Epica - The Holographic Principle

Metal and classical music share a lot of similarities, and when they come together it makes something amazing. Epica are the masters of it, the symphonic metal group proving so with their seventh album, The Holographic Principle.

The Holographic Principle is a concept album of sorts. Not in the storytelling way, necessarily, but thematically. The album is set in a universe created digital generated though a hologram. Guitarist Mark Jansen continued the explanation, saying that the theory is possible, even discussed by scientists.

The music certainly plays to the theme. Riddled with dramatic, cinematic orchestras and larger than life soundscapes, this album truly sounds like a space opera put to an album. The intro track puts it all into perspective. The blaring horns of ' ' and its pounding drums create an epic cinematic scene, as if you're watching an armada descend onto Earth as an interstellar war begins. The theme continues with single 'Edge Of The Blade', symphonic punctuations adding Simone Simons' huge vocals and the massive choruses. 

Cinematics continue in 'Universal Death Squad', the pretty intro leading to thumping drums and an electric guitar solo. The album's ending 'The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding Of Reality' summarizes the album sonically, big orchestras and epic guitars building up its huge eleven minute run time. While massive, it does feel... inconclusive in the end.

What the issues sees in its latter half is a continuously underwhelming experience. Not necessarily in the way of saying the songs aren't big, but in the way that the beginning of the album was so huge that it set a big precedent that the album just didn't live up to. 'The Cosmic Algorithm', for example, as a standalone is a big song, but feels underwhelming when listening through the album. The song's slightly more uplifting, if not just generally more positive than other tracks.

There's some experimentation on the record, too, giving it some flavor. 'Dancing In A Hurricane' has eastern vibes, adding some adventurous and mysterious scenes to the already action packed album. Quieter, sweet moments can be found in the bridge of 'Beyond The Matrix', serving as a reprieve from the chaos of this spacial war, while the acoustic track 'Once Upon A Nightmare' starts off dark and acoustically before eventually building into another monstrous track.

Epica has shown time and time again that they can bring symphony and metal to the same plate in flying colors, and the epic space opera of The Holographic Principle shows it. While the album's beginning outshines its end in grandness, the entire stands alone as an epic movie soundtrack that plays through your mind while you listen through. Another big album that shows Epica's threat is here.

Favorite Tracks: Edge Of The Blade, Eidola, Divide and Conquer

Least Favorite Tracks: Ascension - Dream State Armageddon, The Holographic Principle - A Profound Understanding Of Reality

Rating: 75 / 100

Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

It’s not easy to describe something so perfectly beautiful. Just as I fail to describe my girlfriend, I come to a loss of words with Radiohead’s highly anticipated ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool. The austere beauty of this album is something almost beyond comprehension - well, that may be an over exaggeration, but this album hits hard and sad. It’s tone is clearly sad, but it has that optimistic tinge to it that Radiohead does so well.

1) Burn The Witch - The album couldn’t have had a better intro if it tried. The opening strings and synths just bring you into the looking hole, Alice In Wonderland style. This song is actually an older one, pieces of which were teased a decade ago during the band’s live performances. The song’s symphony adds huge colors and layers to it, and is oddly invigorating in the context of the introduction track. Perhaps its the way the strings in the song like the innards of a clock coming to life and burst into action, or the badass choruses chanting “Sing a song of sixpence that goes burn the witch” that make the song sound so triumphant. It was the perfect hype-up song leading to the release of the esteemed LP9, and an even more perfect introduction to a legendary record. 9.5/10

2) Daydreaming - To describe this song in a short paragraph is like trying to write a college essay in a short and sweet thesis, and nothing more. This song is so magically and hauntingly beautiful that it stirs the emotions within you like a soup with thousands of ingredients. The somber and happy memories within you all come to fruition with this song. It won’t make you cry - it’ll do something that ultimately may be even worse: make you think. Click the link to read my full review of the track, because that’ll say a more worthy claim of my opinion than I can here. 10/10 

