Epica – The Quantum Enigma (2014) – Review

RockmusicRaider Review - Epica - Quantum Enigma - Album CoverWhat a change since The Phantom Agony and the likes. Some ten years have passed and a few follow-on albums too. But this kind of change is still rough.

And – oops – gonna make friends again! Or perhaps not with all these august fans in action to protect and serve. And even the Revolver Mag giving The Quantum Enigma very high notes. Well, I am torn on this one here album and it is indeed a mixed bag that you get from the Dutch Symphonic Metal band Epica. No doubt about it.

For sure all is quite well produced, but – gosh – just a tad too much bombast in it. They have tried to keep the operatic piece somewhat controlled and that is good. However, they pushed the beauty and the beast button a few times to many. As in The Essence of Silence and this just makes my teeth grind.

Also, the use of the choir and strings are bordering on the insane in certain passages. And Epica try to create an orchestra of sorts themselves by pushing too many instruments into the fray. Like overdone turkey with too much stuffing in a way that gravy cannot save it anymore.

OK, I am ranting again. After all it is technically quite good (and then again it is not so good…) like the terrible ogre hiding in his swamp. Shrek where are you? And it does take time to digest and only after much (very much) time to get used to the 6th studio album The Quantum Enigma from Epica it starts to stop being an enigma and grow on ye.

They worked a lot on the output it seems with the involvement of all band members, trying out new methods to record it. And to me it almost sounds like democracy in music, because they left so many elements in their tune that it almost overwhelms today’s abilities to record and reproduce such complex pieces of work. But for sure those are very good musicians playing their tune, who definitely know their trade.

By and large the tracks are varied and – very importantly – also different from one another. OK, I get it: Their style precedes them and this is similar to former productions with an edge, I would say. And forever grateful I will be that they did not attempt to be a friggin’ opera, whereas it sometimes gets close. Almost too close. But never as bad as the crimes committed by Diabulus in Musica in Argia

Ironically, their accoustic versions of songs in the deluxe album that I am listening to sound much better. Of course pure Folk, not an inch of metal in it. So, in a sense they would have been better off producing an acoustic album.  Kind of an unplugged version, albeit a lot of plugged still remains in this unplugged piece of work. Sublime, almost. I am just now listening to the acoustic versions of theirs songs. Damn! They missed a full and promising career, it seems. 10 out of 10 I would rate them – pretty good shit, soulful and well thought through.

No doubt the band would argue that the acoustic pieces are just a manifestation of their core know-how and what have you. Which are the operatic, bombastic, symphonic activities they like to indulge in. Well, whatever! But if you compare tracks like Natural Corruption with the plugged version? Well more stellar than anything else on this record you won’t get. The acoustic piece in their production is really very fucking good. And I am amazed!

OK, back up to the stuff they like to play and which is contained in the main album. The structure of The Quantum Enigma executes very well. There is a very good flow in all of the elements – I really like that aspect. But the tracks are in a way all slightly overdone. And then again, on the other hand it is not bad at all – same as some of my co-reviewers have opined as well. One of the main shortcomings of this album is that the band seems to be desperately trying to be true to their trademark and style. Instead of concentrating on their music and let the music talk and flow by itself (I am getting mystic…). This is what gives this album this kind of artificial, over-stuffed taste and feel that people have so much difficulty to pin down.

Very much in line with what I just said above, the album itself did not do all that well in the charts, given the (perceived) status of a leader of the scene. Getting to a reasonable level in the Dutch charts (rank 4), the rest of them is not all that stellar. And I am really not surprised, judging by what I hear.

Skipping the terrible intro, The Quantum Enigma starts pretty well with The Second Stone – sounding a little like Delain with an edge. But again, too much of the choir in it. The third and fourth tracks Essence of Silence and Victims of Contingency just caught too much of Beauty and the Beast in them. In a beastly way, I might add. And this mix of choir, clear vocals and growls is like – too much of everything.

The slower tracks like Canvas of Life are more full blooded and thoughtful than the others. And for once not too over-delivered with a gazillion of different instruments and elements in them. 

And once you think the album is drawing to a close, they hit you with The Quantum Enigma: Kingdom of Heaven, Pt. 2. An (almost) 12 minute epic, delivered with a sledgehammer. The full monty! Not all bad, but – gosh – like a sack of stones at times!

The second disc with the acoustic, non-metal pieces is – as mentioned before – very good indeed. Nothing to say there – actually folk of a symphonic kind right there. And already loaded with enough details to suit an entire band. They seem to have missed out on a different career. I really like the unplugged tracks a lot.

Overall, The Quantum Enigma is not a bad album. But way too heavily laden with too many elements and stubbornly sticking to an already well known style. Even if you could argue they have kicked it up a notch. If only they could have let go much more and let the music flow and talk by itself. THIS would have been stellar.


Record Rating: 5/10 | Label: Nuclear Blast | Web: Official Site

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