Epica, founded in early 2002 by guitarist and vocalist Mark Jansen, is blending symphonic, gothic and power metal sounds with a unique mezzo-soprano voice of the very talented Simone Simons. She joined the band in late 2002 at the age of seventeen, leading Epica into a symphonic music project beloved by many worldwide. 16th November 2009 was a day well remembered for all fans of symphonic metal grandmasters Epica, as on this day Design Your Universe album was released. The album won listeners’ hearts and was very well received by critics, placing the band high in charts and marking Epica as one of the greatest creators of the genre. Ten years later, Epica are set to release its remastered version, titled Design Your Universe Gold Edition, giving their fans a new remastered version with some acoustic twists.
Design Your Universe Gold Edition is composed of two CDs – Design Your Universe and The Acoustic Universe. The first CD is a remastered version of the original issue from 2009. In my view, this helped making it a lot smoother to listen to. The overwhelming and overbearing experience is changed to nicely balanced tracks by improving quality, muffling volume and equalling sound. Now, it is a pure pleasure of listening to clear and smooth favourites, as Epica kept all tracks from original Design Your Universe album on the reissued version and added Incentive, a bonus track known from different album editions. I was very happy to hear, once again, the continuation of A New Age Dawns saga and other great tracks like Martyr of the Free Word, Our Destiny and my favourite Semblance of Liberty.
The second CD, The Acoustic Universe, features acoustic editions of the Design Your Universe songs. The idea of acoustic and stripped down versions of epic orchestral tracks may seem odd and too abstract at first. The vocals and music arrangements offer comletely different approach to well known songs, proving that Epica can create and adapt to a wide range of music styles. The use of vocals and acoustic guitars is supported by the soft sounds of drums, clarinet, flute and various string instruments adding some extra depth and richness. The Acoustic Universe opens with Burn to a Cinder, which is surprising from the very first note with its softness. Next track, Our Destiny, amazes with subtle sounds and tenderness in Simone’s voice. Acoustic Unleashed simply stuns – originally a powerful orchestral song nows sounds like a very sad but still lovely ballad. The same happens with the next track, Martyr of the Free World, that sounds absolutely miserable. The last one, Design Your Universe, reminds a bit a draft of original song, yet it delights with its simplicity and gentle vocals. Overall, The Acoustic Universe is a nice acoustic interpretation of Design Your Universe album, giving Epica’s fans something extra to enjoy.
Being honest, I’m quite sceptical about album reissues, as usually they don’t contribute anything new to a band’s work and this, at some points, applies to Design Your Universe Gold Edition. Remastered tracks sound better, but I wouldn’t really get a new album just because of that. On the other hand, with this reissue, we get a comletely rearranged acoustic versions of well known hits, being a great evidence of Epica’s musicians’ skills and experience of working with various genres of music. Epica have defended their status as great band once again. Still, for a casual listener Design Your Universe Gold Edition is not a must have, but for devoted fans it will be a stuning album.
Highlights: Burn to a Cinder acoustic, Design Your Universe acoustic