Epica – Design Your Universe

I’m really enjoying the new Epica album Design Your Universe. While many of the female fronted metal bands such as Within Temptation and Nightwish are exploring a more commercial sound it’s quite a surprise to find the new Epica album is quite crushingly heavy at times. Mark Jansen’s death grunts remain as much a part of the band’s sound as Simone Simons’ beautiful clean and soprano vocals.

Design Your Universe is overall a better album than the strong previous effort The Divine Conspiracy though I’d argue there isn’t a single track as good as the brilliant Chasing the Dragon from that album. However Design Your Universe is an all round stronger collection of songs. I’m particularly fond of Martyr of the Free World, Burnt to a Cinder and the epic 13 minute track Kingdom of Heaven.

I was particularly interesting in the songwriting credits for the album. It’s all too common for bands in this genre to have a female singer that has little creative input into the music – she’s there to look pretty and provide the beauty in the “beauty and the beast” sound. However Simone Simons has plenty of music and lyric credits on this release, as do other members of the band. Design Your Universe has really benefited from a band approach this time around – though clearly the bulk of the credit should go to guitarist Mark Jansen, it’s his baby.

At times really heavy, other times amazingly beautiful this is a great release by a band on the up. If they carry on like this they will make good on the promise of being the new Nightwish.