Live albums are a big thing again these days and even more so the more opulent ones that include the band and a full orchestra and choir and go all out. Dutch Symphonic Metallers EPICA are one of these additions and their “The Classical Conspiracy” double CD is a very interesting affair, for several reasons. For one the fact that it was recorded at the Miskolc International Opera Festival in Hungary back in 2008 and for the other the first 12 tracks are interpretations of classical pieces of music with added electric guitars and drums, while the 16 following songs are symphonic versions of EPICA songs, so it is not just another live rendition of studio songs. A 40-piece orchestra and a 30-person choir add their flavour to the band and with somewhat differing success.
The classical side offers us compositions of Huts, Verdi, Händel, Dvoøák, Vivaldi, Prokofiev, Pergolesi and Grieg as well as sound track music of Danny Elfman (“Spider Man”), John Williams (“Star Wars”) and Hans Zimmer (“Pirates Of The Carribean”) and I would have wished a little more balanced symbiosis between Metal and the orchestra, because in some instances they stay a bit too close to the original notations and when the guitars and drums are added they can be a little overpowering, as the classical instruments tend to be a little more fragile than the power of Metal, but apart from these minor flaws, it sounds great, especially when Simone pulls out all stops on “Stabat Mater Dolorosa” or when “The Imperial March” and Vivaldi’s “Presto” go all-out Metal.
But where “The Classical Conspiracy” really shines are the orchestral versions of their own songs, where the orchestra and especially the choir add another dimension to the already symphonic compositions and the song choice is basically a best of spanning all of their releases so far, “The Last Crusade”, “Cry For The Moon” and the incredible “The Phantom Agony” and “Consign To Oblivion” (especially the first) fully unfold their grandeur and power and the crowd reactions also are a lot stronger than with the classical pieces, but that was to be expected. The only downer is the fairly uninspired crowd interaction between songs, but with the rest being so good, this is a minor flaw indeed.
I would have hoped for a DVD to come attached to this double album, but unfortunately we will not be treated to the visual side of this very interesting and also innovative approach to a live concert, I can still give you a full recommendation of this piece, as it pushed the boundaries for live releases a little further and the flaws are in the far minority during these more than two hours and 23 minutes.
(Online October 1, 2009)