Review Summary: Epica reaching its peakpoint
Netherlands is becoming one of the countries having an unstoppable eruption of creativity in metal. Many awesome bands begin to emerge, and the good ol' popular ones dare to push their own boundaries. I actually wouldn't have included Epica among the ones having much musical progress over the years, and would have never expected them to take considerably brave steps, and oh damn how I was wrong. And holy cosmos how glad I am now that I was wrong.
For the symphonic metal fans not knowing the band (do such people still exist"!), Epica will remind you of early Nightwish and Therion. However, Epica certainly has a unique style. Consider more power, heavier riffs, thick, almost tubular growls and an epic music parallel to the name of the band. Then include "Simone Simons" factor, which is as strong and dominating as Tarja Turunen. Combine all of these elements and I think you'll get my point: They're damn good.
Epica have kept their style for relatively long without changing so much. This is not to say that they made copies of their old works in each new album, but didn't add much exciting stuff as well. Nonetheless, they're pretty good at producing hits, and I think that's the underlying reason behind the fact that they can release 3 different EPs / singles within the same year. I would say that nobody would expect "Design Your Universe" to be any different. and on the contrary, many would foresee a more pop friendly album.
Until they listen to it and get smashed. That's what happened to me and I couldn't be happier. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that they completely changed and decided to kick Simone out and become a grindcore band, but they nicely incorporated elements from progressive metal, death metal, while still keeping their symphonic core which has also become more powerful. They didn't completely get rid of their pop friendly part but why the hell would they do that. Especially when they are becoming better at it. So, what "Design Your Universe" will offer you is a more progressive, brave, tougher, a more epic, overall a much better Epica. Try 14-minute masterpiece"Kingdom of Heaven", which is the biggest and best thing they've done, you'll get what I mean.
In the heart of the top quality sound, the thick 7 string powerful guitar tone, the amazingly improved drumwork that collaborates eloquently with the symphony, there is the battle between the aggressive growls and soft beautiful vocals. The guitar riffs, are more inspired than ever and certain partitions are just dazzling. When such positive elements combine, it is of course crucial to have the sense of collectivity to not mess things up. And considering about the collectivity of "Design Your Universe", I can say it's nothing but mind blowing. As to lead guitar, it is obvious that Mark Jensen, the founder of the band did such a good choice when he decided to employ Isaac Delahaye, since "Design Your Universe" simply contains the best lead guitar parts in the whole discography of Epica.
Epica proves to be one of the best theme composers with this album again; it's just a musical feast. The layout of songs; where to boil up or where to calm down, where to get in to a new variation, all are adjusted perfectly. Maybe that's the reason why every second of the album is delightful. I honestly feel ready for torturing to whom says "Epica is colorless and boring", at least for this album.
Design Your Universe is also an indicator of the band's running its own style at its full pelt, but now with the passionately executed progressive style. I think if the band gets more into that, everything would be quite different, in a good way. The potential is released. now it needs to be fed, to be incited. I remember mentioning "Nightwish" at the beginning of the review. Getting back to it, I must say that the current Epica is a way, way better than the current Nightwish, and even Haggard, who did so little new stuff but repeated itself.
If you already like the old stuff of Epica, you must surely not miss this one. Moreover, if you don't like the old ones, I strongly suggest you to give another chance. Because "Design Your Universe" is the peak point of Epica. It's time that Epica is compared with Therion and Haggard.
Choir is one of the most important determinants of Symphonic Metal. But what determines the characteristics of Epica as to vocals is Simone Simons, who has a parching effect on people. Along with her attitudes and goddess-level beauty, with her voice that makes listener leave the concept of concreteness, what the hell can anyone feel anything other than pure adoration" Because my adoration is a bit redundant, I want to dedicate the end of my review to her:
"Dear Simone, you're a diligently created existence by the god, for the god, but accidentally sent to the earth. You are an entirely different species than human, or if you are one, we must be something else. Best regards".