3) Decks Dark - The first taste of brand new music from the album had you listened to the singles. ‘Decks Dark’ begins with ethereal pianos and the verse kicks in with sweet piano arpeggios. When that bass kicks in, it’ll send chills down your spine, and then the rest of the band follows suit along with a haunting choir to back Thom Yorke’s cryptic vocals. A very chill song and quite laid back, but beautiful all the same. The bittersweetness of the song inches away from the heartbreaking ‘Daydreaming’ while still provoking the thoughts the song stirred up. ‘Burn The Witch’ gets you riled up, then ‘Daydreaming’ takes everything from the deepest pores of your body. The rest of the album explores those feelings and thoughts. 9/10

4) Desert Island Disk - Things take a folky turn with ‘Desert Island Disk’, another song that has been performed live before its studio version. Beginning with a warm acoustic guitar with an almost country twang, the song explores a sense of recollection, with lyrics like “Waking up from shutdown / From a thousand years’ sleep” provoking your attention. The song is relatively simple, the synths in the meat of it flowing like waves at just the right speed to stir up the same feeling of flow within you. It’s an interesting one, to say the least. 9/10

5) Ful Stop - The introduction of this track is almost creepy. The saxophony-synths harken back to David Bowie’s ‘Blackstar’ and are definitely unsettling if nothing else. All of this song feels pretty Bowie-esque, even Yorke’s vocal delivery. The tonality of the line “A foul taste of medicine” especially gives a Bowie vibe. The second part of the song builds up epically, guitarist Jonny Greenwood playing something simple that just sounds so dark, on top of the wails of Yorke and huge walls of synths and bass. The bass is just so crushingly awesome, and paired with the higher guitar synth creates a haunting contrast. This song will take you to a dark place if you let it. 10/10

6) Glass Eyes - Another song that begins with absolutely gorgeous piano. ‘Glass Eyes’ is like a little brother to ‘Daydreaming’. But that brother is going through their emo phase. While the prior had a certain optimism to it, this song is just purely sad. Beautiful piano topped with stunning symphonies elevate the crushingly sad melody of vocals consisting of lyrics like ”I just got off the train / A frightening place / Their faces are concrete grey / And I'm wondering, should I turn around?” and “The path trails off / And heads down a mountain / Through the dry bush, I don't know where it leads / I don't really care”. This song is stunningly sad, and as beautiful as it is sad. And it is quite sad. 10/10

7) Identikit - Another live classic, this one has awesome guitars backing it, giving it a great live presence already. Thom Yorke really outdid himself with melodies on this record. They’re just so beautiful. The backing vocals are especially haunting. As the song progresses, the guitar gets more and more awesome, building to an absolutely epic guitar solo to close it out. The only word to describe this song: awesome. 10/10

8) The Numbers - Awesome piano paired with groovy guitar open this one. This song was formerly known as ‘Silent Spring’, yet another live song performed in the past, albeit only acoustic (during the same performance as ‘Desert Island Disk’, in fact). This song is grand on a different level than ‘Identikit’, this time bringing strings to the forefront instead of guitar. The orchestra has the epicness of ‘Burn The Witch’, the song’s epic climax falls into layers of piano that tapper off into nothingness. Awesome. 9.5/10

9) Present Tense - More live classics - this album was definitely made, in part, to be a fan pleaser. The guitar and beat is almost funky, funny enough. The stunning vocals are just sad enough to keep you from shaking your hips. The vocal melody is great and the echoing vocals add distinct color to the track, on top of the Spanish twang. This track is just general chill. As far as provoking memories goes, this one makes you feel wanderlust. You just want to get up and run somewhere listening to it. Radiohead really left no stones unturned here. 9/10

10) Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief - Now, I will admit: I copied and pasted the title of this song. The origins of this song are very clear: this tweet. The band deleted all of their media presence not for promotion, but so all of the secrets of this album couldn’t be found before it came! Jokes aside, this track feels very Kid A to me. Perhaps the splashy beats that fill the track accompanied by dreamy synths and bluesy piano. It’s kinda off putting, but in the endearing Radiohead kind of way. You can’t have Radiohead without weird. It just doesn’t work. There’s some fantastic string work on this track, too. It is admittedly a little blander than the rest of the album, but it’s still a fantastic and haunting track all the same. 8.5/10

