Epica - The Divine Conspiracy
Nuclear Blast
Symphonic/Gothic/Operatic Metal
13 songs (75'36)
Release year: 2007
Epica, Nuclear Blast
Reviewed by Marty
Epica, along with other giants in the gothic symphonic metal genre such as Within Temptation, After Forever, Serenia, Tristania and Leaves Eyes all take a very similar approach to their music. Angelic soprano female vocals are mixed with harsh and aggressive male vocals in a style that has been labeled "Beauty And The Beast" metal. For their first three albums, Epica mastermind and former After Forever guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen has been trying to create something truly special and although previous albums had their moments, they had yet to finally deliver their magnum opus until now. Fuelled by the amazing soprano voice of Simone Simons, Epica has gone to great lengths with this new album The Divine Conspiracy with lush orchestrations, a more heavier and theatrical approach all topped off by a stunning production by veteran producer Sascha Paeth. The Divine Conspiracy is a concept album that deals with the idea that God created all the different religions in this world as a test in hopes that we would eventually be able to work out our differences and live in peace and harmony with each other.

The Divine Conspiracy is such a sprawling piece of work (clocking in at over 75 minutes), that it takes a few listens to finally settle in. The songs consist of a mix of speedy power metal, gothic heavy metal and lots of atmospheric choral chanting. A more overall theatrical effect is evident with this new album over previous work and as always, the stunning and angelic soprano voice of Simone Simons is the main focal point. Mark Jansen's harsh vocals take on an even more sinister tone than ever before with deep growls as well as black metal shrieks and scowls. Combining the two voices with a heavily orchestrated sound works very well and probably even better than ever for Epica. Many tempo and mood changes within each track add to the overall complexity of the album and is likely one of the reasons that it takes so long to finally "get" what this album is all about. Highlights of the album include Menace Of Vanity complete with its orchestrated march-like tempo combined with speedy segments accompanied by chanting female voices and harsh male vocals. Chasing The Dragon is the album's showcase for Simone Simons. Beginning with just her haunting angelic voice and acoustic guitar, it slowly builds in intensity, getting heavier along the way and eventually adds in some speedy sections that include black metal style blast beats combined with Mark Jansen's shrieking vocals. The blast beats in fact make several appearances throughout this album. The three part The Embrace That Smothers includes the tracks Death Of A Dream, Living A Lie and Fools Of Damnation with Death Of A Dream once again offering a virtual cornucopia of tempo changes, female/male vocal duets and strong powerful vocals by Simone Simons. Fools Of Damnation features Eastern chants and rhythms along with speedier segments and once again, Simone's vocals steal the show. A couple of tracks feature just the female voices with Safeguard To Paradise being a haunting piano ballad and Sancta Terra, a very operatic song with amazing choral chants and a mix of tempos. The title track finishes the album and it's a 14-minute epic that uses full orchestration with the speedy tempos weaving in and out once again. This one really has that "film score" feel especially with the quiet interlude mid song.

Overall, this album is definitely heavier, darker and more symphonic than previous work with the guitar tone more front and center and more prominent riffs for the songs. The album's length is a bit of an issue and if 10 or 15 minutes were to be "trimmed" and omit tracks like Never Enough (a blatant attempt at an Evanscence style of commercial gothic rock) as well as a few others that tend to follow much of the same formula as other tracks, it would be a better album. It's also another reason for this album's strong tracks to take a while to take shape. The tracks that truly do stand out are often due to stronger vocal melodies rather than the music itself. Epica has given us something that puts them just a cut above the rest with The Divine Conspiracy and is a fine example of one of the more modern metal styles that combines heavy metal with angelic female soprano voices, lush orchestration and just enough harshness with the male vocals to give it a slightly harder and more sinister edge. Touch it off with an overall gothic feel and you have a great recipe for an amazing listening experience......just maybe a little shorter next time guys......

Killing Songs :
Menace Of Vanity, Chasing The Dragon, Death Of A Dream, Fools Of Damnation and The Divine Conspiracy
Marty quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Epica that we have reviewed:
Epica - The Quantum Enigma reviewed by Joel and quoted 93 / 100
Epica - Requiem for the Indifferent reviewed by Khelek and quoted 86 / 100
Epica - Design Your Universe reviewed by Kyle and quoted 89 / 100
Epica - Consign To Oblivion reviewed by Ian and quoted 90 / 100
Epica - We Will Take You With Us reviewed by Ben and quoted no quote
To see all 7 reviews click here
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