Review Summary: Epica finally delivers the album they were meant to make.
Power metal seems to have hit a wall within the last few years, hard. With Kamelot losing their frontman, Roy Khan in 2011 and Rhapsody of Fire losing their founding member Luca Turilli that same year, the genre seemed to loosen its grasp to their audiences as the years went on. Regardless of what albums by such bands like Kamelot could put out next, it was obvious that they would never return to their former glory now that they’ve seemed to have lost the fire within them. And when Epica announced their new album, the expectations weren’t very high for the most part. However, as weird and unexpected as this could be, Epica finally seemed to break down that wall, or at least made a hole in it, that had power metal bands struggle to keep their spark.
I’m going to be honest, Epica was a band that I avoided to listen to ever since I first heard “The Haunting (Somewhere in Time)” from Kamelot’s, The Black Halo
. The main reason as to why was because of Simmone Simmons’ operatic vocals. Now by all means, her voice isn’t bad. Quite the contrary actually, but the thing is that Simmons was more of a vocalist that was fit for an opera rather than a heavy metal band. If anything, it was annoying as hell just to listen to her, thanks to that ridiculous vibrato that she has and the overall messy mixture that their previous albums seemed to have. However, that’s when people were expressing their excitement for The Quantum Enigma
so naturally I was curious. And after listening to this, I was unexpectedly surprised as to what Epica could really bring onto the table. I was proved wrong and my expectations for Epica were crushed immensely when this record came out, as not only has Simmons seemed to have improved in her vocal quality, but the whole band seems to have created something not only new for the band, but challenging for themselves overall with this release.
The instrumentation in The Quantum Enigma
is absolutely phenomenal throughout. The guitars are spot on with their complex strumming and the solos are extremely well performed while the drumming is executed perfectly. Both vocalists, Simmons and Jansen, are mixed in extremely well within the music as well, adding in that element of surprise that keeps the album from going stale. No longer do I feel that Simmons ruins the experience nor distracts the listeners from any of the other elements. If anything, Simmons enhances them due to the practically flawless mixture within the instrumentation. The orchestrations and choir keep the album alive without ever detracting listeners from the main musical attributes, making the album have a feeling of broad openness that builds the album to an *ahem* epic scale that few power metal bands can truly achieve. All in all, every single one of these elements maintains the energy and consistency throughout the entire record which is another reason as to why the album may just be Epica’s (first?) masterpiece of their careers.
My only wish in this album would be if Jansen would play a much larger role in the vocal work. He’s an extraordinarily talented musician and vocalist, no doubt. But with the music that Epica brings, especially for this record in particular, it demands more of Mark Jansen and less of Simmone Simmons. Not saying that Jensen should be the lead vocalist from now on, but if he would put himself out there in front alongside with Simmons more often, then Epica’s next record, if it lives up to the expectations of The Quantum Enigma
, will feel complete.
The Quantum Enigma
is the biggest surprise of the year. Most of the records released in 2014 so far have seemed to have met expectations. Regardless of how good or bad they were, they held almost no surprises. However, Epica of all bands seems to have made the first truly surprising yet well-executed record of the year so far. Not only does album feel successful in its own right, but it will immensely help break down that barrier that power metal artists have been punching at for years. The Quantum Enigma
is Epica’s “Black Halo” if you will, as it is their landmark album that will certainly give Epica the attention they deserve. It’s phenomenal instrumentation, production, and collaboration within its members give Epica’s latest record the push it needed to make it enjoyable, powerful, and dare I say…epic.