Epica’s latest release is something a bit different (and tha’s an understatement). It started out normal enough – in the summer of 2017 the band won a vote held by the Metropole orkest. This award winning Dutch orchestra were going to record with the winners. Given Epica’s use of orchestras in their albums this sounded like standard Epica. The band had other ideas though and chose to go wild and do something different. They’ve actually re-done “Beyond the matrix” from the Holographic principle album, and it’s very different from the original
The core of the song is clearly Epica – it’s got Simone’s distictive vocals and the music would feel at home on an Epica album (as it does in the original), but the start of the song really threw me on first listen – I genuinely thought I’d hit play on the wrong thing – the song starts with a Big Band almost Jazz sound before the drums start pounding and the guitars kick in, at which point you think “ok that was an odd intro but we’re onto the main part of the song now”, only to find you’ve been tricked as the big band sound returns and then merges with the band before the song really starts. Those big band sounds arent completely gone though and keep popping up during the song. The orchestra has been really well used, and there’s even a guitar solo from a special guest – Ayreon mastermind, Arjen Lucassen.
It really is a superb release – the song has been totally shaken up and it’s full of unexpected bits. I’ve only got one criticism of it and that’s nothing to do with the recording – it’s the way it’s being released. Apart from a couple of hundred copies on vinyl that sold out instantly, it’s only available as a digital download which will certainly annoy a lot of fans who prefer physical copies. I’d have happily bought a CD, but won’t be buying a download (a format I avoid).
1. Beyond the Matrix – the Battle
2. Beyond the Matrix – the Battle (Orchestral version)