Dragonlord – Dominion (Spinefarm)Wednesday, 19th September 2018
Going back to the turn of the new millennium, Dragonlord was Testament guitarist Eric Peterson’s black metal side project. The band completed two albums and was seemingly put to bed a few years after the release of Black Wings of Destiny. But Peterson has been working, slowly but surely, on the album for the last few years now, with Lyle Livingston (keyboards, piano) and drummer Alex Bent in tow. Dominion does appreciate the symphonic black metal ethos, but never really seems bound to it.
What makes Dominion a stronger release in the end is that it doesn’t simply follow the black metal playbook. While some moments will cause some Dimmu Borgir flashbacks to the early 2000s (certainly “Northlanders” and “The Discord of Melkor”), there’s a more guitar-centric approach that helps the band drift into varied waters. Compelling and melodic riffing merges well with the bombastic approach, presenting the material with a cinematic vibe that doesn’t forget to stay heavy. Epic closer “Serpents of Fire” is a deluge of hard-hitting and headbanging friendly melodies and leadwork, slowly easing in the synths inward and upward, resulting in a fiery finish. Elsewhere, “Lamia” deftly balances some chunky riffs with fantasy-driven keys and clean vocals to create another of the album’s strongest cuts. Speaking of cleans, the following track, “Love of the Damned” is an excellent ballad-y number which features a duet between Peterson and celtic metal singer Leah (who also does choir work throughout the disc) and stands as a suiting departure at about the halfway mark. Lastly, the cinematic scope is worth mentioning, particularly on the lead-off intro “Entrance” and into “Dominion.” Peterson and co. have hit their mark in aiming for something symphonic as it immediately calls the excellent cover art into the imagination, not really letting up until the end of the disc.
With many black metal bands shifting away from the more symphonic side of the genre (including Dimmu themselves on their recent release), Dominion is a welcome addition to the fold. It understands the conventions of the genre, and sees fit to push them around a bit as well. Dragonlord have done their homework and hit all the marks with this one.