April 30, 2014 Epica – The Quantum Enigma (Album review)
The spring of 2014 has given birth to a new season of female fronted symphonic metal albums from some of the genres elite. Speaking of which, Dutch band Epica are back and ready to release a new studio album. Founded in 2002 by former After Forever guitarist/vocalist Mark Jansen, months after the new band’s formation, Jansen recruited the then unknown Simone Simons, and the rest is history. With their sixth studio album The Quantum Enigma, Epica look to take a progressive leap forward in their quest to never play it safe from album to album. The album is a collaborated effort with the entire band, and every detail was accurately selected and compared in order to make each song the highest quality possible while remaining different and experimental. Stepping out of their comfort zone, the band also decided to record the album for the first time at Sandlane Recording Facilities in the Netherlands with producer Joost van den Broek (ReVamp, After Forever Ayeron), whereas all their other albums had been produced by Sascha Paeth.
The Quantum Enigma begins with the massive intro “Originem” which is instrumental except for choir singing. This leads the listener into “The Second Stone” which is a very strong track with all the elements you need for effective symphonic metal; deep growls, a guitar solo, high female vocals, choirs, and a fast tempo. Right from that start, it is clear Epica intended for a heavier guitar driven album than years past. “The Essence of Silence“ begins with a beautiful and serene violin solo, but soon turns up the velocity in a duet with Mark Jansen’s deep growls and Simons’ luminous voice. Continuing the heavier style, “Victims of Contingency” combines an array of heavy metal tones from death metal, to speed metal, with of course the underlined symphonic metal.
Adding diversity to the albums sound, “Sense Without Sanity” is tranquil and represents the lighter side of The Quantum Enigma. Tracks such as these are critical for the vitality of a balanced album, and Epica manages to find that delicate balance. The song “Unchain Utopia” is a bombastic arrangement offset by the refreshing interlude of “The Fifth Guardian” which is an instrumental oasis midway through the album. Again, an important piece to the puzzle of cohesion The Quantum Enigma, bringing vivid feelings to the harsh and aggressive emotions of the surrounding songs.
“Chemical Insomnia” has a memorable intro that reminds the listener of Edvard Grieg’s famous composition “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from the Norwegian play Peer Gynt (1876). There are brilliant variations in the tempo, making it a fascinating song you long to hear time and time again. On the aria-type song “Reverence – Living in the Heart“, Simons gets to show off her beautiful soprano voice in illustrious fashion. The song is evidence that while Simons voice has always been strong, it has blossomed to new levels over the past decade. “Omen – The Ghoulish Malady“ possess pop elements while having a darker side with heavy growls by Mark Jansen.
Continuing the journey, “Canvas of Life” is a relaxing symphonic piece which falls into the calmer side of the album keeping the material from becoming monotonous. “Natural Corruption” is another fast pace song, but surprises with a beautiful elegiac side in the closing minutes. The closing of the album ends in a glorious eleven plus minute composition titled “The Quantum Enigma – Kingdom of Heaven part II“, concluding the dramatic styling of Epica’s efforts on a high note.
As Epica stated, this album came to life with each member contributing their best to make it something special. Those efforts have paid off and Epica has managed to compile an album that represents progression and maturity. The Quantum Enigma clearly has two sides, the heavy and the light side, with a prelude and interlude giving listeners a chance to cleanse their palate, which works perfectly. CrypticRock gives The Quantum Enigma 4 out of 5 stars.