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Ready to cross the distance. - 70%

Diamhea, July 6th, 2016

I've had this album for quite a while and never felt compelled enough to write a review on it, despite many opportunities. Boredom strikes like never before this afternoon, so here we are. Epicurean are for all intents and purposes just another face in the overwhelming crowd of symphonic melodeath bands that (for the most part) outcropped from the ~2005 popularity of bands like Skyfire, Scar Symmetry, and a handful of other relatively bigger names. There is still some tangible semblance of Gothenburg respectability in the riffing patterns, offset by omnipresent synths and occasional clean vocals that while not amazing on a technical level, are implemented intelligently.

A Consequence of Design certainly doesn't hide Epicurean's presumably meager budget. Guitars have that reedy, practice amp aesthetic to them, and the synths are clearly just plopped over the rest of the album's sonic palette like a wet rag. That said, I am digging the corporeal element imparted by the keyboardist, who never leaves the listener's peripheral vision, always tinkering away on pseudo-orchestral runs and the occasional symphonic black metal stab like on the second half of "The Burden of Eternity." These moments remind me of mid-era Dimmu Borgir like Spiritual Black Dimensions, and it somehow doesn't suck as much as it should. The vocals attempt a menagerie of different styles, but generally settle on a desperate, rabid death growl/sneer. Sometimes the vocalist lapses into that irritating half-shout metalcore bands tend to use, but these moments are scarce.

To be frank, I was hoping that the lead guitarist would at least try and take center stage more often as opposed to being perpetually pushed into a corner by the synths. Solos are rare but capable, but the keyboards truly steal the show here; for better or worse. At many junctures I am reminded of Skyfire's Timeless Departure, but in others the vibe sounds far too dissonant to meet that criteria. Its epic sure, but it sounds like cheesy carnival music more often than it should. "Dividing the Distance" is probably the most atypical tune here, with some nice tapping lead sections and scale runs that at least attempt to do something left of center. I want to give Epicurean some measure of leniency due to their status as a very small fish in a big pond, but that doesn't forgive the excessive length of many of these songs. A trimming of fat would definitely do A Consequence of Design huge favors, as the epic yarns the band attempts to spin through pure runtime excess end up falling flat on almost all fronts.

I'm not trying to pigeonhole Epicurean here. There are plenty of good moments on this album, certainly enough for a lukewarm recommendation. For those enamored by the clashing of orchestral elements and melodeath, this might be a damn rewarding listen. It's nice to listen to a band that doesn't program all of their symphonic sections, as I for one can appreciate a keyboardist who plays all of the sections by hand; something that is becoming a bit of a rarity nowadays. This might have been something special with better production and more concise songwriting, but for what it is, A Consequence of Design is a satisfactory sophomore effort.

Overwhelming - 60%

commissar_mp, March 9th, 2011

I bought this album when it was (re)released nationally by Metal Blade in 2008. The bigger label release adds a couple of more accessable songs, Lithograph and Darkest of Days. Lithograph might be the album's lead single if this band had singles as it actually appeared on a major rock radio station here in Boston late one night. I deemed it kickass: furious riffs, melodic keyboards and an interesting mix of screamed and erie clean vocals combined to give it an erie, desperate atmosphere. I picked up the cd, the entire thing flows with the same unusual erie, desperate atmosphere and it has some awesome riffs. It combined everything great about power metal and melodeath! It got a lot of play.

It would not receive much attention after 2008 because over time that atmosphere started to remind me more of that of a mid summer day: stiffling and overwhelmingly dense. I'm not sure I've ever heard a piece of music that feels like it has so much 'stuff' going on at once. Blind Guardian's "A Night at he Opera", another very dense album, actually has more parts competing for your attention and a real orchestra has yet many more. Yet in those other places all the instruments at least generally work together when they're not standing out, where in this album they create an ill-defined soup of noise as thick as summer humidity. In parts of this album you have screamed vocals, multitracked clean vocals, keyboards, guitars, bass, and a very busy drummer all fed through an odd, blurry mix. It's also as endless as a summer afternoon can seem- the songs check in with fairly long lengths around 5-6 minutes and they packed this cd with about as much as they could.

You can tell this band has a ton of instrumental talent, and while a lot of what he says is unintelegible, a very expressive vocalist. You have amazing sequences, like the erie intro to Lithograph, the blazing guitar break in the middle Dividing the Distance, an epic guitar solo and instrumental passsage in Anathema: The Gatekeeper and some of the most angry and desperate music you'll ever hear in the form of To Cast a Mourning Shadow. But they didn't know where to stop- the good stuff has a lot of generic melodeath filler surrounding it, the atmosphere is too thick, and the lyrics, if you can hear them or if you read them, try to be too hard and sometimes get too abstract to be interesting. A lot of the best parts of this album are where one piece gets to take over and do something simple. If he guitarists just put out a pared down instrumental version, it'd be outstanding.

This is an interesting album with some outstanding riffs and a unique atmosphere, though in the name of atmosphere the mix turns the sound into a blurry mess and the filler turns parts of the album into one too. It's worth taking a listen if you don't mind that you'll have to step out for some air.

A lot of promise, yet a lack of delivery - 65%

ian_w, March 20th, 2009

Epicurean is the Greek word for gleaning pleasure in knowledge. I’m not sure what knowledge the members of this Minneapolis sextet have derived pleasure in, but it is definitely not how to make a unique album. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with paying homage to your predecessors, but when that homage borders on copyright infringement, we have a problem.

I don’t mean to come off so harsh, because even though Epicurean wears their influences on their collective sleeves, A Consequence of Design is still an entertaining listen. Epicurean is heavily influence by European melodic death metal. Keyboards and fast paced melodic riffs dominate the majority of the music with clean vocals (a la’ Soilwork) and rapid drumming also at the forefront of the tunes. Sound familiar? That’s because everything this band is doing has been done before and for the most part it’s been done better.

However, there are highlights on this album that give it a little identity of its own. The first three tracks showcase the bands style, embracing everything from vocalist John Laramy’s ethereal singing voice and desert dry rasps, to the surgically precise guitar work of John Major and Jared Mills. Another note on the singing; the clean vocals are overused on this album. Using them as counterpoint would have given A Consequence of Design much more depth, instead the long stretches of either clean or growled vocals give the impression of a band divided. Laramy’s growls are truly top notch though. His enunciation conveys much of power and emotion behind his lyrics (a perfect example of this is “Behind the Chapel Walls”).

The song “Lithograph” deserves a special mention. It’s unique when compared to the rest of the album. The contrasting vocal styles are used effectively and the guitar solo’s are on point. Unfortunately, much like most of this disc, the songs are too long. 5 minutes a track for melodic metalcore won’t hold my attention, especially, when there is nothing new brought to the table.

The production on A Consequence of Design is a little confusing. The keyboards that figure so prominently in setting the mood for most of the songs is far back in the mix with the vocals being the most predominate sound. Yet again, the bassist might as well have not performed on the album, because after nearly 15 listens I still have yet to hear anything he’s played. The guitars also lack that certain crunch that would really give the songs more power and emotion, but instead the high distortion and lack of a bottom end hurt Epicurean’s sound.

Overall, I’m disappointed with Epicurean and A Consequence of Design. This band has too much skill to write such a mediocre record. Sure, the technical prowess is there and glimmers of good songwriting shine through, but overall it fails to hit the mark. Hopefully the next record these obviously talented individuals produce lives up to their talent. To paraphrase the movie A Knight’s Tale, “They have been weighed, they have been measured, and they have been found wanting.”