The Holographic Principle album and this year’s Solace System EP, they simply do it all better and broader, with additional orchestration and increasingly overt death, thrash and prog-metal influences that never overwhelm Simone Simons’ polished and deceptively poppy timbre. Italy’s more goth-tinted Lacuna Coil never quite hit the commercial heights once predicted for them, but the coed-fronted quartet remain almost a subniche unto themselves, somewhere between Evanescence-esque nu-metal lite and (on last year’s return-to-form Delirium, at least) angular djent.
The Netherlands’ Epica are more about absolute excellence than self-conscious innovation. Over the course of seven albums, they have simultaneously honed and expanded upon symphonic metal’s tried-and-trusted sonic yin-yang: churning, down-tuned guitar riffs set against soaring orchestral flurries; glacial female vocals offset with tortured male growls; frenziedly technical drumming underpinning serene choral swaths. On last year’s hyper-ambitious