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Continuing in a by now popular tradition of female fronted Gothic Metal bands from the Low Countries, EPICA was conceived in Limburg, Holland by former AFTER FOREVER guitarist Mark Jansen. Second guitarist Ad Sluijter was previously a member of CASSIOPEIA and also has AFTER FOREVER connections, as does keyboard player Coen Janssen. Drummer Jeroen Simons too is ex-CASSIOPEIA whilst bassist Yves Huts (a.k.a. 'Enuresor') has a tradition with AXAMENTA and Black Metal band GURTHANG. EPICA is led by the mezzo-soprano classically trained Opera singer Simone Simons.

For a short period this new formation went by the title SAHARA DUST, including former TRAIL OF TEARS vocalist Helena Iren Michaelsen and drummer Iwan Hendrikx of SILENT EDGE and EXIVIOUS. Ex-WITHIN TEMPTATION and current SUN CAGED drummer Dennis Leeflang would step into the breech. In this guise the band cut the December 2002 two song demo 'Cry For The Moon'. However, with the enrolment of Simone Simon, and Jeroen Simons the group adopted the EPICA banner, in homage to KAMELOT, in 2003. Meantime, Michaelson duly founded IMPERIA.

The debut Sascha Paeth produced album 'The Phantom Agony', offering Gothic Metal imbued with choral vocals from Simon and Death grunts from Jansen, gave the band immediate success by landing straight in the Dutch national charts. Extensive touring throughout Europe in April and May of 2004 would be backed by the single release 'Cry For The Moon'. Subsequent festival dates saw EPICA performing at the Leipzig 'Wave Gotik Treffen' event, 'Graspop' in Belgium and the Turkish 'Rock The Nations' meeting in Istanbul. Further product arrived in October in the form of the DVD 'We Will Take You With Us / 2 Meter Sessies', coming with additional bonus CD containing all of the '2 Meter Sessies' recordings.

EPICA united with Austrian act VISIONS OF ATLANTIS for European touring in September. The band put in an appearance at the NIGHTWISH headlined 'Metal Female Voices Fest II' event held in Brussels during November. The group formed up a supporting cast comprising FLOWING TEARS, SENGIR, DARKWELL, VISIONS OF ATLANTIS, ASHES YOU LEAVE and SYRENS CALL. Shows in Mexico would be projected for December. However, Simone Simons was rushed to hospital with a diagnosis of appendicitis mid way through these gigs. Support band THE LEGION OF HETHERIA singer María Victoria Pérez was thrust into the spotlight as she stepped in to fill the vacancy to complete the tour.

New album recordings completed in late 2004 would see the guest inclusion of KAMELOT frontman Roy Khan, duetting on the track 'Trois Vierges', written specifically for the movie soundtrack 'Joyride'. Returning the favour, Simone Simons appeared as a cameo in the KAMELOT promotional video for 'The Haunting'. 'Consign To Oblivion' arrived in stores in April 2005, EPICA taking the title from the Mayan prophecies of the world's end times. The band, promoting the album announced a return to the European touring circuit in March 2005, partnering with KOTIPELTO and KAMELOT.

EPICA struck out into new territory with the September 2005 album 'The Score - An Epic Journey' this being an entirely instrumental piece of work crafted as a soundtrack to the movie 'Joyride'. October found the band appearing at the Belgian 'Female Metal Voices III' festival alongside a cast comprising LACUNA COIL, LEAVES' EYES, THE LEGION OF HETHERIA, ELIS, MIDNATTSOL, SKEPTICAL MINDS, MERCURY RAIN, ASRAI, AUTUMN, DILUVIUM and AFTER FOREVER. European dates that same month had French outfit THE OLD DEAD TREE as support.

In November EPICA's South American status was recognised and given a far higher profile still when the band performed on Brazilian TV show 'Do Jô', this programme drawing over 10 million viewers.

Concert footage for DVD release a was filmed on May 4th 2006 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, Holland. The band united with KAMELOT for US concerts in September then South American shows in December. To coincide, Candlelight Records re-issued 'Consign To Oblivion' with additional DVD material. EPICA parted ways with drummer Jeroen Simons in October.

In November Finnish weekly celebrity gossip magazine Katso reported that NIGHTWISH leader Tuomas Holopainen and group's manager Ewo Rytkönen had been in contact with Simone Simons with a view toward replacing ex-singer TARJA TURUNEN. Nevertheless, EPICA commenced work on fresh album recordings, utilising GOD DETHRONED and PROJECT SIC's Ariën van Weesenbeek for drum parts. The band had the tracks 'Mother Of Light' and 'Consign To Oblivion' included on the 'ProgPower USA VIII' DVD compilation in 2007.

In April the band contracted with Nuclear Blast Records. EPICA, recruiting Koen Herfst from AFTER FOREVER as a session drummer, scheduled US dates for September supported by VISIONS OF ATLANTIS.

Progress was halted in early 2008 when Simone Simons was infected with Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), also known as the hospital bacteria. Perservering, EPICA utilized the services of vocal coach Amanda Somerville as a stand-in vocalist for the band's North American tour with SYMPHONY X. Simons returned to the stage fronting EPICA on May 15th at Bibelot in Dordrecht. A subsequent concert the following day, held at Tivoli in Utrecht celebrated the five year anniversary of the album 'The Phantom Agony', the band performing the record in its entirity.

On June 14th EPICA took part in a special concert branded 'Classical Conspiracy' at the Miskolc International Opera Festival in Hungary. The band performed a 45-minute set of metal adaptations of classical songs and movie soundtracks, accompanied by the orchestra and choir, plus symphonic versions of the band's own songs. Performances included Edvard Grieg's 'Peer Gynt Suites', Prokofiev's 'Romeo And Juliet', Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons', John Williams 'Star Wars', D. Elfman's 'Spiderman', K. Badelt's 'Pirates Of The Caribbean', G.B. Perglesi's 'Stabat Mater', Carmine Orff's 'Carmina Burana', Dvorak's '9th Symphony', Verdi's 'Requiem' and Handel's 'Opera Serse'. From this set, EPICA released a double live album, titled 'The Classical Conspiracy', on 8th May 2009 through Nuclear Blast Records.

Fresh studio tracks, dubbed 'Design Your Universe', were crafted at Gate Studio in Wolfsburg, Germany with producer Sascha Paeth. These would be the first songs cut with uitar player Isaac Delahaye, formerly of GOD DETHRONED.

The band played the SAXON, UFO, MOTÖRHEAD and HEAVEN AND HELL headlined August 2009 'Wacken Open Air' festival in Germany. On For the band's Saturday, 10th October concert held at the Paradiso in Amsterdam, the first 200 fans who made it through the door received a USB stick containing many exclusive, rare and previously unreleased EPICA tracks. Just a day after releasing a new studio album entitled 'Design Your Universe', EPICA headlined the 'Metal Female Voices Fest VII' on 17th October 2009 at Oktoberhallen in Wieze, Belgium. This performance was filmed for DVD release. The group performed its new album, 'Design Your Universe', in its entirety on 6th November at the first of two shows at Élysée Montmartre in Paris, France.

Garry Sharpe-Young

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