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Dutch symphonic metal band Epica was formed by Mark Jansen, formerly of After Forever, in 2002. Enlisting female vocalist Simone Simons, a six-person choir and an eight-piece orchestra to bolster the traditional band setup of guitar-bass-drums-keyboards, Jansen set about recording meticulously constructed pieces that brought the listener through any number of eerie classical passages to bombastic, death-grunt breakdowns and King Crimson levels of prog-rock nerd-ery. Epica's first album, The Phantom Agony, surfaced in 2003, and while it did not set the world on fire by commercial standards, it did identify Epica as one of the most truly ambitious metal bands, sketching out the fringes of possibility for the genre among the legions of bands exploring similar ideas, albeit sans an orchestra. In addition to a 2005 U.S. tour, the band has steadily released an album every two years.
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