Suddenly, from the frigid shores of San Francisco, Dragonlord emerges with Dominion, their first new music since 2005. That’s not to say they haven’t been busy. Eric Peterson (vocals, guitars, bass) has been writing and touring with Testament with few breaks to work on side projects. Somehow, he found time to get back together with Lyle Livingston and Alex Bent to work on Dominion, their fourth album. The thrashy, riff-driven influence of Testament is apparent throughout the album, but Dragonlord is something entirely different.
Dominion mixes several genres to create aggressive symphonic blackened death/thrash metal. Is that enough genres for you? No? Some of the songs remind me of 80s power balads (Love of the Damned), complete with harmonic vocals and chorus effects on a clean guitar. It’s all over the place. It’s Dragonlord again, and it works.
There’s plenty of tremello picking to go around on this album, but it isn’t as hollow or chilling as a typical black metal album. The sound is filled out by what sounds like a fully synthesized orchestra, a choir, and even an occasional female solo vocal performance.
Let’s talk about the guitars a little more because desite the many layers, that’s what Dragonlord is all about. You can really hear that Testament influence; the riffs are pretty epic on most songs, with a few stand-outs. If you are like me and are more keen on cheesy epic metal than thrash, this album is a nice bridge thanks to the black and symphonic elements. The vocals are nearly perfect, so perfect that they are almost chiché. If you look up, “symphonic black metal vocals,” you will probably get a picture of Eric Peterson covered in make-up, wailing into a mic.
There is a lot of good music this year, but if you are a fan of any of the mentioned genres this might be worth your time. It doesn’t hit quite as hard as their previous album, Black Wings of Destiny. I think that may be due to the overuse of choral/symphonic elements on Dominion. It’s a little over-the-top unless you are really into that full, borderline cheesy sound. The mix has the loudness up a bit, so when too many things are happening at once it can get a little muddy. The guitars are crunchy and satisfying though.
All in all, I will come back to this album a few more times this year, but I think I will continue going back their 2005 album for years to come.
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