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A New Age Continues - 95%

Sue, November 6th, 2009

It would have a 100% if not for Obama and Bush talking through the interlude.

After their phenomenal debut, Epica released "Consign to Oblivion" which kept up the highest quality in symphonic metal while offering a darker, more gothic sound. With Divine Conspiracy they grew lighter again, catchier to the point of Andrew Lloyd Weber style rhymes and melodies. Now, with Design Your Universe, they return to the darkness and sharpen their sound for a more technical, powerful album. It's exactly what I love about Epica.

From the Prelude we can hear that Consign to Oblivion sound. Rather than the gloomy, sad openers of Phantom and Divine, this album opens, like Consign, with a light symphony version of the leitmotif that will resurface at the end of the disc. Then right of the bat we're treated to some of Epica's fastest, most complex music to date. Kingdom of Heaven clocks in at over 13 minutes and far surpasses the recent Nightwish or Opeth tracks of similar length in power, emotion, melody and complexity. It's followed by an average interlude of no particular value with political connotations the album doesn't need.

But then we're back to form with five wild tracks, including one of Epica's hardest and two soft melodic songs which retain the quality and musical wit of classical symphony. Then on its final track, the album hits it's highest note: The title track is just about the coolest thing this band has ever released. It's the culmination of every lyrical and melodic theme on the album, and the ultimate expression of the band's unique sound.
Every player and every singer is on top form here, the production is flawless but not soulless, the music is catchy but never hokey, melodic but hard as hell, wild but articulate and even restrained. It is Epica's most complex work to date, but every second of it is accessible, instantly appreciable. Highly recommended for any Epica fan, recommended too for new fans who can enjoy an all out master work on first listen.