 years, the band has consistently delivered exceptional new material on their seven full-length studio albums, a catalogue of material that includes their 2003 debut, The Phantom Agony, 2009’s Design Your Universe, and, most recently, 2016’s The Holographic Principle. Pairing moments of intense beauty and spiritual reflection with death howls and a massive Metal assault, Epica has built a proud name that holds a position in the uppermost echelon of Symphonic Metal.
And their eighth full-length studio offering, Ωmega, is no different. Produced by Joost van den Broek (Powerwolf, Blind Guardian) and Epica—Vocalist Simone Simons, Guitarist/Vocalist Mark Jansen, Guitarist Isaac Delahaye, Bassist Rob van der Loo, Drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek, and Keyboardist Coen Janssen—the 12-song disc explores themes of nature and spirituality, as it finds a muse within the Omega Point theory of unification. It is a bold undertaking, one that is perfectly suited to a band who has made a career out of their cinematic abilities.
Ωmega opens to the night stars twinkling in “Alpha – Anteludium,” an introductory offering that builds in tension to deliver us at the feet of proper first track, “Abyss of Time – Countdown to Singularity.” Taking the band’s signature Beauty and the Beast approach, it offers a powerful kick-off to an album that is chock full of soaring melodies and vicious howls, beautifully intricate compositions and incendiary Metal. Which is, of course, exactly what one would hope for the latest from Epica.
What follows is an insightful and spiritual journey through space and time, exploring within ourselves as we simultaneously observe humanity’s imprint on the world around us. Highlights of the adventure include the Gothic grandeur of “The Skeleton Key,” the ethereal minimalism of “Rivers,” and the cross-cultural “Code of Life.” With its glorious Middle Eastern influence, one that sees Epica employing the use of a sitar, there’s no denying that this latter offering’s carefully constructed layers echo its respect for the complexity of Mother Nature.
Then there’s the 13-minute “Kingdom of Heaven Part 3 – The Antediluvian Universe.” Easily worthy of an epic cinematic soundtrack (think series such as Game of Thrones or Vikings), the largely instrumental track inspires sweeping shots of a green landscape, one in which we can envision a wild horse racing towards snow-covered mountains in the distance. Delivering a healing energy that comes from the Earth herself, its message is relayed on the wings of Simons’ mezzo-soprano.
Though they ultimately opt to provide Ωmega with a grand climax, and, like night and day, Jansen and Simons lead the charge into the semi-titular “Omega – Sovereign of the Sun Spheres.” Heralded by brass, the band issues a pummeling reminder of their collective talents, each of their individual sonic personalities shining bright as we approach the potential for unification. It is a show-stopping moment, one that is guaranteed to allow the LP to linger in listeners’ ears long after its majestic conclusion.
From the gossamer vocal veil of “Gaia” to the folklore of “Freedom – The Wolves Within,” Ωmega tackles a plethora of themes inspired by spirituality and respect for Mother Nature; all topics viewed through the lens of humanity and the eternal battle of the light and dark within each of our souls. With its cultural defiance and globalist view, the collection destroys barriers as it stages its macro perspective with an open heart and open mind.
In this, Epica acknowledges the big picture, and appreciates all of its composite elements, as they seek to promote a natural balance. The perfect yin and yang of heavy and lofty, gossamer and steel, Ωmega is an enormously effective and truly magical experience. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Epica’s latest 5 of 5 stars.