Open your ears, turn your volume up and surrender yourselves to the magic Epica have unleashed this year. “Design Your Universe” is really something else, and definitely one of the biggest surprises of 2009.

Just from the first track, you can tell there’s something different in Epica’s sound this time. Their songs are more intense, heavier and faster. There are new black/death elements enhancing the songs, making them darker, and that’s what makes them so good. A big contribution to this is definitely the addinion of two new musicians on the lineup. Arien’s drumming is amazing, adding more speed and heaviness, while Isaac offers his guitar skills. You can’t fail to notice there are some pretty good technical and fast solos this time. You can feel a strong force inside the songs, and who would have thought so…you’ll surely headbang a lot with this release. One would ask “where’s the symphonic stuff?”. Of course there are lots of orchestrations, only they are bigger and better than before, adding a majestic atmosphere.

Last but not least, the ace in Epica’s sleeve, Simone’s vocal work. The young and talented frontwoman’s performance is beyond imagination. Her voice is more mature, resulting in a more diverse line of singing this time, truly wonderful. The whole effort on this release is supported by an excellent production, and not to forget Tony Kakko’s guest performance.

I think “Design Your Universe” is a somewhat experimental release, and definitely a successful one. If Epica continue on this basis, I’m sure we’ll have something even better in the future. “Design Your Universe” is a must-listen-to, and even metalheads who used to find Epica “soft” for their taste will find it enjoying.

Track List Line Up
01. Samadhi (Prelude)
02. Resign to Surrender
03. Unleashed
04. Martyr of the Free World
05. Our Destiny
06. Kingdom of Heaven
07. The Price of Freedom (Interlude)
08. Burn to a Cinder
09. Tides of Time
10. Deconstruct
11. Semblance of Liberty
12. White Waters [feat. Tony Kakko]
13. Design Your Universe
Simone Simons – Vocals
Mark Jansen – Guitars, Vocals
Coen Janssen – Keyboards
Yves “Yvel” Huts – Bass
Arien Van Weesenbeek – Drums
Isaac Delahaye – Guitars