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Pandas thank, fans do not - 30%

FrozenFear, June 10th, 2011

That Mark Jansen, guitarist, grunter and main composer of Epica, is strongly aware of the problems of modern society is no news: the vast majority of his lyrics deal with social issues, and he repeats them to the point of pedantry ever since his After Forever days. So, a charity release to the benefit of some NGO, namely WWF, was to be expected at some point.
This is how This Is The Time, a non-album single by Epica, was born; after the promise of an EP with a brand new ballad and some outtakes from Design Your Universe as b-sides, over 10 months of delay due to organization problems (the single was announced by the end of 2009 and wasn't released until October 2010) and much hide-and-seek with a leaked and yet unfinished video, the fans were given a two-track single featuring the unreleased, environmentally-themed title track and a new mix of the band's previous single Unleashed featuring a duet with vocalist Amanda Somerville.

The title track, an acoustic ballad with symphonic elements blended in, is nothing remarkable: with a plain insipid tune, monotonous acoustic guitar backed by some flutes and violins and not even a catchy chorus, it wanders in a musical limbo, appetible neither to metal fans nor to mainstream radio listeners. Musically speaking, the only interesting feature are Simone Simons' vocals, if you just pretend she's humming or singing glossolalia. The lyrics are indeed totally stripped-down, full of banalities, and interesting only in their being the very apogee of Mark Jansen's know-it-all attitude. Basically, you can summarize them into "No, you're doing all wrong, now I'll teach you how's right. Oh, and love nature". Cut it short, it's an embarrassing misstep in the band's discography.

Even after putting apart the disappointment for the lack of the promised unreleased material from the album, the b-side doesn't add any value to the release either. The extended orchestral intro fails to add anything interesting to a track that, being the album's lead single, had already got its fair share of airplay, and it even sounds unfitting and evidently added just for the sake of it; even the guest vocals are no news, as a duet version of the song was already released, so there's just no point in the new mix either.

Finally, a totally unremarkable cover art and music video give the whole packcage the quietus.

Stripped down of the charity sentimentalism, this single is simply useless. It is not even a must-have piece for the die-hard fans of the band. Consider purchasing it solely if your aim is giving money to WWF, as its musical value is nonexistent. If you don't bother about environmental problems, then don't even bother to download it, just search it on Youtube if you consider the buffering time worth a listen.
It is quite evident that trying to do charity at all costs, the band forgot to do what they should: good music. Nothing wrong with the former, unless you put aside the latter for the sake of it.