11) True Love Waits - This song. The world may have not been ready for this song. By far the oldest track on the record (performances date back to 1995 - that’s 21 years!), this song has had decades to grow and develop. The fan-loved ‘True Love Waits’ concludes this already near-perfect album, and so beautifully so. The somber piano accompanies Thom Yorke’s desire-filled vocals. The way the piano reverberates sends the soundwaves throughout your body (which at this point of the album, should have lost all sense of emotion - you’re at the beckoning of A Moon Shaped Pool now) and Yorke’s absolutely defeated disposition in his vocals will have you choking back tears. This song plays with your heart. It almost sounds like a send off, or a goodbye. The final words of the track aren’t even pleading as they should be; they’re like a final attempt at asking for forgiveness. Nothing more than a simple cry of “Don’t leave” brings the album to a close as brilliant pianos fill into a intertwined array of emotion. If this was Radiohead’s last album, they couldn’t have ended their career on a better song. A classic becoming a sendoff. That’s almost crushingly sad in itself, isn’t it? 10/10

No one crushes your soul better than Radiohead can. A Moon Shaped Pool is a truly beautiful album. It has an overall sad tone, but it goes deeper than that. Truly absorbing it will take you on an exploration of your inner mind, an elaboration of all of your past experiences. Guilt, regret, desire, and love are just a few of the emotions that will stir within you listening to it. Radiohead may have hit their magnum opus here. If In Rainbows had brilliant orchestras and the subtle electronics of Kid A and the rock vibes of OK Computer, you’d have this album. Perfection is the easy way to describe it. My girlfriend is perfection, so that’s where my standard lies (pretty high). But this album comes close to that. Pure emotion is beautiful in any form, and that’s what comes out with it. A Moon Shaped Pool is a classic, and will never lose that magic touch.

Favorite Tracks: True Love Waits, Daydreaming, Identikit, Glass Eyes, Ful Stop

Least Favorite Tracks: Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief

Rating: 10/10


Top Albums Of 2016 (so far):

  1. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
  2. Aurora - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend
  3. Panic! At The Disco - Death Of A Bachelor
  4. Deftones - Gore
  5. Dream Theater - The Astonishing
  6. Foxes - All I Need
  7. Daughter - Not To Disappear
  8. Lacey Sturm - Life Screams
  9. HÆLOS - Full Circle
  10. Weezer - Weezer (White Album)

The Last Shadow Puppets - Everything You've Come To Expect

The Last Shadow Puppets triumphantly returned this year with a follow up to their 2008 debut, The Age Of Understatement with the infectiously groovy and old-fashioned Everything You’ve Come To Expect.

What separates this album from every other indie rock record out there this year is this album’s voice. The old-fashioned vibes resonating from the twangy guitars of ‘Used To Be My Girl’ and the brilliant orchestras adding so much color to songs like ‘Dracula Teeth’ say enough on their own. They ooze funk and groove, in increasing fashion to craft something cohesively strong yet undeniably lacking seriousness; it’s fun, but at the same time emotional. Beginning with the melodic and old-timey guitar of ‘Aviation’ with the giant brass ending, this album immediately has a sense of uniqueness. ‘Miracle Aligner’ follows up with the bluesy guitars, and sweet piano arpeggios to conclude it. You can just taste the citrus of the flanger in ‘Pattern’, too. As already mentioned, the string sections play a huge role in every track of the album. ‘Bad Habits’ even has strings that may sound similar to that of Björk! The orchestras also add a strong ominous vibe to many songs, including the title track ‘Everything You’ve Come To Expect’ and ‘She Does The Woods’. The album does, of course, also have sweeter moments: ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ is very sincere and emotional, and ‘The Bourne Identity’ ending the album on a sweet note, being oddly nostalgic. Unrelated to the instrumentals is the deep meaning behind ‘The Dream Synopsis’, a tale about being rejected in a relationship. The theme of love is a recurring one throughout the record, sometimes sweet and at other times, sour. That only adds to the diversity of this record, though.

