Released: 2009, Nuclear Blast
It took them seven years, but Dutch symphonic goth metallers Epica have finally released an album I can get behind. I have always enjoyed frontwoman Simone Simons' guest work with Kamelot, but Epica never struck a chord with me before now. This is the type of music I was expecting from day one – and while the band hasn't really drastically altered the formula, it seems that this time they mixed it just right.
DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE is part movie score, part power metal, and part death metal, not altogether different than other Dutch goth bands such as After Forever or Within Temptation. In fact, the band's guitarist and growler Mark Jansen was a founding member of both After Forever and Epica, and Simone occasionally sounds uncannily similar to Sharon from Within Temptation. Despite the similarities though, Epica plays a less radio-friendly form of metal than the latter band.
With 14 tracks totaling just over 79 minutes in length, you can expect a good deal of listening enjoyment from DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE. It's hard to pick out a few stand-out tracks, but I am especially fond of "Semblance of Liberty", which uses a few sound clips from various political speeches to drive home an interesting point, and "Tides of Time", the album's only track containing no growled vocals.
If this is the direction Epica is headed with their music, I look forward to future releases by this band.