Awaken The Empire: Natural Causes

Ambitious alt-rock where style outranks substance

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Has there ever been a more meaningless genre tag than ‘alternative rock’?

Awaken The Empire probably wouldn’t agree, but it’s hard to work out exactly what Aurora’s over-produced contents are an alternative to.

This is well-trodden territory, where furrowed brows, navel-gazing and arena-sized anthemic refrains collide, and the songs are so laden with clichés that the intended hugeness of the sound comes across as disproportionately grandiose and even a little silly. Brief flashes of invention appear from time to time – a flurry of skittering electronics here, a Devin-esque wall of guitars there – but singer Damien Lawson’s earnest, overwrought delivery smacks of the superficial bluster that so often substitutes for real poignancy in rock’s mainstream. A Tribute To Rome, with its post-NIN beats and symphonic touches, is sterile nonsense that will doubtless thrill Linkin Park fans and Cruel World sounds like a less cringeworthy 30 Seconds To Mars. If you want any degree of edge or originality in your rock music, Aurora is a giant blast of hot air.

Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.