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EPICA 'We Will Take You With Us' 2 meter sessies/Transmission Records (2004)

When guitarist Mark Jansen left Dutch Gothic/Symphonic Metallers After Forever and struck out on his own to eventually form Epica, he took with him the vision of epic, symphonic metal which After Forever demonstrated so well in the form of their second album, Decipher. Epica’s debut album ‘The Phantom Agony’ was released in June 2003 and its entry in the Dutch charts quickly established the band as one of the rising stars of the Dutch metal scene.

Largely as a result of their quick success, the band were invited to perform a partly acoustic session for the ‘2 meter sessies’, a music program on RTL Nederland, which has hosted sessions by numerous bands over the years including names as big as Radiohead and The Counting Crows. This album is the product of those sessions, at which the full band performed 6 tracks from ‘The Phantom Agony’ and a further 3 songs in acoustic format. In one sense it is a live album, but it is a live album performed in a studio and without an audience.

The 6-piece outfit produce music that is often labeled as Gothic metal, yet is perhaps better described as epic, symphonic metal. Not epic in the sense of Rhapsody, but certainly the subject matter is quite profound and the music is very dramatic, making heavy use of symphonic samples and the interplay between the soprano vocals of Simone Simons and the grunts and growling of Mark Jansen. The album opener ‘Façade of Reality’ is a perfect example of this. The subject matter is the tragedy of 9/11 and the aftermath and the dramatic music makes excellent use of the orchestral samples, the full heaviness of the band and some speech samples from our own Prime Minister, Tony Blair.

Shorter tracks such as ‘Sensorium’ and ‘Illusive Concensus’ demonstrates the softer side of Simone Simons voice, but it is on the longer songs such as ‘The Phantom Agony’ that the band is able to use its full bag of tricks. Overall the result is different, but not substantially different to the studio versions of these tracks, so for most fans, the main interest will be in the acoustic numbers of which there are three.

The first of these is the non-album track ‘Feint’, which was issued as a single, earlier this year, but far better than that are the acoustic takes on 'Run For a Fall’ and ‘Memory’, a cover of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice Number. Here the accompaniment is provided mainly by Coen Jansen at the piano with a little acoustic guitar and some airy backing vocals leaving plenty of space for Simone to demonstrate why she is one of the most promising female vocal talents on the scene today. Tackling such a well known number was rather brave of the band, and in particular mezzo soprano Simone, who is only 19 years old, but she pulls it off very well indeed.

The CD will be available in various digibook and jewel-case version, packaged with and without a DVD of the performance. The DVD will also contain the two videos which the band made to promote their singles, however the CD alone is probably only of interest to the completist.

Band website

*** ½

Review by Charlie Farrell

***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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