Epica - Requiem For The Indifferent

Nuclear Blast Records
Produced by Sascha Paeth

Four studio albums in and Epica have managed to achieve something that few other bands really do – all their albums are (roughly speaking) equally acclaimed by their fanbase. Everyone of course has their favourites and misfires, albums they personally don't like and albums they consider better than the others – but these are rarely the same from fan to fan, which is a mark of a good back catalogue. All four albums have their own feel even though they have a common unified sound. The band have gotten heavier as of The Divine Conspiracy, but much of that is down to production – what makes each album feel different is much more subtle and harder to put down, but each certainly has its own unique flavour.

Fifth album Requiem For The Indifferent certainly doesn't break from this tradition. The core sound that defines Epica has not changed. The balance between Simone's continually underrated siren song and Mark Jansen's formidable grunts has not changed, they've neither grown softer nor heavier. There are perhaps less orchestral elements but they are still present, as are the choral sections. The general structure of the compositions on the album have also not changed – there's the ballads, the 'radio single', and the lengthy, spiralling, progressive pieces that often make the core of the album.

What is noticeable however is that Requiem For The Indifferent is much more difficult than its predecessors. It doesn't go for sheer bombast, nor are the melodies predictable or even particularly commercially friendly. Lead single Storm The Sorrow is a great example of this – it is a difficult sounding song, especially considering it is meant to be a potential hit, and not immediate in any way. It is much more subtle and requires repeat listens to really get. Sometimes even after repeat listens the melodies still feel obtuse – Guilty Demeanor in particular sometimes feels laboured in its chorus melody.

There are some serious, major and noteworthy Epica songs on the album, though. Delirium, opening up with the smoothest choral sound the band have ever produced, might well be the best ballad the band have ever made. Simone's vocal delivery is the strongest it has ever been on this song, and the choir arrangements – impressive and complex throughout the album – stand as a real trump card of the band. There are perhaps three other songs that are worthy of closer attention. The album's title track, as per tradition, is a lengthy and epic song – but this time sitting in the centre of the album rather than the end. The middle-eastern themes allude to the political troubles in the region, whilst the song winds through a progressive masterpiece.

Two of the very last songs, Deter the Tyrant and Serenade of Self-Destruction, make for great closing themes for the album. Deter the Tyrant, with some prog-sounding lead melodies, is driving and full of anthemic vigour, adding an almost bouncy sounding guitar riff in its short verse breaks. Whilst certainly holding serious subject matter, the song feels brighter than typical Epica fair. The same can't be said for closer Serenade of Self-Destruction – a very dark, heavy sounding piece that exemplifies the messages in the album as well as some of the musical themes, as well as revisiting the middle-eastern melodies from the title track. Again, it is difficult, but also very rewarding once the listener has stuck with the song. Like previous Epica album closers, it too is a long, progressive piece.

The album's difficulty and obtuseness will be either its curse or the very reason the listener takes to the album. Whilst the band do have commercial sensibilities and there are indications of this on the album, one should not forget the band are primarily a progressive metal band – strong, easy melodies have come from Epica in the past but they are by no means the standard, as this album proves. So for some, this album will come as a disappointment as it simply isn't an immediate record – the (highly recommended) new album from Diabulus In Musica may be a much better choice, without straying too far stylistically. But for everyone else, the album has the same amount of depth as Design Your Universe – its an album that should take you a while to fully appreciate and discover. Think of it as the dark continent of Epica albums – not so easy to get into, but well worth exploring and investing the time and effort in the long run.

“ much more difficult than its predecessors ”

Tracklist: Karma / Monopoly On Truth / Storm the Sorrow / Delirium / Internal Warfare / Requiem For The Indifferent / Anima / Guilty Demeanor / Deep Water Horizon / Stay the Course / Deter the Tyrant / Avalanche / Serenade of Self-Destruction

Written by James Donovan
More: 2012, Albums, Female-fronted, Symphonic,

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