In the hands of Dutch symphonic metallers Epica, just about any subject matter can take on operatic proportions, from tales of romance to quantum physics. But lately, the six-piece's style, which builds heavily on classical instrumentation, has focused on current affairs. With 2012's Requiem for the Indifferent, guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen and frontwoman Simone Simons crafted an album based on the global economic crisis and violent unrest around the word — "Internal Warfare," one of the album's most moving tracks, is dedicated to the memory of the 77 people who died at the hands of Anders Behring Breivik in Oslo. But don't mistake the heavy themes for depressing music. Epica contrasts two extremes, from Simons' mezzo-soprano vocals to Jansen's growls and grunts, all with a sturdy backbone of hyperactive drumming, death-metal guitar riffs, and the layered sweetness of the keyboards and strings. And though the band is dead serious about the music, they're only wanting a good time when it comes to the stage. "I just have one rule: When people are having fun, everything is okay," Jansen says. "We find that the more energy we give to the crowd, the more we get back, and that interaction is what matters. If that exchange is there, a night can be truly magical."
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