Epica : Retrospect

Epica RetrospectIt’s hard to believe that Epica have been around for over a decade now. The Dutch masters of epic symphonic metal may not be to everyone’s tastes but they’ve built up a substantial following over the past 10 years, and few would deny them their place in the pillared halls of the genre’s greats.

Never a band to do things by half, they celebrated their 10th anniversary with a massive show at the Klokgebow (Bell Building, apparently) in Eindhoven. A suitably gothic setting for the band to mark their first 10 years in the business.

As is the way with these landmark events in any band’s history the whole occasion has been preserved for future generations in the usual multitude of formats including Blu-ray, double DVD and, of course, CD. Even if it takes three of the buggers to fit it all in.

And by “all”, I really mean “all”. This is one of the most lavish productions you’re ever going to hear. Epica take up a fair bit of stage room themselves, with the current lineup consisting of Simone Simons on Vocals, Mark Jansen on guitars and growly bits, Coen Jansen on Keys, Isaac Delahaye on guitar, Arien van Wesenbeel on drums and Rob van der Loo on Bass. Add to that the 70 (!) piece Remenyi Ede Chamber Orchestra and, because it’s not really EPIC without a choir, the Miskolk National Theater Choir.

There were fans from 50 different countries at the gig (according to Simone) and the whole experience must have been unforgettable. This is about as pomp laden, overblown and huge as a concert can get. The whole thing was filmed on no less than 10 cameras which have captured everything in sumptuous detail, a detail matched by the audio which is given a near studio-perfect mastering job by Jochem Jacobs.

As well as a visit to all points in their extensive back catalog via a selection of their greatest hits, the band include their takes on classical works by Vivaldi, Pergolesi and John Williams over the course of three full hours of music. Of course there are a number of guest appearances too, with Floor Jansen making an appearance and a never to be repeated reunion with founder members Jeroen Simons, Ad Sluitjer and Yves Huts for a blast through, what else, Quietus.

Watching a DVD on listening to a live CD can never be quite like actually being there, but the production job that they have done on Retrospect more than does justice to the full grandiose scope of the event. Put simply, this is one of the best sounding live albums I’ve heard in ages. Polished without sounding overproduced and with enough noise to keep the live feel, with Simone’s little talks between the tracks adding to the overall sense of occasion.

Retrospect is an absolute must have for fans of the band, and fans of truly great symphonic metal, and it provides a perfect recap of Epica’s first 10 years… and an introduction to what is to come in the next decade.