Saturday, June 4, 2011

Epica - Design Your Universe (2009)

When it comes to electrifying guitars, thunderous drums, and symphonic sounds and structure, you can expect nothing less from Epica. And I'm not talking about Kamelot's "Epica" album from 2003. I am talking about Mark Jansen and his symphonic outfit from the Netherlands. Their latest album, entitled "Design Your Universe," takes you into the world of science with references to quantum physics and its breakthroughs. The lyrics are very inspiring and motivating.

The album starts off with a short prelude with outstanding instrumentation that will lure you in immediately. This leads you into the first full song "Resign To Surrender: A New Age Dawns, Part IV" which starts with a choir chanting over tons of orchestral instruments. Then heavy guitars enter with aggressive growling from Jansen. As he fills the verses with darkness, their female vocalist, Simone Simons, takes over the refrain with gorgeous clean singing. She shows off her talented voice as she sings soft lyrics, yet is also able to sing in a high operatic voice as well. Following this song is track three, "Unleashed," which, during the chorus, you will find yourself being consumed by Simons ravishing lyrics and impressive reach of high notes. Not to mention the melody of the chorus itself is catchy and breathtaking. There is no doubt that it will be playing in your head for days.

If you're looking for something a little heavier, don't worry. The album offers "Martyr Of The Free World," which contains lightning guitar riffs and punchy kicks and snares right in the beginning. The song quiets down while Simons lays down her soothing vocals, but the refrain picks up again with fast double bass pedals and bright cymbals. Another song with similar heavy tones is "Kingdom of Heaven: A New Age Dawns, Part V." You are immediately greeted by machine gun guitar riffs and monstrous double bass drumming. Operatic vocals take over as they are accompanied by beautiful orchestral strings mixed with distorted guitars. The drum fills are absolutely incredible throughout this 13 and a half minute masterpiece. Demonic growls enter later in the song, as they are delivered in a deep devilish tone. It's terrifying and exciting all at once!

Things slow down with "Tides Of Time," which is a beautiful ballad with Simons belting captivating lyrics as soothing strings and piano keys surround her. "White Waters" is another calm, refined song that is actually a duet between Simons and Tony Kakko, who is the lead vocalist of Sonata Arctica. The vocals compliment each other beautifully, as if they had been practicing and preparing this song for years. This is definitely a song you cannot miss.

The album comes to an end with a nine minute epic piece called "Design Your Universe: A New Age Dawns, Part VI." The verses are filled with clean vocals backed up by catchy bass lines. Harsh growling follows to help build up to the chorus. The chorus is full of operatic vocals which are delivered in a unique pattern of melodies that really make this song stand out from the rest of them. Catchy and overwhelming, as I'm sure you'll be humming along. Make sure to look up the lyrics when you get a chance.

As you can see, "Design Your Universe" has a lot to offer both musically and lyrically. Epica clearly delivers pure symphonic beauty and reaches out to all sorts of sounds and instruments to create such a detailed album. So much is going on between the song structure, the tempo, the lyrics, and the instrumentation that you will definitely have to go back through the album a couple of times to catch everything. And for those of your who buy the album from iTunes, you will also get a duet version of the song "Unleashed" where Simons is joined by the ravishing Amanda Somerville who has worked with multiple groups such as Avantasia, Kamelot, and Luca Turilli. Be sure to check that out as well.


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