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Epica
The Divine Conspiracy

Company: Nuclear Blast
Release: 2007
Reviewer: Vinaya
Genre: Gothic, prog

  • Growly male vocals puts a major damper on this album



  • Now, this one is just plain frustrating! This ambitious entry into the increasingly crowded subgenre of female-fronted, semi-symphonic prog-thrash something-or-other pushes many of the right buttons--and not just the ones the record companies tell female-fronted metal bands to push, either. So who's to blame for this less-than-glowing review? Cookie Monster, that's who!

    At least that's the way it sounds. Thankfully, Epica's principal voice on record is the superbly smooth-voiced mezzo-soprano (so sez the press release) of Simone Simons, and when she's at the helm, the band sounds its best for it. Rudely interrupting the splendid pageantry on many occasions, however, is a male voice that sounds suspiciously like that gruff-voiced, cookie-craving, blue-haired critter from Sesame Street. Actually, the liner notes say it's rhythm guitarist and songwriter Mark Jansen who's to blame for the aforementioned gurgling, though the indistinct and decidedly unmusical sound his voice produces could easily be mistaken for Cookie Monster or one of his countless vocal imitators in the death metal genre.

    As you might have surmised, Jansen's tuneless growls drastically reduce my enjoyment of this otherwise well-conceived record. And it frustrates me as a reviewer, because the band members have obviously put a lot of work into The Divine Conspiracy, which combines typical female-voiced, goth-metal pomp and circumstance with elements of Dream Theater-inspired prog-metal and thrash. The execution is flawless, and the arrangements smart, particularly on "Fools of Damnation" (part of the multi-part "The Embrace that Smothers") and the album's first full song, "The Obsessive Devotion," which kicks in after a two-minute prologue called "Indigo."

    Honestly, I hate to sound superficial, but for me, that one bothersome factor of the growly male vocals puts a major damper on this album, which might have received another star or more from me otherwise. I admire the band's musical ambition and thought-provoking, sometimes introspective lyrics, but for best results I would recommend that in the future Jansen heed the advice of the late Frank Zappa--Shut up and play yer guitar!


    About this Writer:
    Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.

    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: EPICA
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Consign To OblivionEpica
    2005
    Ken Pierce1/16/2006
    The Divine ConspiracyEpica
    2007
    Vinaya Saksena11/7/2008
    The Phantom AgonyEpica
    2004
    Ken Pierce6/9/2004
    We Will Take You With UsEpica
    2005
    Ken Pierce1/2/2006
    We Will Take You With UsEpica
    2005
    Veritas8/17/2005


    ALL SUMMARY REVIEWS FOR: EPICA
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Requiem for the IndifferentEpica
    2012
    Greg Watson3/28/2012
    The Holographic PrincipleEpica
    2016
    Greg Watson11/1/2016


    ALL INTERVIEWS FOR: EPICA
    INTERVIEW BAND INTERVIEWER DATE


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