August 2, 2014 - 8:30 pm
With over a decade of touring and six studio albums, Dutch symphonic metal band Epica have established themselves as one of this genre’s leading acts. Fusing operatic female vocals with progressive and gothic elements, they created a trademark sound and acquired a cult following in the process.
Renowned for their intense live shows, combining bombastic soundscapes and striking visuals, Epica’s set at Byblos promises to be unforgettable.
Founded in 2002 by guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen subsequent to his departure from metal band After Forever, Epica’s first lineup also included Simone Simons on vocals, Ad Sluijter on guitar, Jeroen Simons on drums, Yves Huts on bass and Coen Janssen on keyboards.
Initially named “Sahara Dust”, the band produced a two-song demo entitled Cry for the Moon and got signed to Transmission Records. They later changed their name to Epica, inspired by Kamelot’s eponymous album. These two bands have a long history of collaborations and the singers of both bands have contributed vocals to the other’s albums on a number of occasions. All six members of Epica participate in composing their songs, whilst their lyrics are primarily written by Jansen and frontwoman Simone Simons. Their songs largely deal with philosophical topics, including science, religion, and world events.
Epica released its debut album The Phantom Agony in 2003. It spawned three singles: “The Phantom Agony”, “Feint” and “Cry for the Moon”. Their second release, Consign to Oblivion followed in 2005, and debuted at No. 12 in the Dutch charts. Influenced by the culture of the Maya civilization, it was composed with film scores as a basis, with Hans Zimmer and Danny Elfman cited as major inspirations. Two singles were released from the album, “Solitary Ground” and “Quietus (Silent Reverie)”.
Epica’s non-metal album The Score – An Epic Journey was released in September 2005 and is the soundtrack for a Dutch movie called Joyride, though it could also be considered to be their third album. Mark Jansen describes the album as typical Epica, “only without the singing, without the guitars, no bass and no drums”.
In 2005 and 2006 Epica went on their first tour throughout North America with Kamelot. After the tour, drummer Jeroen Simons left the band because of his wish to pursue other musical interests. He was later replaced by Ariën van Weesenbeek.
In September 2007, Epica headlined their first tour through North America and released their third album, The Divine Conspiracy, this time on a new label, Nuclear Blast. It included singles “Never Enough” and “Chasing the Dragon”.
In December 2008, guitarist Ad Sluijter left the band and was replaced by Isaac Delahaye in January 2009. In May of that same year, Epica released The Classical Conspiracy, their first live album. They followed it with studio album Design Your Universe in October 2009. It met with yet greater success, debuting at #8 in the Dutch Albums Chart, and charting across Europe, also garnering much critical acclaim.
In 2010, Epica set out on a World Tour to support the album, playing sold out concerts in the United States, Canada and South America. They also played the biggest rock and metal festivals in Europe, such as Wacken Open Air, Pinkpop and Masters of Rock.
Inspired by the enormous tension between different cultures, wars, natural disasters and the financial crisis, Epica released their fifth studio album Requiem for the Indifferent in 2012. Well received by critics, it was met with international success, entering the USA’s Billboard 200 at #104, and Japan’s Oricon Albums Chart at #172. A few days after its release, Epica announced that it was parting ways with its original bassist Yves Huts and replacing him by Rob van der Loo.
On 16 September 2012, the band made a guest appearance on the Dutch TV show Niks te gek (translation: “Nothing too crazy”), where mentally disabled people (18 years or older) can get their wishes granted. In the episode, they recorded, together with the mildly autistic Ruurd Woltring, one of his own compositions, “Forevermore”. The single was released on 25 September 2012.
On March 23 2013, Epica celebrated their 10th anniversary with a huge live event, called Retrospect, at the Klokgebouw, Eindhoven, hosting a live orchestra from Hungary along with special guests Floor Jansen and former Epica members Ad Sluijter, Jeroen Simons, and Yves Huts. It was live-streamed on the web and a CD and a DVD of the show were later released.
In May 2014, they unveiled their sixth studio album, The Quantum Enigma, their most intense and emotional release to date and the next stage of their ongoing musical evolution. This is Epica like you’ve never heard them before. The album’s lyrics were inspired by the idea that our physical environment is directly influenced by our consciousness. We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. Ultimately, everything in the universe is energy and energy is influenced by the mind. Therefore the mind creates and controls reality.
Those lyrical concepts, combined with the undeniable power of the music, ensure that The Quantum Enigma is not just an album, it’s an experience. Epica has earned its reputation as one of the foremost symphonic metal bands by repeatedly shattering expectations and pushing the very limits in the genre. Currently touring in support of this release, they will their unforgettable live show to fans across the globe. Watch out Byblos, here they come!