epica_1-2Lavish, Bombastic, Symphonic cinematic Metal…all adjectives could be used to effectively describe “The Holographic Principle”. This is the Dutch bands 7th release and admittedly the most ambitious to date. Everything from the tones/sound, the lavish production, the choirs, the deathly vocals are bigger, better and more ambitious than anything Epica has endeavored to date. Admittedly many fans absolutely loved “The Quantum Enigma” and even questioned aloud how would the band top that release? well Epica dug deep, pulled out all the stops and has made an album that is not only their best release to date, but in my humble opinion, one of the best metal albums of 2016. (Disclaimer: I’m a symphonic metal fanboy who loves this kind of music). What I love about this CD is…well everything. I love how they’ve incorporated the choirs and symphonic elements with the growling vocals and through it all have not lost their vision of crafting a great song with a memorable chorus. Simone Simons vocals are powerful yet don’t dominate the music. Same with Mark Jansen’s growling vocals, you don’t ever get the impression they are taking anything away from the songs. “Edge of the Blade” is the first song that follows the intro “Eidola” and the showcases Simone’s operatic vocals and the choirs that are used so effectively throughout this release. “A Phantasmic Parade” starts with a staccato string intro that leads into a blazing chorus and headbanging riffs. “Universal Death Squad” start quietly with a string/piano intro before the riffing begins. Again I love the symphonic elements the band has brought to the table yet the double barrel drumming and riffing gives this a heavy as hell sound. “Divide and Conquer” is my absolute favorite song on this CD. The chorus is so catchy yet the song is powerful and masterfully mixes the operatic vocals of Simone with the choirs and Marks vocals. Everytime I listen to this I find myself bobbing my head with the beat (Otherwise known as headbanging). “Beyond The Matrix” is another one that will please the headbanging crowd. “Once Upon A Nightmare” is probably the slowest song and allows Simone to showcase her vocal range flawlessly. “The Cosmic Algorithm” follows with a more uptempo tune. Next is “Ascension – Dream epica_1-1State Armageddon”, which is probably the heaviest song on the CD yet is as accessible as any. It’s a dark song with Mark’s vocals being more prominent on this track than others. “Dancing In a Hurricane” has a middle eastern flair to it and stands out as one of the mellower tunes on this release (it’s all subjective cause it still rocks). “Tear Down Your Walls “and the 11:36 minute opus otherwise known as “The Holographic Principle” – A Profound Understanding of Reality finish out this fine CD beautifully.

I can’t overstate this enough. This CD is brilliant. It’s well written and I absolutely love the production. That in itself is so huge. I look back at another well known symphonic metal band who wrote a fantastic CD but didn’t do it any justice because the mix on the vocals and guitar were weak. This release suffers from none of that. The guitar tone of Mark Jansen and Isaac Delahaye is thick and heavy. The choirs are lavishly done yet don’t dominate the disc. The sheer quality of the songs is staggering, you take a poll of 10 Epica fans and you might get 5 different answers (or more) for their favorite songs. It’s that good. Simply put, Epica has raised the bar for themselves and other symphonic metal and quite honestly folks, it’s going to be a hard bar to top. “The Holographic Principle” fires on all cylinders and doesn’t let up from beginning to end. An absolute gem of a disc.

Rating 10/10

John Ridge / Metalheads Forever Magazine