Released: 2014, Nuclear Blast
It’s always nice to be able to discover a band early in their career, become a fan and follow their progression over the years. Such has been my journey with Epica. I wrote a review of epic’s debut album, THE PHANTOM AGONY, ten years ago and have been a fan ever since.
THE QUANTUM ENIGMA is the bands 7th album in only 11 years, not to mention live albums and compilations, so as a recording/touring act they have been very productive. The band is still on nuclear Blast and have had not much in the way of changes, only the addition of former Delain bassist, Rob Van Der Loo.
In my mind THE QUNATUM ENIGMA is very much a twin-sister to the previous album. On REQUIEM FOR THE INDIFFERENT, the band cranked everything u pa notch and they have stayed true to that sound, raging Power Metal just drenched in the epic, symphonic, bombastic orchestrations. The dual ‘beauty and the beast’ vocal lines are taken almost to the max with some real death growls. For example of the cut, ‘Victims Of contingency’ they gruff vocals take a very prominent role backed by the massive sounding female choir. I almost, (almost but not quite), fear that the band at times had become so intense that they may alienate the listeners that are attracted to the bands more relaxed compositions. Following a heavily orchestral intro, the band rip out three crushingly heavy tunes, before taking a breath with a longer cut, ‘Sense Without Sanity’, but even that song has a swirling orchestrated sound that steamrolls over almost everything.
The whole album is dynamic, intense and loaded with sonic juxtaposition of sound dark and light, heavy and soft, but always coming back to heavy, with perhaps the exception of the beautiful, semi-ballad, ‘Canvas Of Life’ with a delicate piano line and Simone’s gorgeous vocals. I would suggest that THE QUNATUM ENIGMA is Epica’s heaviest, most intense album. The guitars and crunchy, the pace is fast and the choirs are like a sonic avalanche.
One thing I don’t understand is that on the final closing epic 12 minute long song, the title track is subtitled ‘Kingdom Of Heaven Part II’. It is a continuation of the song Kingdom Of Heaven’ from DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE back in ’09. However, the song ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ was originally part of the ‘New Ages Dawn’ suite, Part V to be precise, so…is this supposed to be Part 7 of the ‘New Dawns Age’ or ‘Kingdom of Heaven Part 2’? It’s confusing. The band has a bad habit of starting things and not finishing them then starting another musical idea and not finishing that either. They just take the one idea and do a concept album! For example, The ‘Embrace’ suite (nine songs) is more than enough to do an album unto itself, but it is spread across two albums and co-mingles with the ‘New Dawn Suite, (7 songs) which also could be it’s own concept album. I’m tempted to take these multi-song suites scattered across the various and make my own streamlined Epica albums!
With every album Epica grows in stature, rising through the ranks of the admittedly crowded field of gothic-tinged, neo-classical, symphonic Power Metal, through hard work and just making great music. It won’t be long before they could be snapping at the heels of Nightwish and THE QUANTUM ENIGMA might just have Tuomas Holopainen looking over his shoulder.