Once a band has created its own unique sound, it is hard for said band to further develop it, taking it to the next level in each and every new album. While Epica is a part of those bands that has not taken huge steps in their evolution, they have still steadily built from their foundation, taking their skills and knowledge further and further into the future. That is even more evident in "The Holographic Principle", a album that measures up to a length of 1 hour and 12 minutes, containing 12 songs, which is a little less than half that the band has written over the course of the past year. The band is going big, and I could not expect anything less from the Dutch.
The first thing that strikes me with this album (besides that beautiful album cover, easily the best one from this year), is that sense of familiarity, yet still containing enough freshness to not feel like a deja vu. Yes, we still have the epic choir, the grand sound, the heavy guitars of Mark Jansen and Isaac Delahaye, and the incredibly stunning vocals of Simone Simons, one of the premier female singers on this planet, so there is really nothing ground breaking over "The Holographic Principle", but why fix something that ain't broke, just perfect it even further instead.
So yeah, it is pretty obvious straight from the start with the short instrumental "Eidola" and "Edge of The Blade" that Epica is not here to go wild and crazy, they are more or less as close to safe as one can be. "Edge of The Blade" is vintage Epica, a catchy and beautiful melodic song where all major elements gets their chance to shine. Yeah, you have heard it before, but it is still fine quality to it. The same can be said to the first released song, "Universal Death Squad", a song that I did not give too much about in the first place, but has really grown on me lately, with its interesting structure and great, but subtle, riffing.
And the album gets even stronger with "Divide And Conquer", a fairly complex song with lots of layers, and several cool stuffs going for it. It is one of few songs that Mark Jansen and his harsh vocals gets some room, and he kills it, cooperating with Simone in a fantastic way. But it is the chaotic ending, and the bone chilling choir that really makes "Divide And Conquer" a big highlight of this album. The goosebumps will surely hit you hard here.
After that though, the album takes a plunge. Not that the drop of quality is all the way down to the rock bottom, but it is a drastic one still, a bland mix of slower songs and uninteresting ones makes "The Holographic Principle"'s middle part a very dull one. It is a shame that this dip comes, because the band has good track record when it comes to consistency, and just hearing the band sounding like The Gentle Storm from time to time is not good at all.
The band does get back into shape towards the end with "Tear Down You Walls" and the 11 and a half long title track. The title track is especially interesting, because Epica is not well known for their mastodons, even if they have tried it before (like in their last album, "The Quantum Enigma"). "The Holographic Principle" was intriguing at the first few listens, but failed to grow. Still, a valid effort that ends the album in a good way.
"The Holographic Principle" is a beautiful record, but there is some smudge here and there that takes away some of the album's overall quality. The uneven quality hurts the album quite badly, and while the grand production masks some of the flaws, it cannot cover them all. The sound is still there, epic as always, but it might be time for the band to either evolve it, or just minimizing it, making the most of every second. "The Holographic Principle" is after all a fairly long record that does not last all the way through, and does not hold up against Epica's grandest creations. Still a good album, just not brilliant.
Songs worthy of recognition: Divide And Conquer, Edge of The Blade, Tear Down Your Walls
Rating: 6,5/10 Universal Death Squads
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