• Epica - The Quantum Enigma (2014)

    Epica is back with its seventh studio record in eleven years, and The Quantum Enigma might just be the band’s strongest output yet. Epica sounds more consistent, more thought-out, and a whole lot heavier than before, and delivers nearly seventy minutes of addicting symphonic metal.

    After the short overture “Originem”, the band portrays what makes it stand out over the next two tracks. “The Second Stone” sounds heavier and tighter than one might have expected after such an epic introduction, but Simone Simons’ vocals sound quite confident. Some people might argue that the chorus is too soft, but I adore its floating and almost spiritual touch to contrast the punching verses. Simone Simone sounds truly angelic in this song. “The Essence Of Silence” opens with melancholic piano and string sounds, and Epica sounds more cinematic than ever on this album. “The Essence Of Silence” takes a similar path as its predecessor: an apocalyptic atmosphere, beefy riffs, and solid growls kick in before Simons’ contrasting vocals lead to an enlightening and spiritual chorus. Once again, the contrast between the beauty and the beast works so easily. Epica really sounds like itself and not like any other symphonic metal band on this record, and this is very important in a scene with so many exchangeable bands. Most songs follow the beauty-meets-the-beast approach, and hit hard like the destructive “Victims Of Contingency” which is one of the hardest tracks ever written by the band.

    Other highlights include the epic instrumental “The Fifth Guardian – Interlude”, with its majestic Asian folk influences that remind me of The Last Successor, and the calmer, more classical and gracious symphonic metal hymn “Omen – The Ghoulish Melody”, which convinces with its powerful chorus. The two longer songs on the record, “Sense Without Sanity – The Impervious Code” and “The Quantum Enigma – Kingdom Of Heaven Part II”, have their precious moments, but are also a little bit overlong here and there, needing multiple spins to open up. I would say that the shorter and straighter tracks on the album work much better in general than the overambitious epics.

    Epica might not reach the quality of Xandria’s new release, Sacrificium, due to a extra length in the second part of the album but, it comes extremely close. I would have thought better of The Quantum Enigma if the band had focused on nine or ten tracks and a total length of around fifty minutes instead of inflating the record here and there. However, the first half of the record is really excellent. The musicianship is technically stunning, the production is powerful, the songwriting finds the right balance between grace and heaviness, and even the cover artwork is a stunner. Symphonic metal fans should definitely purchase this one, as I believe Epica has delivered the best effort of its career so far.

    Originally written for Black Wind Metal

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