Since Epica announced a 10 year Anniversary show immortalized into a live DVD, I have gone to great lengths to get my hands on this show. People may not know that I am an extremely devoted Epica fan. Delain may be my favorite Symphonic Metal band as of now, but I believe Epica is my favorite band of that genre. If I had not seen Epica live in 2012 on their headlining tour, my music taste and knowledge would not be half of what it is today. Of all the bands I consider in my top ten favorites, Epica may be the most critical band to my music taste. They are vastly important to me in ways that I cannot put into words in a single post. They are life altering to me and so many people. Because of their lyrical content and passion for nothing but the music they so expertly compose, thousands of people from all over the world honor this band.
I had never been so impressed by a band in concert before Epica. I was reluctant to go to this show originally, because they weren’t my favorite at the time and I didn’t know the other bands. I went solely to support my brother, who is not ironically the biggest influence in my music taste. Somehow, he always knows what bands are the best for me, even if it takes me years to appreciate them. He knew that seeing Epica and the other bands were in my best interest, and thank every god in existence that he was right. That show began my crusade and journey through European Metal and every subgenre to go with it. After that show, I was inspired to research Metal on a deeper level and create a blog sharing my knowledge with the world. Because of Epica and the incredible show they put on, I found a new purpose to dedicate my time to. That is extremely powerful.
I feel like I’ve been on a journey with this band from the first time I heard Storm the Sorrow and experienced it live. It was very important that I at least see “Retrospect” on a DVD as soon as possible. Due to a recall of the first run of the DVD, shipping costs, and lack of availability in my area I was forced to wait two years to see it. Finally on vacation I picked up the DVD at a local record store in Denver. I watched it on a Sunday night with my family, insisting they at least experience this band once in such a personal way. It’s no doubt that I would love this live concert celebrating 10 amazing years of Epica, but I never expected to be reviewing it so highly.
“Retrospect” is a concert that celebrates and showcases Epica’s music over a decade of existence. In 2013, it was the 10 year anniversary of “The Phantom Agony”, Epica’s very first album. It was the perfect time to celebrate the special occasion. The band brought back the same 70 piece orchestra they used for “The Classical Conspiracy”, Hungarian Remenyi Ede Chamber Orchestra and the Choir of Miskolc National Theatre. This concert is unique to other Metal shows with orchestras, because Epica typically collaborates with choirs and orchestras on their albums. Also I was surprised to find that keyboardist and main writer, Coen Janssen, arranged 99% of the music performed. I find it amazing that the band had a hand in every single part of the show. It’s the most authentic version of Epica I have seen yet.
The band perfectly constructed a show melding the new and old favorites. They began the 170 minute concert with Monopoly on Truth, one of my absolute favorite tracks off of “Requiem For the Indifferent”. They jump back in time with Sensorium, then a little forward with Unleashed and Martyr of the Free Word. Unleashed is no doubt one of Epica’s live tracks, especially with the huge addition of a full orchestra. The power Epica provides has already wowed and awed you into a state of shock by the time they settle into another gorgeous melody. Chasing The Dragon performed live is a level of musical perfection I have only experienced a handful of times. They follow such a brilliant track with Presto, a dueling battle between lead violinist an Isaac Delahaye. This solo track is expertly performed as Yngwie Malmsteen intended Classical music and Metal to be combined. They rage on with Never Enough, then a brilliant operatic duet between Simone and special guest Floor Jansen. They expertly perform a favorite of Simone’s, Stabat Mater Dolorosa and show off their exquisite ranges. Epica follows up with the touching ballad and soundtrack Twin Flames, beautifully ebbing and flowing with an absolutely brilliant melody.
By far Serenade of Self Destruction is one of the best Epica songs, and of course they play it masterfully live with a raging passion. I absolutely love this song and the live version is on a whole different level. It seems to be darker and more untamed, the band coming undone in such a perfect way. They also bring Floor back out for the heavy thrashing jam, Sancta Terra, becoming even more mesmerizing. They continue on, showcasing more of the orchestra’s talent as well as Coen’s signature sound for Epica. They also perform a song especially written for this show called Retrospect, a tribute to the good and hard times in a decade of Epica. Quietus was absolutely breathtaking as well on this show.
Overall, “Retrospect” is a DVD that will be forever hard to top in quality and wow factor. People complain that Simone isn’t as good live or that their light show distracts from the band. I honestly do not understand these complaints. Simone is one of the best vocalists I’ve seen live and puts immense emotion into her vocals. It is rare to see such a highly regarded and trained vocalist still show passion and personality. The ability to deliver lyrics directly to a crowd and through a screen is something that cannot be taught however, and Simone absolutely captures the audience with every word. “Retrospect” solidifies that Epica is one of the greatest Metal bands of all time.