Dutch, symphonic metal powerhouse Epica have been getting better and better with each release, and continue this upward trend with this six song EP entitled “The Solace System”. The songs contained within here were written for their previous release “The Holographic Principle” but never placed on the album due to the band not wanting to release a double record. Explains Mark Jansen "Since we didn’t like the idea of a double CD, we finally decided to release an EP with six brand-new numbers, which were created during the creative phase of “The Holographic Principle".
Title track “The Solace System” opens the EP with a symphonic blast of orchestral delight. The band signal their intent from the off, tearing out of the gates with melodic complexity and choral arrangements. Vocalist Simone Simons is flawless and the melodies make this dense track very accessible. There is a lot going on here and Epica seem to be putting more and more detail into their songs allowing you to get more out of it with each listen.
“Fight Your Demons” is slightly heavier than its predecessor with chugging drums, scorching riffs and menacing growls, but retains its catchiness with synth stabs and a grandiloquent chorus. The contrast between the two vocalists is fantastic, with the backing growls working well with Simones atmospheric, operatic high notes.
“Architect of Light” is one of the longer tracks to be found on “The Solace System” and starts with, gentle, chimed keys before synths kick in and the track starts to build measure by measure. The steady punch and crispness of the verses and the gigantic choruses should make this a staple of future live shows. Once again, the ‘beauty and the beast’ vocals are on display as rhythm guitarist Mark Jansen provides more dark growls to work in conjunction with Simons’ superb, angelic voice, that add to the enormity of the song. The orchestration raises the intensity of the heavy instrumentation and you have a track that is equal parts beautiful, melodic and powerful.
Next up, we have some sublime bass work from Rob van der Loo, coupled with some fierce, precise shredding from Jansen and lead guitarist Isaac Delahaye on “Wheel of Destiny”. This vibrant track evolves into a half-time head banger and stands as a perfect example of what great symphonic metal should sound like.
The sensitive “Immortal Melancholy” is the brainchild of Mark Jansen and producer Joost van den Broek, for they wanted to create a guitar-based ballad as opposed to their usual, piano-based fare. This is also the perfect vehicle to show off Simone’s beautiful, angelic voice, which soars majestically over acoustic guitars and slight orchestration. It stands out on the EP and provides ample evidence of the bands prowess and versatility. It’s crazy to think that this was voted off “The Holographic Principle” but, alas, Mark got his wish eventually and the song sees the light of day here instead. “The whole song was written in an afternoon. I wanted to have this song on the album so badly, but the majority was against it and was voting for another track. So I'm all the happier now that the ballad finally gets an important place on “The Solace System!".
To contrast the beauty that was “Immortal Melancholy”, a fast drum fill takes us into the blockbuster “Decoded Poetry”. The lengthiest of all the songs, we’re treated to a tour de force of soaring guitars, relentless, pounding rhythms and seriously heavy moments. Mark Jansen’s brutal growls, for example, are at their harshest and darkest as he provides those moments of brutality that snap you out of the trance that Simone Simons beautiful vocals puts you in. The atmosphere that this songs creates seems, to me, to be the perfect way for Epica to close out the EP.
Don’t look at “The Solace System” as simply being a collection of songs not good enough for “The Holographic Principle”. The fact is, as mentioned above, they didn’t want to create a double album, and with self editing, comes the removal of quality songs.
"The listeners can expect a high-quality EP - with songs that are far too good to use them only as bonus tracks. We wanted to publish these songs together in a context. It is always hard to decide at the end of a recording process which songs will be on the album, because this means that you have to miss some songs with best quality, just because they do not fit quite well into the overall flow of the record or because there are other songs that are more suited to the lyrics," tells Mark about the dilemma of having to make a final selection.
“The Solace System” stands on its own as a fantastic addition to the Epica discography. The songwriting on display, and the execution, is up to the standards set by Nightwish and rightly puts Epica up alongside the veteran Finns. If you are a fan of symphonic metal then “The Solace System” is a must have to add to your collection.
Simone Simons | vocals
Isaac Delahaye | guitars
Mark Jansen | guitars, growls
Coen Janssen | synths, pianos
Arien van Weesenbeek | drums
Rob van der Loo | bass