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Epica - Design Your Universe CD (album) cover

DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE

Epica

 

Progressive Metal

3.90 | 116 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

culexearth
4 stars I was exceptionally stoked to hear EPICA was back and releasing their 4th album preceded by The Divine Conspiracy. I can't believe this album has only been rated by 5 other people as it is not only an excellent prog metal album but possibly the best for the band or at least on-par with their earlier albums.

I had high expectations with Design while at the same time finding myself being highly critical because I was very pleased with Divine and I don't see many bands these days releasing 2 highly laudable albums in succession unless its part of an on-going concept. My first thought going in during the obligatory "classical/choir intro followed by a full band song" motif is that it is a contender for the best album opener to date for the band--very memorable and creative, original use of the choir in places colliding with the "metal" near the beginning of "Resign to Surrender". "Samadhi" and "Resign to Surrender" will show the listener what the band is all about: Melodic sweeping orchestras, heavenly choirs, 7-string guitar sound, grunt & scream vocals from guitarist Mark Jansen juxtaposed with operatic vocals from Simone Simons.

After that, the album is song after song of creative and melodic symphonic Gothic metal each compacted with its own identity. Each song stands out on its own albeit it takes a few listens. Design follows up a similar formula to Divine which isn't a bad thing: Intro or prelude, a few heavy hitters, an interlude, a ballad, a couple more heavy hitters followed by another ballad and the title track closer. What puts the album out there in the stratosphere for me is the marked improvement of the production and the way the band (particularly drummer AriŽn) sounds as a whole in the studio. Maybe it's just me but this album sounds magnificent in terms of production in comparison to Divine, Consign, and Phantom. I love those albums but in this kind of music with orchestras and choirs and the like, drums are extremely important because they make up the rhythm session and honestly is what makes it metal and the earlier releases IMO had such a weak rhythm section. Part of what I love about prog metal is the stark contrast between the keyboards/orchestra/piano and the "heavy metal" drums, guitars, and bass, and the old albums lacked that.

Another aspect worth noting is the inclusion of the traditional guitar solo on a few songs for which is something not known for Epica. They usually let the classical parts or the melodies of the choir or keyboards/piano take precedence of guitar solos. It is a welcome addition because of its sporadic nature.

The only reason I don't give 5 stars (which is a rating that gets thrown out too much on all website reviews) is simply that the mix of grunt/scream male vocals and clean female operatic vocals might be off-putting to some listeners not too mention the constant mix of distorted guitars, orchestras and choirs might stir people the wrong way, but I see no reason why fans of Epica won't adore this album. Progressive metal fans in general should find something they love in Design your Universe.

culexearth | 4/5 |

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