The Quantum Enigma
05 May 2014
The horrendously lazy ‘female-fronted’ tag is a relic of a bygone era and its continued existence is an insult to anybody who believes in the progressive opportunities that metal often affords. Epica, a band central to the European symphonic metal scene over the last eleven years, have too been lumped with this description in their time, in addition to being grouped in with other bands who use classical aspects in their music. In both counts, and especially compounded in the release of their latest album, The Quantum Enigma, there is far more to this Dutch metal outfit than the reductive sum of just their vocals and symphonic elements.
The first thing to note about this release is how damnably accessible it is. Requiem for the Indifferent drew criticism for its darting focus and uneven songwriting, but these foibles seem well in Epica’s past. The Quantum Enigma might be vast and expectedly grand in its delivery, but the choral hooks in songs like the blistering ‘The Second Stone’ hark back to the band’s zenith during the Design Your Universe-era.
Epica also know how and when to apply their trademark classical swirls in a way that pays testament to their decade in the field. About thirty seconds into ‘The Essence of Silence’ and the dewy-sheen of the violins fall away into a monster of a riff, exposing the band’s eternally metal heart. Additionally, moving between segments of Mark Jansen’s growled vocals and Simone Simons is never the laborious toll that over bands make it. Instead the duelling vocals help to aid the ebbs and flow of the record as much as their progressive-minded musicianship does. So when the record decides to be heavy, it makes no bones about it. The record’s backdrop is the massive orchestral pieces that carry a gravitas and a miasma that rarely lose their clout, backing up the weighty guitars and spandex-tight rhythm section.
The Quantum Enigma is massive in both length and scope. It is unrepentant in what it sets out to do, yet is the greatest proof that Epica can write massive, accessible music without having to compromise on scale or aggression.
Sounds Like: A touch of Kamelot, a hint of Nightwish, a metric fuckton of Epica
Standout Tracks: The Second Stone, The Essence of Silence, Chemical Insomnia