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Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Reviews: Epica, Steven Wilson, Raveneye

Epica: The Holographic Principle (Nuclear Blast)

"The holographic principle is a property of string theories and a supposed property of quantum gravity that states that the description of a volume of space can be thought of as encoded on a lower-dimensional boundary to the region—preferably a light-like boundary like a gravitational horizon. First proposed by Gerard 't Hooft, it was given a precise string-theory interpretation by Leonard Susskind who combined his ideas with previous ones of 't Hooft and Charles Thorn"

How does this translate into symphonic metal I hear you ask? Well Epica have always been much more than a mere symphonic metal band, their use of cinematic arrangements as counterpoint to the metallic backing. The brainchild of Mark Jansen and Simone Simons Epica seem to get more and more exciting and adventurous with every album.

The lyrical concepts they deal with mean that the albums have to be played repeatedly to let you hear every nuance, every change of pace every instrument and folks there are a lot of those on this record, even on more stripped back songs such as Once Upon A Nightmare which pairs Simons' soaring soprano with a solitary piano the full live orchestra the band have enlisted for this record stir in the background, the orchestral elements arranged by keyboardist Coen Janssen.

On the more full flight songs such as Edge Of The Blade they have the the full orchestral backing and the PA'dam Chamber Choir to contribute the backing vocals, this means the distinctly Maiden like track is bolstered tenfold by the classical instrumentation. The choir are also a major part of Beyond The Matrix topping the swaying music below. In contrast to Simons' angelic vocals both Jansen and drummer AriĆ«n van Weesenbeek provide the harsh grunts and roars, witnessed at their most visceral on the antagonistic Divide And Conquer. On the electrified side of things Jansen (guitar), Weesenbeek and Rob van Der Loo (bass) are the storming engine room. 

Theblast beats coming from Weesenbeek are intense with Jansen and Van Der Loo riffing like mad on Universal Death Squad and The Cosmic Algorithm which also displays the lead guitar prowess of Issac Delahaye who also contributes mandolin, balalaika, bouzouki, ukulele bolstered by Jack Pisters' sitar to the Eastern influenced Dancing In A Hurricane. At 12 tracks on the normal release, the special edition takes it to 17 with lots of bonus alternate versions, this record can be a lot to take in especially the final 11 minute title track which serves as fitting, ambitious end to this record, but give it the time it deserves and it will reveal itself to be one of the most majestic albums of the year. 9/10

Steven Wilson: Transience (KScope) [Review By Paul]

Steven Wilson is not one to rest on his laurels. Aside from working on the follow up to 2015’s stunning Hand. Cannot. Erase and the highly anticipated Blackfield V, he’s found time to release Transience, a 14 track “taster introduction” to his work. I suppose it could be classed as a greatest hits package, save for the fact he doesn’t have “hits”. The album contains tracks from all of his solo releases, starting with 2008’s Insurgentes (Harmony Korine, Significant Other and the title track) through to this year’s mini-album 4 ½ (Happiness III). The album features the talents of Nick Beggs, Guthrie Govan, Adam Holzman and Marco Minnemann and focuses on the softer, more acoustic side of Wilson’s work. Interestingly, the three tracks from 2011’s Grace For Drowning are much easier to listen to here, standing proudly independent of probably the most difficult of Wilson’s albums. Postcard for example, with its beautiful synth work and melancholic vocal just soars. Ever the perfectionist also adds his cover of Alanis Morrisette’s Thank You, which first appeared as a single in 2003 but more recently surfaced on Cover Version. It’s a quality album, and if you don’t know Mr Wilson’s work, a perfect introduction to one of the most incredible musicians of all time. 8/10

RavenEye: Nova (Frontiers Records) [Review By Paul]

Few albums can have been more anticipated than the full debut of RavenEye, the power trio formed in 2014 by super blues guitarist Oli Brown and I can honestly say that the wait has been thoroughly worth it. Last year’s EP Breakin’ Out whet the appetites but the main course is a much more satisfying dish. Brown and his trusty lieutenant Aaron Spiers (bass and backing vocals) are now completed by drummer Gunnar Olsen and have delivered 11 tracks of absolute quality rock. From the raging opener Wanna Feel You through to the much calmer closer Eternity, there isn’t a duff track on the album. The style is pretty straight forward, but oh so much more complex when you peel away the layers. Subtle time changes and styles underpin an album that reeks of excellence.

We know that Brown is an excellent guitarist but his work here shows a maturity that can only come with the practice and effort gained from the extensive and no doubt exhausting touring schedule these guys have put in over the past two years. Nova hints at some of the influences within the band whilst retaining its own individuality. Nowhere is this more apparent than on Supernova, with its huge Alice in Chains/Soundgarden feel somehow comforting and reassuring. However, the RavenEye stamp is clear on every track; this is no tribute album. The musicianship is tight and the production of Warren Riker excellent. Having heard most of these tracks in the live arena, its already clear these guys can cut it live. I’m looking forward to seeing the guys again in Cardiff at the end of the month. A stunning debut from one of the UK's most exciting bands. 10/10

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