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Epica - Design Your Universe CD (album) cover




Progressive Metal

3.90 | 116 ratings

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3 stars Epica breaks orbit

The latest Epica release "Design Your Universe" is another expansive feast in the vein of the previous "The Devine Conspiracy." With this album Epica moves to the top of their game in the "female-fronted" power/goth/death symphonic-metal category, if I've got the classification right. They would seem to have created the ultimate album for people who want an all-of-the-above bombastic experience. "Design Your Universe" is more than a title or a call to fans to take control of their lives, it may well be the mantra of the band's approach to the creation of the album. They absolutely have created their own sound universe within these walls.

"Design Your Universe deals with new breakthroughs in quantum physics. It proves that we are all connected to each other on subatomic level. Also, it shows that we can create or at least influence matter with our thoughts...a very interesting fact. Because it changes everything for us, our whole worldview collapses once you accept these facts and integrate them in your lives. So this had to become the new album title." -Mark Jansen

The band packs so much information on this disc that it becomes the only conceivable complaint I have, that sometimes, the album is just too much. Maybe my advancing age explains why I have to be "in the mood" for this album or it simply wears me out, but if stimuli overload is not an issue for you, by all means dig in. Everything about DYU is amazingly crafted, as well done as can be, and delivered with the stunning talents this group possesses. The musicians and vocalists are just incredible. The songs are way to the heavy side, heavier than TDC with a more prominent guitar sound, the structures again tight as hell with the frequent blast drumming. From there the basic songs are pumped to overload with tons of orchestrations, choir vocals, sound effects, even acoustic guitars. Yet with the pot so full of ingredients and the speed moving so fast, they are still able to tame this sound into something extraordinary. Glorious harmonies of voices and strings punctuated by relentless and brutal metal, all of it as convincing as can be. The contrasts of sounds and the enormity of the whole package are both striking in their success.

"They are definitely ramping up their craft on this record; much like Kamelot or Vanden Plas have done in recent times, they take everything - orchestral instruments, riffs, melodies, rhythms - to grandiose heights. "Martyr of the Free Word" pummels through with machine-gun like riffs, flailing double blasts and exotic, Middle Eastern-inspired melodies. Likewise, Epica aren't averse to flirting with progressive mellotron tones and timbres that are reminiscent of Opeth, or slow, mysterious passages that are heard in the sprawling opus "Kingdom of Heaven"...." -Metal As F*ck review

While Epica butter their bread with these theatrical bone-crunching anthems, it is the change-ups here which win me over and give me the chance to take a breath. "Tides of Time" is a gorgeous ballad which slows things down and even shows off an emotional guitar solo, and some less constrictive drumming. "White Waters" is another "mellow" track with acoustic guitars and an ethereal feel that allows us old guys a chance to get our blood pressure under control. The big epic tracks like "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Design Your Universe" are where the full scope of Epica is realized; they are like mini plays, or film soundtracks, taking you into a world of fantasy sound but also grandiose imagery. The whole 75 minute album is literally exhausting the first few times you play it, over time your brain begins to break it down and the subtleties that first seem bludgeoned to death by the volume emerge. It is then when the album begins to convince and charm you.

The cynics will say that Epica is a band of contrivance, from their airbrushed sexy photos in their cd booklet to the formula of fantasy "beauty and the beast" bands which do seem to mimic one another on the surface. At times I feel that way myself. But to do so is to deny Epica the fruits of their labor and ambition. The simple fact is that this band is not just good at what they do, they have become great at it, and DYU is a testament that proves the naysayer wrong. If you like "this kind" of symphonic metal you will love DYU.

Finnforest | 3/5 |


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