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Epica: Design Your Universe

If I had to choose a favorite band the Dutch group Epica would certainly be in the running, and thus Design Your Universehas been my most anticipated album of 2009. Founder Mark Jansen made the right move, with his former band After Forever calling it a day, while Epica continues to move ahead. Epica blend gothic metal with classical music, expelling a deluge of enthralling orchestral metal with an expanse of varied vocals fronted by the voice of Simone Simons.

After a string of excellent albums, with The Phantom Agony, Consign To Oblivion, and The Divine Conspiracy, in my opinion Epica are the best at what they do. Epica's latest studio release Design Your Universe was produced, mixed, and mastered by the renowned Sascha Paeth, with so much going on in their fantastic arrangements you need someone of his caliber to do it justice, and once more Sascha has excelled.

"Samadhi ~ Prelude" the moving precursor flows into the outstanding "Resign To Surrender - A New Age Dawns - parts IV", and you are in for a real treat when you hear this one. It's hard to pick a favorite, but that says more about the quality of each track, like the heavy "Semblance Of Liberty", where the guitar work totally slays. There are a great deal of growls this time round from Mark Jansen,but fans of Simone Simons need not worry as her exceptional voice is still heavily featured. In addition, vocalist Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica makes an appearance on "White Steel". The music, well it's pretty well summed up in one word - sensational, with many surprises. Also look out for "Incentive", this gripping and lively bonus track is available on the digibook version of Design Your Universe.

Design Your Universe is the comprehensive benchmark of how this music should sound, Epica have met and then surpassed my expectations once again with this grand metal showpiece. Just when I thought I had heard my album of the year, Design The Universe has caused a serious re-think.


Track list:
1 - Samadhi ~ Prelude
2 - Resign to Surrender ~ A New Age Dawns - part IV
3 - Unleashed
4 - Martyr of the Free Word
5 - Our Destiny
6 - Kingdom of Heaven ~ A New Age Dawns - part V
7 - The Price of Freedom ~ Interlude
8 - Burn to a Cinder
9 - Tides of Time
10 - Deconstruct
11 - Semblance of Liberty
12 - White Waters
13 - Design Your Universe ~ A New Age Dawns - part VI
14 - Incentive (Bonus track)

Added: December 13th 2009
Reviewer: Scott Jessup
Score:
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 1970
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Epica: Design Your Universe
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2009-12-13 16:42:49
My Score:

The Divine Conspiracy was my second favorite release of 2007, and with no Symphony X or Opeth release in 2009, I've been wondering all year how Design Your Universe would rank amongst all the other strong contenders for album of the year here in 2009. Well, Design Your Universe is now out, and Simone Simons seems rejuvinated after her recent ailments, as this is not surprisingly a masterful release from her and the rest of Epica.

As far as melodic, epic symphonic metal with touches of death/black metal, it doesn't get much better than Epica these days. One listed to "Resign to Surrender", the opening cut on the CD, and you'll know you are going to be in for a treat. Simone sounds great as always, and the arrangements are even bigger here, allowing for more guitars, more keys, well, more of everthing. New guitar stud Isaac Delahaye (ex-God Dethroned) fits right in next to founder Mark Jansen, even throwing in some fancy lead guitar work amongst plenty of heavy riffing. One of the great elements of Epica are the dueling vocal wars between Jansen's grunts/growls & Simons' soaring melodic vocals, but here drummer Arien van Weesenbeek also joins Jansen in the harsh vocal department, adding even more layers on the vocal front. As for Simone, she's a choir all by herself on the proggy "Unleashed" (supported nicely by some sumptuous keys courtesy of Coen Janssen), and gets downright mystical on the enchanting "Martyr of the Free Word".

Other standouts include the epic five-part "Kingdom of Heaven", and the stunning title track, each one a perfect marriage of symphonic, progressive, extreme, and power metal. Comparing Design Your Universe to their recent The Devine Conspiracy is tough-on one hand, that one was a tad more accessible on the first few listens, and this new one takes more time to digest and sink in. However, on a purely musical & lyrical level, Design Your Universe is slowly proving to be on another level. You be the judge, but no matter how you look at it, Epica are quickly starting to distance themselves from the rest of the pack as far as this type of metal is concerned. This latest CD is another stellar release from them, and shows that their creative & musical juices are still flowing marvelously.



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