Crime Records

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Epica - The Quantum Enigma Review

Band:  Epica
Album:  The Quantum Enigma
Label:  Nuclear Blast
Country:  Netherlands
Release Date:  May 2, 2014

In years to come, when The “Histories Metalicum” are being written, Epica are surely to grace the pages as the symphonic metal legends and powerhouse they surely are.  With classic albums such as The Phantom Agony, The Divine Conspiracy and Design Your Universe, they will surely be lauded with tributes and garlands for their expertise.  That, however, was a past age of glory.  What, indeed, will be written of The Quantum Enigma?

“Originem” is a bombastically (but not in the pretentious sense) fantastic introduction to the album.  I’d never be so pretentious to assume that these guys could produce anything on the
level of Bach or Wagner but, hell, they certainly try.  The atmosphere of this track is so powerful that I defy your goosey bumps to not become goosey and bumpy.

“The Second Stone” starts just as epically as the previous but with the signature Epica style.  It doesn’t take long for Simons’ utterly intoxicating vocals to captivate the listener.  And the chorus, my god the chorus!  It’s powerful and catchy.  Already we’re only into the second track and I’m utterly smitten.  I’ve missed these guys so hard!  Mark Jansen also gives us his customary growled vocals which, as always, works wonderfully in the mix.

“The Essence Of Silence” opens with yet more masterfully crafted elements before crashing into heavy guitar and bass parts.  It seems to me that Epica strike the right balance between heavy and catchy.  Never allowing us to hum along for long enough before more blast beats and chuggery ensues.  This track has some classy riffage to please the senses.

The riffs which open “Victims Of Contingency” put me in mind of classic Fear Factory.  They have that speed and ferocity.  But, Epica being as they are, there is much more complexity coupled with the classical elements.  There’s also a lot going on, which can be said for most Epica songs, but this seems heavily layered with interesting elements.  It’s quite short but so powerful that it’s almost like receiving a good beating in a dark alley by some heavies and then being sent on your way with a goodbye kiss from a beautiful red-head.

For the first full minute of “Sense Without Sanity - The Impervious Code” we have a luxuriantly stunning, swelling intro into which Simons’ perfect pitch carries us along on a pillow of winds which is abruptly taken from under us by Jansen, Delahaye and van der Loo.  And yet, is no less stunning for the abruptness of their intrusion into our little flight of fancy (I love my fantasy moments, ok? *ahem*).  A lot of the more classic metal chugging guitars are present in this track and is very anthemic in parts.  I think this will definitely be a contender for their live set list.

“Unchain Utopia” is another epic track.  I’m actually at a point where I’m hoping the next track is rubbish, just so I can have something different to say.  It’s another excellent, anthemic piece of awesomeness.

“The Fifth Guardian (Interlude)” is an eastern influenced, almost zen like break in the heaviness that we have been accustomed so far.  There are no vocals.  As someone who is no musician (I have mentioned in an earlier review that I’m just a guy who likes metal) it’s incredibly hard to fathom how people, real musicians, can sit down and write such mesmerizing songs.  It seems otherworldly to me.

“Chemical Insomnia” opens the second half of the album.  The tone here is different.  Parts of the track could be lifted from an operetta with its dramatics.  Again, the performance by all band members is great.  
“Reverence (Living In The Heart)” continues the tone of dramatics.  There’s much more force behind the performance in this half of the proceedings, which sets the tone nicely for what is to follow.

“Omen (The Ghoulish Malady)” opens with a heart wrenchingly lovely piano performance from Coen Janssen before hurtling into some more epic guitar riffs.

“Canvas For Life” brings a much more genteel moment in the proceedings with its more relaxed symphonic elements.  Its great.  Nothing much else to say here except that Epica have shown how masterful they are at writing in any given field of music.

“Natural Corruption” is a very fast paced track.  It’s one to rock out to but then manages to be compellingly sorrowful in its closing moments.

And so we come to the end.  “The Quantum Enigma - Kingdom Of Heaven Pt II” is a masterful composition.  Its atmosphering introduction is a sign of greatness to come with its haunting prelude.  The track has it all.  It’s classic Epica mingled with a new refined edge.  Great composition, songwriting, singing and performance which carries the listener on its many twists and turns before soaring into a great crescendo.  

I may, or may not, be a bit of a fanboy when it comes to Epica.  Yet I know when they have shined and when they haven’t.  The Divine Conspiracy, Design Your Universe and The Sublime The Classical Conspiracy (a live album, I know) were times when they shined.  Requiem For The Indifferent was not.  It was almost as if Epica themselves were indifferent.  But, I can honestly say that The Quantum Enigma, for me, is without doubt their brightest moment.  I couldn’t at any point in the album pick out a bad moment and it was quite an experience.  I would love to see this performed live.

1. Originem
2. The Second Stone
3. The Essence Of Silence
4. Victims Of Contingency
5. Sense Without Sanity - The Impervious Code
6. Unchain Utopia
7. The Fifth Guardian (interlude)
8. Chemical Insomnia
9. Reverence - Living In The Heart
10. Omen - The Ghoulish Malady
11. Canvas Of Life
12. Natural Corruption
13. The Quantum Enigma - Kingdom Of Heaven Part II

Total Playing Time: 68:13