It’s bordering on bragging really isn’t it? Epica had SO many tracks for previous album “The Holographic Principal” that the unused songs get their own 6 track EP. And as the high quality of these “rejected” songs now see the light of day, they are masked only by the sound of sobbing which can be heard from many a Symphonic Metal musician in other bands trying to make their own foray into the genre. I mean, it’s just demoralizing isn’t it? Talk about rubbing your nose in it…

So just how crappy and second rate are these unwanted tracks that we are now forced to endure? Well obviously they are by no means crappy, not in the remotest second rate…and as usual, there’s nothing but admiration rather than endurance for this ultra-talented band. The title track kicks things off and already I am forced to play the “how was this not on the album?” card (I decided beforehand that I can only use it once and it’s gone on the first track!). Mid-tempo, but big and bold, it’s Epica in one of their more instant, attention-grabbing moods – it’s the perfect choice as title track because it could have been purposely written as a single. ‘Fight Your Demons’ picks up the pace with it’s intricate double-kick work powering the more powerful and urgent feel of the track. How on earth was this track not on the…damn, I’ve already used that!

In hindsight it’s possible that the first two songs were a touch more guitar based, which I always like to hear from Epica, but the orchestration is pushed gloriously to the fore on ‘Architect Of Light’. It’s stripped right back for the excellent verse and bridge before the choir carries what you think is the soaring chorus in that oh-so familiar yet resounding Epica way. But it’s not the chorus – nope, this is a track that has so many hooks it’s like a giant coat rack – excellent in it’s entirety and pure Epica. ‘Wheel Of Destiny’ comes thundering in next, a full-on wonderfully speed metal track at it’s core, it jumps between tempos fabulously, hooking you in and spitting you out – again it’s Epica at their best. And wait…yes, I think I’ve just heard the unmistakable sound of another budding symphonic metal band deciding to go straight-edge Power Metal rather than compete with Epica.

As Epica can be, it’s all rather exhausting and bombarding by the time track 5 weighs in, so this time Epica do something completely different! An absolutely gorgeous acoustic guitar based ballad in the shape of ‘Immortal Melancholy’. I actually really enjoy it when Epica occasionally simplify things, letting the song speak for itself and this is such a curve-ball for this ultra-complicated band that for continuities sake I can actually see why it wasn’t on the album – but thank goodness it has seen the light of day on this EP as it would have been such a shame not to have heard it. Proceedings are drawn to a close with ‘Decoded Poetry’, another more mid-tempo track that yet again is utterly album worthy and classic, premier league Epica.

As this rather splendid EP draws to a close the only conclusion I can come to is that ‘Holographic Principal’ had a flow to it…possibly too much of one? With some of these track scattered amongst it, it might have spiced things up a little more – but, if you can, then why not write all the songs you can and treat your fans to a fabulous high-quality EP rather than make an album unnecessarily lengthy? Epica don’t do second rate or crappy and they prove this yet again by nonchalantly lobbing out this EP, almost as an after thought. “Oh, we appear to have a few ditties left over, what to do, what to do…”. They might as well have called it the “Here’s something we knocked together after a few beers last night EP”, just to be really smug, even though it’s obvious that it has all their usual high amount of attention to detail incorporated into it.

(9/10 Andy Barker)