Review of Epica’s “The Quantum Enigma”

Reviewed by Brian Kelman

The Quantum Enigma has met the band’s primary goal: ‘creating the album that could lift Epica up to the next level’. Epica has taken everything they have done well in the past and expanded on it. Simply put: The Quantum Enigma blows the doors off!

The Quantum Enigma follows the usual symphonic metal formula followed by Epica (and most bands of their ilk). It begins with a bigger than life instrumental orchestral overture that also includes the rich harmonies of the choir (Originem). This rich blend of harmonies builds into the catchy fast paced rhythmic opener (The Second Stone). As usual there includes the usual orchestral interlude in the middle. Rather than a lame interlude that seems to be afterthought and makes them easy to skip, The Fifth Guardian outdoes itself in magnificence and richness. I can’t stress enough just how beautiful this piece composed by guitarist Isaac Delahaye truly is. A Chinese erhu takes center stage with the full support of the choir and orchestra. It then explodes into ‘Chemical Insomnia’, which supports the melodic themes introduced by The Fifth Guardian. Completing this musical journey is the longest track (The Quantum Enigma) and for an 11:53 song the title track holds together throughout with orchestra, choir and band providing a coup de grace of more great vocals, catchy melodies, pounding rhythm and a powerful solo. It is their best album closer to date.

    Epica’s albums have always had an appeal on a philosophical level by exploring specific concepts. The Quantum Enigma continues this trend with “an exploration of the subconscious mind” (Simone Simons) and the individual’s perspective of the outside world. Mark Jansen: “The album’s lyrics were inspired by the most mind-bending scientific proof in all of quantum physics: one that posits that our physical environment is directly influenced by our consciousness. We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. Ultimately, everything in the universe is energy and energy is influenced by the mind. Therefore, the mind creates and controls reality.”

    In a lyrical sense the album remains tightly focused on this theme throughout. The process the band used to write and put their songs together helps explain this.

    The Quantum Enigma was more of a group effort than on previous albums. Even though the basic parts of each song were written by individual band members, they met together as a team and went over each song in a painstaking, time consuming process. It paid off. The songs are of a much more modest length. Greater brevity has accented the memorable moments of each and created a cohesiveness that matches the focused lyrical content. From start to finish, the songs give plenty to please the musical palette.

    The addition of two newcomers to the process also represented a breath of fresh air. Joining the process is Joost van den Broek (After Forever, Mayan, ReVamp, Xandria). He was brought in to help arrange, edit, engineer and co-produce the album. Also, it was their first collaboration with mixer Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Hatesphere, Amaranthe). Kudos to both for their contribution for making The Quantum Enigma sound totally ‘epic’.

    Epica’s Sandlane String Ensemble provides the majestic orchestral parts and theKamerdoor PA’dam the powerful sweeping choir vocals. These two elements were on equal footing with the band: I’d estimate that each had a third in the mix. None of the three dominated the others overall, but rather complemented each other and none of the three got lost in the mix, either. Even so, The Quantum Enigma is actually quite a riffy driving metal album. My favourite song, Sense Without Sanity (The Impervious Code), best illustrates the above. 

    I’ve never been a big fan of Mark’s harsh vocals. He still can’t sound sinister or nasty to me, but he has improved to the point where I could understand him without running for the lyric sheet (most of the time). Simone sounds more impressive than ever. Is it her best work to date? I think so; never more softer, powerful, vibrant nor richer in equal measure. Her performance on Canvas of Life in particular makes it Epica’s best ballad to date.

    The Quantum Enigma comes in some different forms for all tastes and budgets. I have the three disc set (Earbook, which may or may not still be available). Disc 1 has the 13 track album plus a bonus track (Dreamscape). On Disc 2 are acoustic versions (Canvas of LifeNatural Corruption and the bonus Dreamscape) plus a track only available on this disc: In All Conscience. On Disc 3 are the instrumental (plus choir) versions of the album’s 13 tracks.

    Symphonic Metal has always been the most artistic of the Metal Sub-genres. The Quantum Enigma is an impressive musical and artistically integrated production that barely contains Simone’s usual rich soaring vocals, sing-a-long choruses, heavy intense riffing, booming bass and drums, majestic emotive strings and sweeping choir arrangements. The Quantum Enigma is an album I invite you to experience!

Overall Rating: 4.6/5

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