Featured Song: The Last Crusade

I introduced Epica into this series a few months ago, when I featured their song “Façade of Reality”.

I remarked at the time the similarity in sound between that song, and some of After Forever‘s preceding works, unsurprising due to both being the creation of composer Mark Jansen.

Despite an early similarity to After Forever, Epica has over time developed a distinctive sound of their own, which is at times more upbeat and adventurous. Today’s selection – “The Last Crusade” from Epica’s second full-length album, Consign to Oblivion – is a good demonstration of this. Still touching on religious themes, it’s a more fast-paced and cinematic song than “Façade of Reality”.

This song is also another example of Mark Jansen’s fondness for telling stories that span several songs; much as “Leaden Legacy” and “Façade of Reality” were part of a collection of songs spanning different albums (and, in this case, bands!) called “The Embrace That Smothers”, so “The Last Crusade” is the first part of a new collection of Epica songs, again spanning multiple albums, called “A New Age Dawns”.

It’s also worth checking out a live version of this song, performed by Epica in Miskolc, Hungary for their live album, The Classical Conspiracy. I really enjoy the descant that lead singer Simone Simons throws into the works at the end of the song.

Featured lyrics:

Don’t be afraid, participate and
Just give us all your trust
Your soul will be saved
Just follow me, I’ll set you free so
Get ready to join the
Very last crusade

Full lyrics can be found here.

Featured Song: Façade of Reality

I was going to see Epica in concert last Sunday, but they were forced to cancel the show (and eventually the entire remainder of the North American tour) due to an emergency in lead singer Simone Simons’ family.

My thoughts are with Simone as she goes through this difficult time. It also appears that we North Americans fans won’t miss our chance to see Epica perform altogether, as they’re planning on rescheduling the tour to early next year.

In the meantime, I thought I’d feature one of their songs here.

Epica is in many ways a continuation of the musical project that Mark Jansen started with After Forever. When After Forever split due to creative differences, Mark went on to continue pursuing his musical vision as part of a new band, Epica.

The song I’m featuring today is “Façade of Reality” from Epica’s first full-length album, The Phantom Agony. If you pick up on musical and thematic similarities to the After Forever song “Leaden Legacy” that I featured a few months back, it’s because they’re both part of the same series of songs, The Embrace That Smothers, that Mark wrote exploring the effects of organized religion, and that ended up spanning his move from After Forever to Epica.

“Façade of Reality” specifically is written about 9/11, and how religion has been used to justify this and other acts of terrorism.

In the midst of a heart-wrenching arrangement of orchestral passages, Latin choral chanting, the soaring vocals of Simone Simons, and Mark Jansen’s growls, the song also features a couple of quotes by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair about 9/11:

This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today.

Those people who lost their lives on the 11th of September
And those that mourn them
Now is the time for the strength to build that community
Let that be their memorial

(A commenter on the song’s discussion page on SongMeanings points out that this use of Tony Blair’s quotes is ironic, given how the wars subsequently waged by Blair’s government and other Western governments in the Middle East just exacerbated the religious extremism that has fuelled such terrorist acts. I couldn’t agree more, but that’s no reason to enjoy the song any less. In fact, this irony may even have been intended by the songwriters.)

Epica performed “Façade of Reality” and several other songs from The Phantom Agony on their live album We Will Take You With Us (whose title, you might notice, is a line from this song). Here’s a video of that performance, with “Façade of Reality” being the first song:

Featured lyrics:

[whispered, to an orchestral backdrop]
It doesn’t matter where we die
It doesn’t matter that you cry
We will take you with us

Full lyrics can be found here. The first comment also contains a translation of the Latin passages.

Enjoy! I hope to feature several more songs from Epica in due course, as they’ve come a long way since this initial album.