Hammerfall – Dominion (2019)

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Growing up in Brisbane, there was restaurant that my family loved. It was called Sizzlers. You could order from the menu, or go the “all you can eat salad bar”. For a great price, there were a number of excellent salads, you still got thick cut cheese toast, free refills on the drink machine and an impressive dessert bar.

It was predictable – pretty much the same each time – but it was tasty, good value and stuck to what it did well. The crowds of that time were testimony to the concept – they were often out the door and Sizzlers introduced two sittings. They also started doing breakfasts.

“Dominion” is the 11th album from Hammerfall, who have been a powerhouse of metal since 1993. They are fronted by Joacim Can, whose vocals are clear, sharp and usually at the higher end of the vocal spectrum, a perfect match for this demon infested, self-doubting, epic brand of metal. The 12 tracks have a duration of 50:34.

“Never Forgive, Never Forget” opens the feast with some clever, melodic guitar noodling. It slows… and I was waiting for it… and wasn’t disappointed when frantic drumming and powerful guitars waded in. Can told me, “For the freedom, we are fighting.” I was on board. His clear and accessible vocals allowed me to bring my views to the table. Chugging and energetic guitar work followed, as Can asked, “Can you smell the scent of victory?” I could! A genre correct guitar solo soon burst forth and the track returned to guitar noodling at the end. Like all noodle dishes, we’re soon hungry for more…

“Dominion” has the initial ingredients of a killer guitar riff and engaging percussion, spiced up with the very clever use of left-right balance to produce a tasty opening indeed. The riff drives through most of the track, which is rich in social commentary. At one point a choice is offered to “serve in Heaven or region in Hell.” I’m in two minds… In any case, a Heavenly wailing and complex guitar solo adds spice and this is followed by an anthemic use of harmonies and choir-like elements.

“Testify” sprinkles the chant of “Tes-it-fy”  as its entrée and it rollicks forward with frenetic guitar. It speaks of the demise of independent thought and is grand in nature, weaving a tale well. Another great guitar solo makes an appearance on the menu.

“One Against the World” has a pulsing opening and it starts simply. We are treated to the news that the knights are riding in and that now the madness begins. It’s another anthemic offering, speaking of courage in the face of hopeless odds. The percussion is the standout, enriched by a plethora of guitar techniques. A fast-paced technical guitar solo is used to great effect.

“(We Make) Sweden Rock” is comprised of a different sound and tempo, sounding higher in pitch that the other tracks. It reminds of the best of ‘80s power metal. It’s simple in nature, but super infectious. It will be an exceptional live track with which to scream along.

“Second to One” offers an aperitif of emotional piano and the vocals soon join in the angst. It’s about love and finding the one that completes you, but is not able to be pursued. The lyrics are cunningly contradictory. The guitars wail in later in the track and this is an interesting contrast to the other tracks on the album thus far.

“Scars of a Generation” returns to familiar fare, opening with a vocal wail. The guitars roll in with ominous intensity and it is paired well with the previous track. The guitar solo is again well baked and the track holds its strong structure all the way through.

“Dead by Dawn” switches the cuisine slightly, with the riffs being lower down the register, but catchy as Hell. It’s contains demonic subject matter and it may contain traces of nuts. The simplicity of this track is engaging and the guitar solo is once again a key ingredient. I had a grin at, “Say your prayers and rub your crucifix.”

“Battleworn” has the guitars emerging from the background, slowly building in volume. The playing is intricate in nature and style and exceptional use of left/right balance is utilised again. It is very short in time and segues perfectly into, as…

“Bloodline” is served and it’s galloping muted riffs are the very best condiments of speed metal. This track has a sense of urgency and I was surprised in the middle by a tribal-like riff that was delicious. The subject matter is that of struggling over time and the track ends with twin guitars duelling, before fading at the end.

“Chain of Command” offers powerful riffs to open and Can displays the impressive upper limits of his vocal range. It ups the tempo, keeping the pace of the album going. I alternated on my opinions about what this track was about – doing what you’re told, even if you don’t like it; or, drawing strength from having no choice, by following orders. That might be better for someone smarter than I to decode. Or, ask your boss.

“And Yet I Smile” bubbles forth simply, but the heat soon intensifies. This track switches up the menu again, with lots of components included – chugging guitars; melodic elements; and slightly odd sounding guitars. It’s about a voyage of self-discovery and self-belief. The guitar solo is particularly flavoursome and this is enriched by two guitars cooking together. A brief pause ensues, before the guitars close enthusiastically. This track was a strong way to finish, showcasing the abilities of the band.

“Dominion” takes all the elements of this genre and offers a strong smorgasbord – demons, struggle, fighting against the odds, self-doubt, complicated love, frantic guitars, intricate guitar solos, changes of pace, the battle against good and evil, pulsating percussion and a compelling voice at the front.

Like Sizzler, there was a lot on offer, with lots to like and something for everyone – all in an accessible manner. True, there was nothing ground breaking, but a good meal all the same.

It left me hungry for more.

8/10

Review by Greg Noble.

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