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Epica Design Your Universe album cover
3.90 | 125 ratings | 8 reviews | 30% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2009

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Samadhi (prelude) 3 (1:27)
2. Resign To Surrender (A New Age Dawns, Part IV) 4 (6:19)
3. Unleashed 4 (5:48)
4. Martyr Of The Free Word 3.5 (5:03)
5. Our Destiny 5 (6:00)
6. Kingdom Of Heaven (A New Age Dawns, Part V) 3.5 (13:35)
7. The Price Of Freedom (interlude) 2.5 (1:14)
8. Burn To A Cinder 4 (5:41)
9. Tides Of Time 4 (5:33)
10. Deconstruct 4 (4:14)
11. Semblance Of Liberty 3.5 (5:42)
12. White Waters 2.5 (4:44)
13. Design Your Universe (A New Age Dawns, Part VI) 4 (9:28)

Total time 74:48

Bonus tracks on 2009 LP edition:
14. Incentive (4:11)

Bonus tracks on 2019 edition:

Disc 2 - The Acoustic Universe
15. Burn to a Cinder (5:32)
16. Our Destiny (5:13)
17. Unleashed (5:06)
18. Martyr of the Free Word (3:56)
19. Design Your Universe (8:21)

Total time 28:08

Line-up / Musicians

- Simone Simons / vocals
- Mark Jansen / rhythm guitar, grunts vocals, orchestral arrangements
- Isaac Delahaye / lead guitar
- Coen Janssen / synthesizer, piano, choir arranger & conductor, orchestral arrangements
- Yves Huts / bass (1-14), orchestral arrangements (10)
- AriŽn Van Weesenbeek / drums, grunts & spoken word
- Rob van der Loo / bass (15-19)

- Tony Kakko / clean vocals (12)
- Amanda Sommerville / alto vocals, backing vocals, vocal coaching
- Cloudy Yang / alto vocals
- Bridget Fogle / soprano vocals
- Linda Van Summeren / soprano vocals
- Previn Moore / tenor vocals
- Melvin Edmonsen / bass vocals
- Sascha Paeth / backing vocals, mixing & co-producer
- Michael "Miro" Rodenberg / orchestral arrangements

Releases information

Artwork: Stefan Heilemann

CD Nuclear Blast ‎- NB 2345-2 (2009, US)

2xLP Nuclear Blast ‎- NB 2345-1 (2009, Germany) With a bonus track

Reissued as remixed double disc by Nuclear Blast October 4th 2019 with slightly amended artwork.

Thanks to progshine for the addition
and to kev rowland for the last updates
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EPICA Design Your Universe ratings distribution

(125 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(30%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(41%)
Good, but non-essential (21%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

EPICA Design Your Universe reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Negoba
4 stars The Ultimate Symphonic Goth Metal Ear Candy

There are plenty of albums that qualify as pure pleasure listening, without alot of depth. Few are quite as exceptionally crafted as Epica's "Design Your Universe." Of the many albums I've gotten on a whim, this is one I return to over and over. The combination of Carmina Burana vocals, heavy riffing, blast beats, and orchestration satisfies the same part of me the likes visually intense science fiction. It really is just entertainment folks.

I've been tempted to give this album 5 stars as it satisfies a certain taste so perfectly. However, two problems arise. First, the album shows all its cards early. The overall sounds that make it so good are heard in the opening overtures, and the best song "Martyr of the Free World," is song 5 out of 13. Unlike Pain of Salvation, whose classic albums all seem to climax at the conclusion appropriately, on this album Epica starts running out of gas. There are some great sounds and interesting ideas as the album progresses, but they get fewer and farther between. The second related is the lack of variability in the sound once it is established. Tempo remains much the same, the 5 or 6 sound types are used and reused.

That all said, those sounds are extremely well put togther. The female vocals are superb, the choral vocals even better. The male growls are average. The drumming and guitars are very well done, though there's not alot of suprises. The defining characteristic is the goth orchestal elements and the composition, which is very well done.

This would be the perfect soundtrack to a fantasy film. Pure pleasure. 8.5 / 10

Review by Finnforest
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Prog Leviathan
3 stars It's often written that Epica mixes the best of death, gothic, power, and symphonic metal into one melodic package, a fair description for Design Your Universe, and while there is a ton of excellent stuff happening on this album, it seems to happen vacuum.

"Resign to Surrender" kicks in the door with the chugging crunch of guitar and an energetic momentum, as we're treated to Epica's signature sound of diverse vocals (growls, female leads, and choral backgrounds), bad-ass guitar licks, and a morass of symphonic sound effects. One's appreciation of the power-metal genre will probably make or break Design Your Universe, since you'll pretty much be inundated with if from start to finish. While it doesn't suffer from the bombastic excess of some of the more operatic bands, it still fits snugly within the conventions of the genre. Overall though, I'd say that Epica's instrumental work is a little more thrash than their peers, though the intensity doesn't hit as hard as, say, Pagan's Mind.

