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The Course Of Empire
Van Records

There are a lot of metal bands, even good ones, that sound like each other. Atlantean Kodex is one of the great originals of this era of metal -- nobody sounds like them, even after almost 15 years --, and The Course of Empire continues the band's own course. Empires rise and fall, as vocalist Markus Becker sings on the intro track, but for the Atlantean empire, there is no downward slope to be seen.

In the style of the last album, the first song is a rousing march, with the catchiest melody on the album. The band's formula of measured, stately doom riffing with Markus Becker's high tenor voice soaring over the top, joined by thousand-man choruses, produces the same turned-up-to-eleven level of bombast listeners have come to expect from their sound. This time, some of the songs are a bit more rhythmic and less dragging -- nothing ever speeds up much, but Book-of-Genesis-inspired Lion of Chaldea is slightly easier listening for those who weren't into the original Kodex combo of epic heavy metal and doom.

Lead guitarist Michael Koch is out for this one, replaced this year with newcomer Coralie Baier, but it's hard to tell the difference: The wailing layered leads are virtually the same. What has changed are the lyrics. Either I don't know the references to the books the band's reading, or they've switched from their past cribbing from fantasy and myth to original lyrics. Not to fear, though. The subject material, loosely themed on ancient civilizations, is just as grandiose as before. But for all the paens to vanished peoples and forgotten empires, the band never forgets its first love: Europe, the land of the White Goddess, gets the longest song at the end, as much hymn as finale. The songs on The Course of Empire are more thoughtful and nuanced than on the last two albums -- but they still are dump-truck-full-of-bricks heavy. Some parts of He Who Walks Behind the Years, where Becker puts even more emotion than usual into his huge choruses, can send a serious shiver down the spine.

I think I liked The White Goddess a tiny bit better, but this one's still one of the best albums I've heard this year. Listeners to their past work -- and anyone who appreciates the heavy and the epic -- should pick this up.

Andy quoted 92 / 100

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The Course Of Empire
Van Records
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