Unlike the title may suggest, this album is everything you wouldn’t expect. Symphonies on top of slow moving, chugging indie rock twang. It’s hard to put into words the personality the album has. It’s one you won’t want to miss out on, though. It’s everything you need for a good blast to the past.

Favorite Tracks: Aviation, Sweet Dreams, TN; The Dream Synopsis

Least Favorite Track: The Element Of Surprise

Rating: 8.5/10

Foxes - All I Need

Pop is becoming increasingly contrived and bland. More and more artists are becoming pop stars just because of their sex appeal or know how to use a bass drop. Then there’s Foxes. Her sophomore record, All I Need, is an emotion packed journey through love and life. The album is packed to the brim with massive pop bangers while still finding time for some stripped back emotional tracks.

You know you’re in for a treat when the intro track of an album gets you so pumped for what’s to come that before you continue, you have to listen to it again. ‘Rise Up (Intro)’ is incredible, building up into a symphonic and atmospheric ascension into this album. The album kicks in with ‘Better Love’, a beautiful track with an amazingly crafted instrumental, and a choir that adds a soulful vibe to the song that compliments the emotion of the song. This song is massive with its anthemic chorus and soaring synths and driving beat. ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’ is another huge anthem, and is a more uplifting song in the sense that it’s about following your dreams. There are some pure feel-good pop tracks on here, too, like ‘Body Talk’ and ‘Lose My Cool’, the latter of which has so much appeal to it. It’s as if it was a Carly Rae Jepsen song and Bruno Mars song had a child together. The song ‘Shoot Me Down’ has a playful  and rebellious vibe to it that’ll make you dance.. Slower moments on the album include the breathtaking ‘On My Way’, the closing track on the regular version of the album. It references the track before it, ‘Money’, and tells of recovering form a relationship. ‘Scar’ is another particularly powerful track that has a strong message to it. ‘Amazing’ is an uplifting piano ballad following a sadder one, ‘If You Leave Me Now’, in which Foxes’ vocal performance adds beauty with it’s longing disposition and gorgeous symphony backing it. The last full track on the deluxe version of the record, ‘All I Need’, is almost too good for words. You can’t really describe it; it just has a beautiful, true to heart feel to it that is infectious and makes your heart beat with a longing feeling. It’s truly beautiful.

As much as the structure and vocals add so much character and voice to each song, the instrumentals are also just as important. The album is more of a symphonic pop album, most tracks having a beautiful orchestras behind them. ‘If You Leave Me Now’ has arguably the best orchestra instrumentation on the album, largely consisting of only piano and strings. The bridge has short arpeggios that flow into a huge final chorus that represents the true emotion of fearing losing the one you love. ‘Devil Side’ has a breathtaking string section too, with another strong meaning behind it. The percussion in ‘All I Need’ and ‘Better Love’ has an adverse effect on each song, creating a huge feeling and drives each song. As in every pop record nowadays, the synths play a huge role, and it works in amazing ways on this album. Foxes uses synths as more of a backing rather than a main focus in each track, using the more raw instruments and her voice as the prominent elements of each song. ‘Cruel’ has a cool vocal synth effect, like in CHVRCHES’ ‘The Mother We Share’. There are little tastes of interesting moments, such as the harp ending in ‘Wicked Love’, and the choir sections in ‘Better Love’ and ‘On My Way’ add a lot of color to it, especially in the latter of the two, which helped the song actually bring tears to my eyes (I’m a wuss, I know). The album flows in an interesting way, too. For example, ‘Amazing’ coming after ‘If You Leave Me Now’ has a uplifting piano ballad after a heart-wrenching one. It flows perfectly but also changes the mood of the album completely. The album does well at telling a wide variety of stories in a way that progresses smoothly.

Foxes may have scored the pop album of the year with All I Need. Each song is a wave of emotion washing over your heart. The album is a huge battle with love and life, and how they form a person. It also, admittedly, really reminds me of how much I love my girlfriend. Foxes really let every track come straight from her heart, written beautifully and with consideration. For another pop album to top this one this year will be a huge challenge. Nothing is more beautiful than the raw emotion of love. Except my girlfriend. She’s perfect.