Evil Dr. Smith : A metal wedding between Therion and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
I'm not really a gothic metal admirer. If people are in the mood to bash this genre, I tend to join them instead of defend the genre. Nevertheless I always liked Epica. And I even love their new album 'Design Your Universe'. So maybe it's true: they simply doesn't play gothic metal. Or are they the example that every genre, no matter how fatigue or uninteresting, must have their leaders that are brilliant enough to give the genre its right for existence? Oh well, cut the crap about gothic metal in an Epica article! Bugger off! Just think of the fact that Epica recently employed guitarist Isaac Delahaye (he replaced Ad Sluijter) and consist now for one-third of ex-God Dethroned members. You'll bet your ass you'll hear this influence! Listening to the death-thrash riffs (!), the blastbeats (!!) and even guitar solos (!!!) there's only thing crystal clear about this new Epica epistle: Epica is fucking metal!
'Design Your Universe' is een symphonic, power, thrash, dark and musical metal-o-rama and with the thirteen and half minutes of 'Kingdom Of Heaven' they have even created their own magnum opus. Is it a coincidence that the song is exactly as long as that other metal marathon classic, Maiden's 'Rime Of The Ancient Mariner'? But don't rule out mighty intimidating eposes as 'Resign To Surrender', 'Martyr Of The Free World' and the title track, because the only reason they are less impressive as 'Kingdom Of Heaven' is that they aren't so long. Obviously not every song is an instant classic (like the quite anonymous 'Deconstruct' and the good, but not impressive 'Burn To A Cinder'), but even the inevitable musical-like ballads (normally my skip-tracks) as the magnificently sung 'Tides Of Time' (dedicated to the recently passed away grandmother of Mark) and the vocal duet with Tony Kakko (Stratovarious) in 'White Waters' are strong growers.
Epica have improved themselves once again with intricate, but logical compositions and a production that's beyond the bombast. Simone sings the stars falling from the sky and Mark growls the devils from hell, surprisingly resembling like Sharon den Adel and George Oosthoek (ex-Orphanage) flirting in purgatory. So if you want more metal, ballads, variation, aggression, solos, bombast, grunts and choirs than before? Well, Design Your Universe signs your universe. When it comes to bashing, I'll pass on this one. Only admiration is here at its place.