Design
Apotheosis EP

There aren’t too many styles so well suited for each other as metal and symphonic music. While heavy metal may have had its first roots in blues, many later acts owe just as much of their inspiration from classical tradition. With this having been said, it’s no wonder that so many metal bands have worked orchestral layers into their music. While bands like Epica and Within Temptation have incorporated the symphonic aspect in a relatively light way, recent albums by Septic Flesh and Fleshgod Apocalypse have begun to realize the full potential of what these two styles of music can do for one another.. Of these two schools of symphonic metal, Design most certainly falls into the latter category. Intended as a balanced fusion of symphonic arrangements and metal aesthetic, Design showcases a dedication to this particular style rarely seen in metal. It’s a promising start to an ambitious project, and while there is impressive depth to the compositions, the scope of Design’s execution needs to catch up to their ambition before this project will be able to really convince me. Even with some of the most impressive acts in symphonic metal, it’s always been the latter term that’s been emphasized. Even when a full orchestra comes into play (as was the case for Septic Flesh), the metal is what comes first and foremost. Although the intent with Design may have been to give an even balance to the two, it’s actually the orchestrations that seem to come out on top for Design. Although aggressive drum patterns are pretty common throughout the EP, guitars are notably absent for a good deal of the music, instead leaving it up to the orchestra to fill the void. Barring a short sequence of narration towards the beginning of the EP, Design is left vocals-free, meaning there are none of the same compromises to the orchestral complexity here that you may be used to in symphonic metal. The bombast of the orchestration could be likened to many a blockbuster film score. Ironically, my favorite song here is the one that doesn’t seem to fit a typical classical or metal frame. “The Architect” is a surprisingly catchy and well-written tune with a lead that sounds inspired by Oriental music.

Perhaps it’s simply a matter of me approaching this EP from a ‘metal’ perspective, but in spite of the artist’s best intentions to counter the imbalance in symphonic metal, the lack of metal ironically makes the music feel uneven and incomplete. Many of the symphonic arrangements have obviously been tended to with meticulous care, but to hear the sound of double-kick drums without a guitar can often feel like Design is missing a crucial part of their sound. On its own, the orchestral component sounds like it’s in need of a melodic lead to guide it along. The few moments a guitar is used are generally quite impressive, and I would have loved to have heard Design bring more of their ‘metal’ element to light.

Of course, as is the case with so many symphonic metal bands, Design is forced to resort to an artificial orchestra. Considering that most of the sounds heard are synthesized through a computer, much of the orchestra sounds surprisingly well-furnished and authentic. While the string section is believable enough, the drums are ineffective and dull, and many of the leads are left sounding synthesized. It’s certainly not something that can be helped (a large budget notwithstanding) but I can’t help but feel there is too much of an emphasis on ‘fake’ instruments on Apotheosis. Given the ever-improving state of technology and the current state of Design’s sound, I wouldn’t discredit the artificial approach entirely, but it would have been nice to hear a bit more of a human touch here, be it symphonic, metal, or something else entirely.

Apotheosis sees Design ambitiously attempting to put a new spin on a genre that has been only recently seeing a surge of new interest, and although I am optimistic for this project’s future, some otherwise solid symphonic ideas have not been given the best context to be enjoyed in. On top of the artificial means of presentation, Apotheosis lacks an overall arc to it. There are no audibly recurring motifs or a gradual incline of intensity as the work goes on. These are things I would look for when listening to a classical work. Ultimately, in trying to find a balance between metal and symphonic music, Apotheosis is somewhat disappointing on both ends. Regardless, it will be great to hear what this project comes out with in the future. No doubt, there are surprises yet in wait for us…

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Conor Fynes
July 26th, 2013

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