|Traveling around the world and meeting other cultures; those are in short the major sources of inspiration for singer, songwriter, composer and guitarist Mark Jansen, both as a person and a musician. The latest proof of his unlimited interest in the world around him is the album The Phantom Agony, the colorful debut album of the recently founded Dutch band Epica. Mark Jansen and his fellow musicians harbor a great interest in other cultures, especially Arab ones. The warmth with which people treat one another there, but also the music from that part of the world. The varied sound of Epica reflects all that. Also influences from other parts of the world, including South-America found their way to the songs that figure on the debut alum. The band also intends to do a lot of touring in order to add as much as possible to the gamut of experiences and impressions.
After a brief and stormy period as one of the creative king pins of the successful Dutch band After Forever, Mark Jansen felt compelled to start all over again recently. He didn't tarry for a second. On the day it dawned on him he no longer had a future in his old band, the plan matured for new challenge. Contacts were made, auditions were carried out and a name for the band was thought up. Initially Sahara Dust was picked as the name of the band, but in the first weeks of 2003 this name was definitely changed into Epica. In the embryonic stage the band worked with the Norwegian singer Helena Michaelsen of Trail of Tears. However, a definitive choice was made for the young Dutch singing talent Simone Simons. The line-up was further stabilized with Coen Jansen (keyboards), Ad Sluijter (guitar), Jeroen Simons (drums) - both from Cassiopeia, and Yves Huts (bass) from Axamenta.
The debut album was recorded in the Gate Studio in Wolfsburg, Germany; under the expert guidance of the renowned producer and technician Sacha Paeth (a.o. Aina, Rhapsody, Kamelot, Angra). The variation in the material appears from the very first track on the CD. Ádyta' is a classically tinted intro, sung in Latin. The band works with a classically trained choir, whereas extra color is added to the music thanks to eight strings: 3 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos and a double bass. The red thread is mezzo-soprano Simone Simons, who with the style of a classically trained opera singer stays on top of the material. Epica is a band that is fond of contrasts. Solid guitars versus flawless choral singing and strings. The sublime singing of Simone Simons versus the excruciating grunts of Mark Jansen. One of the songs in which all these aspects constitute a fascinating unity is 'Sensorium'. The combination of classic and extreme has seldom sounded so convincingly.
While making The Phantom Agony the band was particularly inspired by scores. It is the ambition of Epica to pack up emotions in lyrics and sounds and subsequently pass this on to the listener. What the band really wants is giving goose flesh to the audience, the more the better. The title track is a piece of work in which the six band members aimed for that effect. It is up to the individual listener to interpret the lyrics in his or her own way. Yet The Phantom Agony makes clear that Epica doesn't turn a blind eye to everyday reality. ''Façade Of Reality' is about the world before and after the attacks in the United States on 11 September, and all that changed during that period. For that reason it is a song that means a great deal to the band too.
Finally the name of the band. For the band it initially had two special meanings. First of all it is a tribute to the band Kamelot, of which the band members are all great fans. Epica is the title of one of their CDs. In addition to this Epica is a place in the universe where all the answers to vital questions are to be found. A meaning that fits perfectly with the tenor of the lyrics. Recently another meaning was added. Not so long ago Epica was giving a concert in Belgium. Everything went great. At a certain point of time something happened between the stage and the audience. At the end of the concert the audience was chanting the name of the band: 'E-pi-ca', 'E-pi-ca'. It sounded excellently. There and then the band decided that Epica had been the right choice.