Course of Empire

Initiation

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According to the gospel of Course of Empire, the end of the world is drawing near. Initiation, the second release from these Dallas, TX, harbingers of doom, is a glimpse into the apocalyptic future of mankind. And apparently that future will be filled with darkness and suffering. With titles like "Infested!" and "Minions," the message is abundantly clear if a bit heavy-handed. Initiation is driven by the percussive onslaught of drummers Chad Lovell and Michael Jerome. This tag team's bottom-heavy quake ranges from tribal double-time marches ("Hiss" and "Infested!") to a thunderous hammer-of-the-gods build ("Sacrifice"). Guitarist Mike Graff further assaults the ears with his wicked power chords and metallic noise. Singer Vaughn Stevenson lords over the cacophonous nightmare with his occasionally placid ("Apparition"), occasionally haunting ("Minions"), but always-ominous vocals. The lyrics portend a terrible fate for the human race, but vary little from those found on the average black metal album. Granted, Stevenson can be understood amidst the fury without liner notes and a translator, but that's not really conciliation. The ingenious and technologically adept may find a couple of buried tracks, courtesy of producer and mixer David Castell. One is disguised as the non music-related information before the first song. Another is embedded within heavy doses of white noise feedback later in the album, and can sometimes be distinguished when played in mono. Trickery aside, Course of Empire have managed a sort of industrial recasting of the aesthetic Rush achieved with 2112. But this time around there's no tortured soul to spread the good word with his guitar. There's not even a story really, just doomsday predictions. The meek won't inherit the earth. They'll be crushed like everyone else.

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