Once The Quantum Enigma (Nuclear Blast) has had time to work its way into your brain, it’s a highly impressive album. Due to the fact there’s a lot to it, it does require a few listens for it all to separate out, even though the song arrangements have been simplified compared to previous albums’ over-elaborations.
Streamlining serves Epica well, as they no longer get lost in an endless seam of parts. Instead, everyone knows their role and performs it excellently; the guitars are happy to act as a chugging metalcore foil to Simone Simons’ exemplary soprano vocals, or to dial it a down and sit under keyboards or softer chords for the more sugary moments, such as the earworm chorus of ‘The Second Stone’. Equally, with their roaring thick sound, they can step up and drive a song, such as the rhythmic pounding of ‘Victims Of Contingency’.
The whole symphonic metal shebang is nicely spiced up by a full chamber choir and live string ensemble both of whom embellish most tracks, but none so more than ‘Chemical Insomnia’, a mid-album track that starts with a dark riff, picks up pace with strings swirling over the double-bass drumming, a thrashy riff, into a staccato verse, a symphonic, orchestral pre-chorus and a sweet, softer poppy chorus.
There are two minor gripes. Firstly, the 12 minute closing epic is a touch underwhelming and doesn’t reach the standards of the rest of the album – an ‘Of Michael The Archangel and Lucifer’s Fall’ it ain’t… Secondly, at 70 minutes, no matter how well it’s delivered, Quantum is pushing its’ luck a little.
The above may all sound a bit kitchen sink, but the thought, effort and craft bear fruit as The Quantum Enigma is both an excellent album and a collection of great songs and it is churlish to pick when presented with such an expertly put together symphonic metal album. Expertly produced, and in a year when the poppier Delain and the slick machine Within Temptation have released strong albums Epica are more than holding their own with an album that stands alongside Design Your Universe as the best the band have released to date.
8.0 / 10