After the monumentally massive splendour of The Phantom Agony (2003), Epica is now releasing the majestic successor Consign to Oblivion. On this album, for the greater part inspired by the Mayan culture, the group round mezzo-soprano Simone Simons and guitarist Mark Jansen break new ground. One thing, however, has not disappeared: the scintillating allure and rapture of the Epica sound. New is the enhanced accessibility and variety of the compositions (ranging from unadulterated gothic-metal to ballads). Mark Jansen: "This album marks Epica's growth into maturity. This is the album that I have always wanted to make. Now we've finally had the opportunity and the capacity to realize a project like this."
With the cinematic album prologue Hunab K'u 'A New Age Dawns', the tone is set. Together with the Epica Orchestra (an eight piece string orchestra) and the Epica Choir (six men/women strong) the Advent of a New Dawn is announced (Hunab K'u means 'The Origin of the Universe' in the Mayan language), subsequent to which, accompanied by thundering rolls of drummer Jeroen Simons, Dance of Fate bursts out. A dazzling piece of epic bombast, and with admonitory choir lyrics the Latin words proclaim: 'Novas portas pandamus, et post nos occudamus' (or in English: 'we should open new doors and close the ones that we've left behind'). Mark Jansen: "Call Consign to Oblivion a bombastic album for all we care. We have never had any problems with the word bombast. Epica makes subtle bombast and I am proud of that." As in so many of the songs on Consign to Oblivion, the fire of metal is linked here to the power of spherical arrangements, which are inspired by scores. Mark Jansen: "We have a great admiration for people such as Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman. They are the major composers of the great Hollywood films of this era. The sound of Epica is a combination of scores and elements from metal and rock."
Also beautiful is the manner in which Simone Simons opens up her soul and allows us to share her feelings on the displacement and alienation of a musician's life in the subdued ballad Solitary Ground. The delicate red-headed singer from Limburg sings on Consign to Oblivion with a grace and conviction which only highlights her undeniable star-appeal even more. Also, her dramatic duet with Roy Khan, singer of Kamelot, in Trois Vierges, which was written for the film Joyride, adds an extra dimension to the album.
The title of the album Consign to Oblivion refers to the Mayan culture. Their culture has literally been consigned to oblivion in the history of mankind more times than we care to remember, and yet there are always new people who take an interest in the philosophies and pieces of wisdom of the Mayan people. The fascination with the Mayan culture will never cease, whereas the Mayan people themselves already disappeared from the face of the earth a great many centuries ago. However, they did leave behind a great many prophecies, also about the times in which we live. The longest cycle of their time system comes to an end in the year 2012. Hence: A New Age Dawns. The Mayan people did not leave behind an unequivocal picture of what would happen after that date, causing this year to acquire a certain magical character. I have become convinced that anyone with an open mind will be able to achieve a higher level of consciousness come the year 2012. The growth to a higher dimension. Just take a look at all the people who are engaged in spirituality these daysâ€¦ Various songs have been built around this theme. Such as The Last Crusade, that is about the final convulsions of Christianity, which according to Mark Jansen has had its time and will soon be replaced by new forms of spirituality. Or Another Me 'In Lack'ech' about the Mayan perception that every wrong you bring on someone else will return back to you like a boomerang. For Mark explains: "You are another me. All people are interconnected." But there are also a great many songs about other subjects than the Mayan culture. Singer Simone wrote the lyrics for these. Simone Simons: "Force of the Shore is about people who are only concerned about their appearance and do not get around to the essence of life. People who hide their inner selves behind a mask." And Quietus? Simone: "That literally means the coup de grÃ¢ce. The song is about the choices life offers to us. Sometimes they are the choices of life and death. Every person must bear the consequences of those choices, however difficult that may be at times. Dance of Fate deals with a similar theme. Simone: "Some of us try to defy these consequences, but there is no avoiding them."
With all this spirituality in the lyrics, we should not lose sight of how tautly, torridly and overwhelmingly Epica carries on musically on Consign to Oblivion. The rhythm section (with Yves Huts on bass) couples sheer power with suppleness, the guitar riffs of Mark Jansen and Ad Sluijter pound away razor sharp, whereas the keyboards of Coen Janssen excel both in power and atmosphere. Also, we should not forget Mark's excruciating grunts, which work so wonderfully contrastive to Simone's beautiful soprano. On Consign to Oblivion Epica show themselves as an imposing and tightly-knit rock machine with almost Wagnerian power, proving in all aspects why the group is counted as the vanguard of international gothic-metal scene in the category female fronted. A glorious new album by a great group!