Dominion is the 11th album by power metal stalwarts Hammerfall. It is 12 tracks of good old fashioned heavy metal. For anyone who wants classic sounding metal then this is an album that will please greatly. The quality of songs and riffs after all this time is terrific.
Right from the opening track, “Never Forgive, Never Forget” my head was nodding, my toes tapping and on the second time around I was singing along to the chorus. I can only imagine how much fun it will sound live with a big crowd singing along. From the start the feel is of a good friend returning. You know what to expect and that expectation is delivered. Whilst not the heaviest of their songs (even on this album) but it gets you in the mood.
Things do get heavier on the title track “Dominion” which has some great lyrics along with a very strong riff. It sounds a little evil which makes sense as the track is based on John Milton’s book Paradise Lost even quoting the expression “serve in heaven or reign in hell”. The title is shouted by most of the band in deep voices. There is a military beat going on via the drums at points. This is up there with their best material in my opinion!
“Testify” starts with the band chanting the title (I imagine live that will be the crowd’s job) and has a nice Judas Priest vibe going on (I thought of “Electric Eye” due to the opening line). The lyrics ask “where is your almighty god?” whilst warning about “the wolves at your door”.
“(We Made) Sweden Rock” is an ode to all the bands that rock from Sweden, of which there are many. The chorus is a belter and will be a great crowd-pleaser (I can only imagine the crowd at Sweden Rock Festival taking this to their hearts and singing with great gusto). There are clues and lyrics from lots of other bands from the country and it is fun trying to spot the references during the song. There is a little operatic part which again should be a crowd-pleaser. Fabulous fun!
In a change of pace “Second To One” is a lovely piano-led song which stays that way for half of it. The main guitar solo soars pleasingly and then we have a piano/guitar sequence around the 3-minute section that really caught my attention. They pick things up on the next 2 songs with “Scars Of A Generation” booting its way through the door with a size 12 boot! It almost goes into speed metal territory but although fast is till more power metal as the chorus is melodic and infectious.
“Dead By Dawn” reminded me a bit of Primal Fear especially the chanted chorus which goes “you will be dead by dawn when the bells of hell strike 666, you will be dead by dawn, say a prayer and rub (? Could be grab, not 100% sure) your crucifix”. Another song that, live, should cause headbanging and singing and simply slay. This is possibly my favorite song on the album, well at least at the moment.
“Chain Of Command” is another strong piece with some first-class soloing and another rich chorus to enjoy (“follow the chain”). There are moments I found myself air-drumming along due to it being very drum led, they are upfront pushing the whole thing along beautifully. I think this also features Joacim Cans highest notes vocally.
The closing Dominion track, “And Yet I Smile”, is a grower taking a few listens to fully get into. However, once it grabs you in then it takes a hold of your soul. Lyrically a beautiful and uplifting piece about surviving pain or hardship with a musical motif that has real emotion to it. The chorus of “even though I’ve been scarred for life, I must fight to reconcile, and yet I smile” is simply superb in my view. It can be taken in any number of ways but personally, I found myself in the lyrics in my own life. Such a fabulous end to a great album.
If you are a fan already of Hammerfall you will not be disappointed, in fact, you will be eager to hear these live, if only to punch the air, headbang and sing along. If you are new to the band this is as good a place to start as any. It features all the things that make the band great. Anyone with a love of great metal will love this album. Full of melody and songs that worm their way into the mind along with riffs and guitar solos that are crisp and clear. Hammerfall are back, thank the gods of metal for that!
Dominion is out Friday, August 16, on Napalm Records.