Trying not to sound fanboy'ish a single note makes writing this review damn hard. Well the truth is, i have waited this album more than a year, celebrated on every small detail they gave us out of the upcoming release, and so on. Now the album has been finally released and i couldn't be more excited to write my thoughts about it. I also wish you don't judge my review too highly since it is my first.
The album starts out with 'Samadhi' the new intro, it is probably what you expected, small classical piece with latin chants. Well i'm not complaining since it works very well, though in my opinion it doesn't rise to the level of 'Indigo' from the 2007 release 'The Divine Conspiracy'. 'Samadhi' is followed by the earlier released on Nuclear Blast Myspace 'Resign To Surrender'. 'Resign To Surrender' was co-written by ex-After Forever member Jack Driessen for a try-out to Epica's Mark Jansen, AF's Sander Gommans and Jack Driessen's side project.
The song starts off with choir and leads to Dimmu Borgir-like riff. The song includes spoken words and powerful melodies sung by Simone, without forgetting Mark Jansen's highly improved grunts.
Next up is single song 'Unleashed', pretty simple mid-tempo track with only Simone on vocals. Here i must point out how much Simone has improved since their latest release, she sounds more powerful and controlled than ever.
'Martyr of The Free Word' starts off with an very death metal'ish riff written by Epica's ''new'' drummer Ariën van Weesenbeek (ex-God Dethroned). The song includes new approach to Simone's vocals with lower performance and Mark's grunts and screams. I must also point out the fantastic drumming on this song. 'Martyr of The Free Word' also has my favourite solo off the new album, another very new and refreshing element on Epica's newest effort.
'Our Destiny' delivers suprisingly varied vocals by Simone, the song starts slightly silent but grows during the track to very Kamelot power rumble. 'Our Destiny' also includes great grunted bridges and very powerful chorus.
Next up is the absolute highlight of the album 'Kingdom of Heaven'. This massive piece longs for almost 14 minutes and contains everything Epica is made off, true show-piece of the Dutch musicians. 'Kingdom of Heaven' contains several choruses, lots of different parts and states of emotion. Here we can also hear the grunts of Ariën, he sounds very much like Mark in my opinion, powerful and somehow unusual, yet interesting contrast to Simone's varied vocal lines. This particular tune also includes some of my favourite lyrics off the album such as ''Quantum physics lead us to, Answers to the great taboos, We create the world around us, God is every living soul'', very Epica in my opinion. 'Kingdom of Heaven' also shows off the talents of the new guitarist Isaac Delahaye (ex-God Dethroned), the most interesting guitar parts on the album in my humble opinion.
'The Price of Freedom' is interlude that somehow cuts the album to two pieces, it is slightly confusing including cuts from political speeches and such, showing the following theme of the album about liberty and freedom, ''The price of freedom is death''.
Followed by possible the most catchy song of the album ''Burn To a Cinder''. This particular track opened very slowly to me, now after several listens it is just as powerful as rest of the album. Great guitar solo and powerful chorus, also it includes very interesting choir parts.
The first real ballad is next up, 'Tides of Time' really shows the improvement of Simone. Simone switches from opera to pop, low to high, this is her show-off piece, and she really deserves it. This song also tells about Mark Jansen's grandmother who died in middle of the writing process of 'Design Your Universe'.
'Deconstruct' is possible the most boring track of the album, though it brings variety to the album and includes great chorus. 'Semblance of Liberty' is the most heavy piece of the new album, it starts off with an kick ass riff leading to an another riff. This song is Mark's and Ariën's piece, very little of Simone here. Great guitar playing and drumming, so it seems female fronted metal can be heavy too.
Tony Kakko (Sonata Arctica) does quest vocals on the next song called 'White Waters'. Somehow this song includes very experimental instrumentation for Epica, it is acoustic song with lots of eastern elements, interesting piece, it brings fresh air to the heavy mix.
Next up is the title track, starts with an acoustic guitar and orchestra continuing to an very heavy riff, this songs last for 9 minutes and seems like another show-off piece of the bands talents. The chorus are done by very high choir, the first verse by Simone with acoustic guitar continued by Mark and heavy riffs. Truly bombastic and powerful tune including suprising yet beautiful ending.
'Design Your Universe' suprised me completely, Epica has upgraded their sound a lot, they are now heavier and more unique. Surely one of the greatest releases of 2009, beware, symphonic metal is about to have a new leader.