Epica - The Quantum Enigma

Epica - The Quantum Enigma

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(CD/LP, Nuclear Blast USA, 2014)

A decade ago you might be able to get a way by saying that EPICA is another NIGHTWISH-wannabe but now, you will sound foolish to say the least. You see, the Dutch band has walked many miles since the first two LPs where everything was pretty much revolving around the beautiful soprano Simone (ok, Mark Jansen’s AFTER FOREVER was another interesting trivia). EPICA have been in a constant maturing-mode and in every album, their music has been getting better and better. Personally, I thought that “Requiem For The Indifferent” was the band’s peak but how little did I know since “The Quantum Enigma” did manage to stimulate not only the listening but also the thinking part of my brain. Intrigued? You should be and my advice is to start by observing the cover artwork that speaks volumes about the lyrical content of this masterpiece.

Sure, “Originem” is an intro but I think gives many hints on what is about to follow that is not another female-fronted Symphonic Metal album. If you listen closer, you will actually feel (or hear) the EPICA’s composing confidence, especially in the way they own the orchestrations that are part of the music and not just an additional layer to spice things up. After the two-minute intro, it’s time to go Metal all the way with “The Second Stone” and its fast drumming and killer riff that soon enough is evolved into a headbanging groove. As expected, Simone’s singing is soprano-perfect but still, I think her performance is better and more passionate than in the previous albums. Mark steps in with the growling vocals leading EPICA into the Death Metal realm that is clearly inspired by Chuck Schuldiner. “The Essence Of Silence” is next and claims from the very beginning the title of the album’s highlight; the growling vocals are on the driver’s seat along with a massive bass sound and a solid rhythm section to die for. Simone stands for a while on the side but then claims your undivided attention with probably the best vocal melody EPICA have put together and in a higher pitch than usual. But wait until the riff explosion that sounds the charge for some intense headbanging after Mark’s grunt; awesome! The way this song moves from the Symphonic to the Death Metal character is unique and this happens during the entire album backing up my saying of how much EPICA have matured in terms of music creation.

The complexity of the music serves perfectly the lyrics that in a nutshell talk about pushing humanity’s thinking and perception limits, reaching to the conclusion that everyone is bound by what he sees and most of the times he is looking at the tree missing an entire forest. “Sense Without Sanity - The Impervious Code” starts like an epic movie soundtrack before bringing the big-guns that are the - yet again - impressive guitar work and Simone’s addictive singing, delivering some mind-tingling lyrics that really can make those lazy brain cells start working hard. While you’re thinking "this is good as it gets", the tempo speeds up (right after the spoken lines) compelling you to headbang and resonate with Simone as she sings “Our perspective on death, Defines how we spend our days”.

I really do not want to spoil all the fun by commenting in every single detail I keep discovering after every new spin of “The Quantum Enigma”. I have been peeling the album’s layers from the very first listening but still I have more before reaching its core. There are a lot of things happening on the background with the thick orchestrations and, in fact, I got some WINTERSUN goosebumps during the “The Fifth Guardian” interlude that is also the calm before the headbanging storm entitled “Chemical Insomnia”. Pay attention to how the riff is walking side-by-side with the classical arrangements as the music builds the tension under the guiding voice of Simone. I am really curious to learn the musical instruments were used for this one. Simone shines in “Canvas Of Life” with an expressional performance that reminded me of AYREON’s “Web Of Lies” and it would be a shame not to comment on probably the most beautiful melody of the album (at least, one of many). The album drops the curtain of this epic play after the almost twelve minutes of the self-titled song that is also the second part of “Kingdom Of Heaven”. Even though there are many things happening in this song, the listener does not feel overwhelmed (kudos to the producer) and, most importantly, the music sounds natural and not all compressed. The clean guitar break and the amazing solo open the way for the final climax that happens with multiple singing (love the almost whispering ones) and a fast double-bass drum driven rhythm to die for. The way the music is fading out makes the perfect pass to start listening one more time...

I may have used more than enough words to describe this album but to me it feels that I barely scratched its surface. There are many layers to unfold and even more pages to turn in what appears to be the best EPICA album thus far. It’s been a long time since I was amazed by an album that has many flavors for your ears and, most importantly, for your mind to taste. Are you ready for this challenge?

10/10 


Links:

www.Epica.Nl
www.MySpace.Com/Epica
www.FaceBook.Com/Epica
www.Twitter.Com/Epica


Tracklist:

01. Originem
02. The Second Stone
03. The Essence Of Silence
04. Victims Of Contingency
05. Sense Without Sanity - The Impervious Code
06. Unchain Utopia
07. The Fifth Guardian - Interlude
08. Chemical Insomnia
09. 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


Lineup:

Rob van der Loo - Bass
Isaac Delahaye - Guitar
Ariën van Weesenbeek - Drums
Simone Simons - Vocals
Coen Janssen - Keyboards
Mark Jansen - Guitar, Harsh Vocals