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A friend introduced me to Borknagar's The Archaic Course as "black metal you'll actually like." High praise, considering my thoughts on most black metal, but she was right. It really was not full-on black metal, but that did not matter to me because the music was so good and...different. Inspired by how "Ocean's Rise" was stuck in my head for hours, I picked up Quintessence as a blind purchase and waited for winter to come (it may be stereotypical, but I really do enjoy this type of music more when it is cold).
There was a freak snow storm in late October this year (an extreme rarity considering where I live) and I figured that it was finally time to give Quintessence a listen. The first time through was excruciating, but that is pretty normal for many releases I end up enjoying a great deal. Yet subsequent listens were just as painful (and I don't mean in a "so br00tal it is painful" sort of way). It was just boring. The melodies were not memorable, and the riffs and arrangements were far from compelling.
There are keyboards everywhere but the keyboard sounds Lazare chose add nothing and are just obnoxious. They do not sound evil or epic and even the term "proggy" would be a bit of a stretch. I actually like ICS Vortex a lot, for the most part, but here his clean vocals, when they do show up by themselves (as opposed to being simultaneous with harsh vocals) fail to add anything to the song. His growls are horrible.
There is only one worthwhile song on the entire album, which is coincidentally the only song ICS Vortex wrote, "Colossus." It almost sounds out of place and breaks up the monotony. It is actually exciting and goes somewhere. However, even listening to the three previous songs just to get to this one is tedious.
While Quintessence is not laughably bad, it certainly does nothing to justify its existence aside from the aforementioned "Colossus." After the album is over (if one can make it that far) no impression is left. Listeners might be misled at first, thinking that perhaps there is something buried beneath that will reveal itself after numerous listens, but I'll save you the time, there is no reward for those with patience. If a marriage of black metal and progressive metal sounds appealing, look to Borknagar's Universal or The Archaic Course instead.