Epica have matured like a fine wine with their eighth full-length effort, Omega. While the Dutch symphonic metal outfit always delivered excellence with each album, something felt disconnected in 2016’s Holographic Principle. Given, there were some golden tracks along with science fiction themes from “Beyond the Matrix,” “Universal Death Squad,” to “Divide and Conquer.” However, as a whole, it wasn’t as strong as 2014’s The Quantum Enigma. Five years ago, I remembered reading how the group wanted to continue with the style of their remarkable sixth album, especially with the enhanced orchestral arrangements. The Holographic Principle didn’t hold up to the natural transcendence and beauty captured in Quantum Enigma despite hearing more orchestrations. With that being said, Omega is the yin to Quantum Enigma’s yang.
The group’s highly anticipated album, Omega, which I was personally hoping for a fall 2020 release, has finally arrived on Friday, February 26th, via Nuclear Blast (order here). The only negative comment I have to say about this album is, it’s unfortunate no live shows are happening now because Omega would be incredible to hear live from beginning to end. Finally, this record is another flawless masterpiece filled with questions on life and intelligently mixed to bring the entire band to the front line.
Ironically, when I spoke to guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen, he explained how he wanted to bring back Quantum Enigma’s sound. The difference in the recording with this record was essentially, the group put their egos aside and wrote the music as a team. Omega proves the power of teamwork as there’s no disconnect. However, there are variations in melodies, which keep the listener on their toes, not knowing which direction we will hear, including songs “The Skeleton Key” and Rivers,” highlighting Simone Simons’ immaculate vocals.
A warning to Epica fans, you may need to have tissues when listening to “Kingdom of Heaven Part.3 The Antediluvian Universe.” The track was written in memory of both Jansen and guitarist Isaac Delahaye’s grandmothers. You will naturally think about your own grandparents or a loved one you lost while listening to this exquisite tune. This track lands towards the end of the album and, while some may say the record feels long, I say, don’t stop listening. The surprises continue as songs “Twilight Reverie – The Hypnagogic State” and “Omega – Sovereign of the Sun Spheres” drive the album to a near-perfect conclusion making you want to pick it back up to the beginning.
Sometimes, when you have high expectations for an album, you will be disappointed or need a few extra listens to understand its direction. When it comes to Omega, Epica has exceeded my expectations. I was a bit fearful and hesitant, wondering if I heard a similar disconnect in Holographic Principle. Don’t get me wrong; album number seven is not a bad record as I personally gravitated towards their Quantum Enigma style. While we won’t hear another The Phantom Agony to Design Your Universe, Epica has matured their sound with Omega leaving very little room to put in a critique. Omega had me during the first listen. Songs such as “Abyss of Time – Countdown to Singularity,” “Code of Life,” and “Freedom – The Wolves Within” will remind you of their older works but have a magnificent standout arrangement on their own.
Epica continues to amaze me as not only have they perfected their live sound in 2020, their musical craft has excelled to a level that I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure for album number nine.
Overall, listen to Omega, and embrace it from beginning to end. There’s no filler or mediocre tracks. Well done, Epica.