For all its ambitious plotting, baroque soundscapes, and unquestionable technical merits, Epica's first album was distinctly lacking in the most crucial of categories: songwriting. In fact, it pretty much proved the point that musical education doesn't necessarily guarantee musical inspiration, ultimately achieving surprisingly little purchase in one's memory banks for an album so rife with Strum und Drang. In retrospect, it may also have been somewhat rushed in its construction, what with guitarist and creative leader Mark Jansen possibly being a little too anxious to prove his own mettle after quitting After Forever -- the band founded with his sister Floor, and who in fact helped pioneer the symphonic/progressive/power metal style still on dominant display here. Longer preparation has certainly had a positive effect on the sophomore effort, but, if anything, Epica remain more committed to that original vision than the increasingly modern-sounding (though no less progressive) After Forever, insisting on employing human choirs and orchestras throughout Consign to Oblivion, and rarely letting mezzo-soprano Simone Simons stray from an operatically correct delivery. Jansen's death growls have also taken a noticeable back seat this time around, but that's not to say that typical offerings such as "Dance of Fate," "Blank Infinity," and "Force of the Shore" fail to provide plenty of heavy staccato guitar riffing and hyperactive double kick drums. Single candidate "Solitary Ground," on the other hand, finds an adequate middle ground between rocker and ballad; "Quietus" pretty much waltzes away from start to finish; and the symphonic overkill is finally toned down for the surprisingly pop-campy, harpsichord-led ballad "Trois Vierges" (big-time Nightwish influence), on which Simons is joined by Kamelot vocalist Roy Kahn. And don't forget the four different movements of a fatalistic suite subtitled "A New Age Dawns" (partly sung in Latin, and decrying man's folly with nature -- you know the drill), which are strewn about the album in somewhat arbitrary fashion, and may only confuse things further. Nevertheless, Consign to Oblivion's overall presentation is as immaculate as its predecessor's, and definitely an improvement from a compositional perspective, promising better things to come in Epica's future.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia