Evil Dr. Smith : 'The Classical Conspiracy' is the 'Night Of The Proms' for metalheads.
A gothic metal band (all right, call it a female fronted metal band, whatever…) that plays together with an orchestra… I'll be damned, that's an original idea! Like we haven't heard this before. Yes, I had at least the same scepsis as you. Come on Epica, was this really necessary? After listening to this album, I had only one conclusion: yes, this was really necessary!
Last year Epica got an invitation from a Hungarian orchestra to play with them and feeling very honoured by this invitation they travelled to Miskolc, the second biggest city of Hungary, to play with forty classical musicians and a choir of thirty people. Obviously Epica's music is pretty bombastic, but with this orchestra and choir the pompous sound is even more immense and overwhelming. I dare to say that regarding the live sound, this album can be placed among the illustrious albums 'Made In Japan', 'Alive II', 'Live & Dangerous', 'Unleashed In The East', 'Live After Death' en 'Live In Athens'. They also managed to really give the orchestra and choir some interesting arrangements, so it's not just the guitar lines that the violins follow, etc. The orchestra really adds to the power of Epica's songs, where Epica really adds power to the first part of the show, because these songs are classical compositions and soundtrack music.
The classical tunes are mainly generally known, sometimes even extremely cliché, like Vivaldi's 'Four Seasons', Prokofiev's 'Romeo & Juliet', Grieg's 'Hall Of The Mountain King' (already several tmies introduced in the metal scene by Savatage and Apocalyptica) and Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna' (due to copyrights this latter one was omitted from the CD). But Epica and the orchestra play it with so much confidence and grandeur that even people who can't stand this tunes anymore will still be surprised by the enthusiastic execution. Slightly lesser known composition like Verdi's 'Dies Irae' (with thunderous choir eruptions) and Dvorak's 'Ninth Symphony' are the highlights of the album, although Simone's mezzo soprano in Händel's 'Ombrai Mai Fu' and Pergolesi's 'Stabat Mater' (the only two times we hear Simone in this first part of the show) are blood chilling as well. I never really liked the 'Stabat Mater', although I tried it several tmies during the years, but this time is the first time it really grabs me.
Just like their version of John Williams' 'The Imperial March' really grabs me. Damn, what an explosive power! If George Lucas will think of directing the seventh episode of Star Wars, we have here the new and definitive version of Darth Vader's theme. Also the other two biggest soundtrack composers from Hollywood are greatly honoured with a 'Spider-Man Suite' (by Danny Elfman) and 'The Pirates Of The Caribbean Suite' (Hans Zimmer) respectively. 'Unholy Trinity' from Epica's own soundtrack for 'Joyride' (from their album 'An Epic Journey') suits nicely between these giants.
After this fifty-minute set of classical music with metal injection, we are treated with a full-length Epica show of ninety minutes, where choir and orchestra give extra depth and massiveness to the songs. The band plays surprisingly much of their first album 'The Phantom Agony', but no matter how great the interpretations of 'Feint', 'Cry For The Moon', 'The Phantom Agony' and newer songs 'Never Enough' and 'Consign To Oblivion' are, I notice that I constantly play their classical show over and over again. These days CD live releases and live reviews are only a teaser for the upcoming DVD release, but in this case I have to disappoint you: this is all you gonna get. There won't be any DVD release of this one. There is a DVD release of their 'Road To Paradiso' in the can, but for this show is all you can see available on YouTube. Hopefully the heirs of Carl Orff won't notice…