‘The big bang is the beginning and the Omega is the where everything gets together, at that final point.’ Simone Simons singer of Dutch metal masters Epica explains to me when discussing the new album Omega. She could be just as well explaining Epica’s career never mind the albums gestation process.
Epica have sold upwards of millions of albums and played countless shows around the world making them arguably the greatest musical export the Netherlands has ever produced.
Starting from album The Phantom Agony in 2003 to the soon to be released Omega, Epica’s music takes you on adventures akin to a mythical warrior’s journey on the silver screen. Omega is no different, certainly in its creation.
‘Everything went well until the middle of March. We had recorded everything except mine and (guitarist) Mark Jansen’s vocals. So I had to search for an alternative close by while Mark recorded in Sicily at his home. Everything else – choir, orchestra – luckily had been done before we hit European lockdown. Joost van den Broek, the producer, was there via zoom, I could hear him on the iPad through my headphones and that was how we did it. It worked out wonderfully!’
The album itself is beautifully crafted with many of the compositions sounding like they are from a soundtrack to a movie, a theme that flows through the album. Lyrically the content goes deep into spirituality, philosophy and science.
‘’Abyss Of Time’ is a battle between light and dark, between our own spiritual freedom. Based on the demiurge that is trying to keep the soul trapped in an illusion. ‘Freedom – The Wolves Within’ is about the inner fight that we all experience in our lives between the two wolves. The white and black wolf. The white one is all things like peace, love, serenity and kindness while the dark wolf is representing arrogance, guilt and resentment . The one you give the most attention to will become stronger.’
It’s on Code Of Life where the philosophical question of where the world is going is approached within a specific context as Simons divulges.
‘Theres a technique called CRISPR. It’s a technique that allows scientists to replace DNA and it’s been happening for a long time. In China they’re creating designer babies, genetically editing embryos before they are planted in the uterus. They can genetically manipulate animals and species. I watched this very interesting documentary on Netflix called ‘A Natural Selection’, where they’re showing different aspects of what you can do with this technique. You can cure incurable diseases but you can also create super humans. That’s a little tricky. It’s very scary that this technique could end up in the wrong hands. The ‘Code Of Life’ is about human DNA but you should not interfere with nature.’
The album also completes the Kingdom Of Heaven trilogy which is where the movie world intertwines with the music world. ‘It’s the continuation of the kingdom of heaven concept where science and spirituality have to come together to try and find the true meaning of life. It’s like a 13 minute movie soundtrack.’
This is a unique facet to the music Epica create. This connection between movies and music in linked as shown with track The Skeleton Key as Simons excitedly explains.
‘This was inspired by the movie ‘Inception’ both musically and the story. You exist on many different layers and while you’re asleep you can visit those layers and explore your mind. You have the ability to do that, you hold the skeleton key to unlock the secrets within you. To set the demons free and explore everything you have inside you, when we dream the weirdest stuff at night. Thats the ambience in the song.’
‘Code Of Life, Rivers, Kingdom Of Heaven could all be used for a movie.’ Simons elaborates ‘We are huge movies fans, especially soundtracks. You can close your eyes and see the imaginary in front of you. ‘Code Of Life’ for example and it’s intro where you have these atmospheric vocals between Myrath and myself. That was inspired by Hans Zimmer who worked on ‘Gladiator’. I’m influenced by emotional chanting and was happy I could do a little of that on this record.‘
In the wildest of times in relation to being a working and touring musician, ‘what’s next?’ becomes a mute question however Simons is positive for the future.
‘Worldwide we are currently in the most weird and unusual position. Our patience is tested to the fullest. What gives me strength is we are all in this together and we have to come through this as a group to combat this. Music plays a big part, even thought we don’t have the live shows, and I really hope people like the record. That it can connect and inspire people through this awful time. Stay safe and healthy, hang in there, enjoy the new CD and we will see such other soon. Thank you for supporting us and listening to our music.’
Interview By Iain McCallum