However, Design Your Universe has a lot of songwriting panache to make it stand slightly above the heap. This is thanks mostly to the variety at their disposal; there's a lot of stuff going on here. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that more is better. Simons' vocals-- probably the most unique thing about the band-- are good but not as great as I had hoped; her voice is pure and powerful but lacks much in the way of inflection or emotion. Fortunately there is a wall of chugging guitar and machine-gun drum blasts to support her soaring melodies. Solos are solid, but similar to Simons' vocals in that they are powerful but don't make an impression; beautiful but bland at the same time.

There is enough variety to keep most of the album interesting, and the extended pieces, like "Kingdom of Heaven" and Design Your Universe work quite well. Still, the tone of the album didn't grab me. There's clearly a lot of good stuff going on here that will probably appeal to power-metal fans-- of which I am one-- but this one needs to be a little less of a one-trick-pony and bring more gusto to the table for me to jump on the Epica bandwagon. Still great for an occasional listen though.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 3 Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Review by BrufordFreak
4 stars One of my step-daughter's favorite groups (she's a fem-fronted Goth and classical music/opera geek), this album was not as well received by her as their previous releases, 2007's The Divine Conspiracy and 2009's full orchestra- and choir-accompanied live album, The Classical Conspiracy. Epica's music is a bit over-the-top drama metal for me, but I must admit that the compositions are quite clever and performed at quite a high level of musicianship. Plus, Simone Simons has quite an amazing voice. Were I young and needing to expell a lot of teen angst, Goth metal would be a great outlet, and there are none better of that sub-sub-genre than Epica.

Favorite songs: "Unleashed" (5:48) (9/10) and "Martyr of the Free World" (5:03) (8/10)/

Four stars for highly accomplished, complex compositions and performances.

Review by kev rowland
5 stars There is no doubt that Epica's fifth album, 2009's 'Design Your Universe' was a breakthrough both for them and for the symphonic metal genre in general. Although the band had already built a strong reputation and released some great albums since being formed by Mark Jansen following his departure from After Forever, this album marked the watershed between a fairly well-known symphonic metal band with high ambitions and an international phenomenon of great prowess. With striking momentum and a carefully maintained balance between epic metal and orchestral soundscapes, between cinematic bombast and teeth-clenching heaviness, between Mark Jansen's grunts and Simone Simons's vocals, everything just worked. Looking back at it now it is easy with hindsight to point out the importance of this album in their canon, as it was the first to feature Ari'n van Weesenbeek as their new permanent drummer, Isaac Delahaye as their new guitarist and cover artist Stefan Heilemann (Heilemania), all of whom are still involved to this day. To celebrate the tenth anniversary the decision was made to revisit the album, re-mix it, and then provide some additional acoustic versions from the current line-up, making for a double disc release which is roughly 110 minutes long.

The band has been incredibly stable in turns of line-up over the length of their career, and the only new boy since the original is bassist Rob van der Loo who joined in 2012, so it was easy for the whole band to be involved with going over the original tapes. What can one say about an album which is either the best, or second best (2016's 'The Holographic Principle' is in very close contention for that title) of their whole career? The sound has been kept true to the original, although some of the compression has been released, and any album which contains 'Martyr of the Free Word', 'Unleashed', power ballad 'Tides of Time' or the epic 'Design Your Universe' is always going to be well received. Jansen says. 'My favourite song was and still is 'Kingdom of Heaven'. It has all the elements EPICA stood for at the time, but even more so because it is dedicated to my grandmother who passed away while we were recording this album. It will always have a special meaning to me.' And not only to him. 'Mark's grandmother was a very important figure for the whole band', Simone Simons says. 'Her house was our rehearsal space from the beginning of EPICA. She always greeted us with a smile and made sure we had everything we needed.'

Fans will play the first disc with real joy, but will turn to the second disc with interest, as here the band take on five songs from the album in an acoustic, orchestral and choral setting. I love hearing Simone's voice in this setting as she is letting it flow without having to provide the force and presence it requires when she is fronting a metal band at full force, with 'Burn To A Cinder' being a fine example of her range and style. There will be many fans who think the band may never better 'Design Your Universe' but they may not have heard the Gold Edition yet.

Latest members reviews

4 stars Now as some of you know, im an Epica nut, i admit it, i love this band and indeed this genre, i feed of the power of those fantastic guitar/keyboard interplays, and just the whole epic scale of things, and of course ive been following Epica like a hawk after hearing there 2007 opus The Divine Con ... (read more)

Report this review (#287580) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Sunday, June 20, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ear ... (read more)

Report this review (#271142) | Posted by culexearth | Wednesday, March 10, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I wanted to listen to this album a few more times before giving this review, but as it stands, I can't bear to see this fantastic album with such low ratings and not even a single review. This is undoubtedly the triumph of Epica's career to this point. And a strange triumph indeed it is. At th ... (read more)

Report this review (#270634) | Posted by Nuke | Tuesday, March 9, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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