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Epica - The Classical Conspiracy: Live In Miskolc Hungary

Label: Nuclear Blast
Format: CD
Released: 2009
Reviewed By: Mark Gromen
Rating: 7.5/10

Ambitious two-disc set from the female fronted Dutch outfit. Backed by a 40-piece orchestra and rarely heard 30 voice choir, the pair is almost split evenly between symphonic and rock. The initial disc features a dozen adaptations of classical masterpieces (including Handel, Vivaldi, Verdi and Edvard Grieg’s gradually quickening ‘Hall Of The Mountain King’), plus a medleys of film scores from Spider Man (only on the European edition), Star War’s ‘Imperial March’ and Pirates Of The Caribbean. While there are a few Epica originals to round out the first platter, the remainder of the two-hour set (all of disc #2) is orchestral enhancements of tracks throughout the Dutch sextet’s career. This is where Simone Simons can be heard, exclusively, both as vocalist and in between song raps to the crowd.

With the symphonic underpinning, Epica never sounded so close to classic (Tarja-era) Nightwish, something they usually avoid. The brief injection of gruff/death-lite male voices offers counterpoint on most tracks. Apart from the time limitations of a CD, it’s important that the discs aren’t split classical/rock 50-50, to at least expose everyone to a bit of culture. Before you run away scared, all the orchestral pieces are short and several well known (in DeBeers diamond advertisements, the aforementioned Grieg and others used within popular media). Apart from a few long hairs whooping it up, the instrumental section receives polite applause. With 28 selections all told (19 Epica compositions), there’s a sampling from all the albums (even the obscure, semi-orchestral to begin with The Score-An Epic Journey), although “The Divine Conspiracy” comes out on top, with five tunes, including the mammoth ‘Consign To Oblivion’ (12:06) and lengthy aforementioned ‘Phantom Agony’ (10:30). Might be too much for some, but those that stick it out are rewarded with unique listening experience. Imagine there’s a DVD floating around somewhere too.
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