HAMMERFALL — Dominion (review)

HAMMERFALL — Dominion album cover Album · 2019 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Swedish heavy/power metal band Hammerfall have become very reliable over the last 22 years, releasing one great album after another, without showing any signs of slowing down. They first splashed onto the scene in 1997 with their critically acclaimed debut, Glory to the Brave, and ever since they’ve been both very prolific and consistently entertaining, proving themselves to be one of the absolute best in their field. While I tend to enjoy some of their albums more than others, they always manage to have their fair share of excellent tracks on every release, and so I always look forward to hearing new music from them. I was particularly impressed by their previous release, Built to Last, which proved to be a big return to form following the much-reviled Infected, and the solid but somewhat underwhelming (r)Evolution. Their eleventh full-length release, Dominion, is nearly here, and after several spins, I can safely say it not only improves upon its already excellent predecessor, but it’s an amazing album in its own right and one that can easily stand toe to toe against any of the band’s best works!

Hammerfall has a pretty distinct sound at this point, striking pretty much a perfect balance between 90’s-early 2000’s Euro power metal, with slight modernization here and there, and some classic heavy metal. The only album that didn’t quite fit that description was Infected, which had a much darker, slightly heavier and more modernized sound, overall. Dominion, however, continues where Built to Last left off, showing the band at their most melodic, and the most energetic they’ve been in quite some time, channeling their younger selves at times, while still having some sight modern twists, as well as a couple of their heaviest songs to date. The guitar work is, of course, excellent, as always, with some amazing melodic lead guitar work, some great solos, and some very heavy riffs, and while there are times where the music takes a slightly modern twist, for the most part, the songs have a very classic feel to them, which works perfectly. There are a few points where the music approaches Infected levels of heaviness and darkness, but the band always counters it with some excellent, uplifting vocal melodies, and so anyone turned off by that release should not be disappointed by this one. As far as pacing goes, the album is very much what any Hammerfall fan should expect from the band, with a perfect mix between speedy power metal, some slower, hard-hitting heavy metal, a couple of tracks which alternate between the two, and a couple of ballads. Perhaps the strongest aspect of the release, though, is the vocals, with Joacim Cans sounding clearly at the top of his game, delivering the kind of epic, soaring power metal vocals he’s always excelled at, and especially shining during the choruses, which are easily some of the band’s catchiest, most melodic and just plain best in quite some time. Production and performances are of course excellent across the board, as always, and everything sounds perfect.

Leading up to the release, the band has delivered three singles, all of which would suggest a move away from their typical power metal sound, though all three of them are excellent tracks, in their own right. First up, lead single “{We Make} Sweden Rock” is a rather upbeat, moderately paced heavy metal track, with a slight hard rock feel to it. It has some nice heavy riffs throughout the verses, which give way to a very melodic, extremely catchy chorus, and while the lyrics may be a bit cringy for some, the performances and overall songwriting are more than strong enough to help make it a winner, and the guitar solo and chanting in the second half are quite excellent. The second single is “One Against the World”, which starts with some pretty cool modern sounding keys, before slowing down and turning into one of the band’s heavier tracks. The verses plod along at a slow pace, but with some very powerful guitar work, and they do a great job of building towards the typically great, uplifting chorus. The track picks up in the middle, with an epic speedy section that brings classic Iron Maiden to mind, and then it only speeds up further from there, going into full power metal territory for a truly awe-inspiring final run through the chorus. The third and most recent single is the title track, another very hard-hitting track, with a killer lead riff that falls somewhere in between Black Album era Metallica and classic AC/DC, as well as being some of the band’s most brutal guitar work ever, aside from Infected. The track moves along at a fairly slow pace, with calm, melodic verses, enhanced by some cool choir vocals chanting the name, and then the chorus comes in and is beautiful, with some of the band’s best vocal melodies of all time, and some very funny lyrics. The solo section in the middle is also epic and brings back some of the heavy riffs from early on. Overall, it’s my favorite song on the album, as as well as probably my favorite heavy metal track they’ve ever made, aside from maybe “Patient Zero”, from Infected.

The singles may cause fans to expect less power metal on the album, but thankfully that is not the case at all. First up, we have the explosive opener, “Never Forgive, Never Forget”, which starts with a nice soft intro, where the music immediately gives off a slight old Western vibe, and this remains throughout the entire track. Following that intro, the tempo immediately picks up, with the verses galloping along at a fast pace, while the chorus is very fun, melodic and quite fast-paced, with the track only briefly slowing down for some nice instrumental work in the second half, followed by an extremely fun and intense vocals section, which gives way to some great solos. Two tracks later, “Testify” is the heaviest of the power metal songs here, moving at a fast pace throughout and delivering some pretty crushing riffs, with a slightly modernized sound, overall. The highlight of the track is the chorus, with some pretty cool gang vocals delivering the title. It’s very fun and intense track, overall. On the more melodic side of things, “Scars of a Generation” has a very classic Hammerfall feel to it, moving at a nice pace with some moderately paced verses, before going full throttle for a very speedy, yet extremely melodic chorus, which is sure to please many power metal fans. It’s a very fun track, with some awesome vocal melodies, and is one of my favorites. The last two speedier tracks on the album are “Bloodline” and “Chain of Command”, both of which strike a nice balance between being fast-paced, melodic and having some heavy riffs and very melodic, catchy choruses, as well as some great instrumental work during the solo sections. Both tracks also have some excellent choral vocals throughout, and both are excellent tracks, overall.

Aside from the singles, the only real heavy slower track is “Dead by Dawn”, which has more of a classic Hammerfall sound to it, with some pretty heavy riffs during the verses, but with more of a traditional feel to them, while the chorus is quite fun and intense, and has some more great choral vocals. On the softer side, Built to Last ended with the incredible power ballad “Second to None”, which the band decided to follow up on this release with “Second to One.” While this track isn’t quite as epic as the aforementioned masterpiece, it’s still a very nice ballad, starting with some nice piano work and vocals, which remain throughout the first two verses and chorus, before guitars take over for a very emotional solo. The chorus is excellent, and the verses do a good job of building up to it, while the instrumental work is excellent. It doesn’t have any speedier passages or any real metal elements, at all, unlike “Second to None”, but it’s an excellent ballad, in its own right. Closing out the album is the second ballad, “And Yet I Smile”. This one starts with some excellent melodic guitar work, and it’s a slightly heavier track, overall, with some nice bursts of heaviness, particularly in the second half, while still clearly falling into power ballad territory. It balances nicely between soft and heavy sections, with Joacim delivering some brilliant vocals throughout, especially during the chorus, the instrumental section is extremely well done. Overall, it’s a very strong, if somewhat predictable, way to end the album.

For the longest time, I used to consider Hammerfall as one of those “singles” bands, where each of their albums would have maybe 2-5 excellent songs I played over and over, while ignoring the rest, but over time I’ve grown to enjoy almost all of their work, and while some of their albums do still feel a bit inconsistent, the band has proven their ability to deliver some great, more consistent releases over the years. Dominion is yet another triumph, with some of their best tracks to date, including some excellent speedy power metal, some slow, crushing heavy metal with excellent vocal melodies, and a couple of excellent ballads. Longtime fans of the band should be very pleased, while anyone looking for some fun heavy/power metal is highly recommended to give this album a shot, as it’s one of the band’s best works to date!

Originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2019/08/10/hammerfall-dominion-review/
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Psydye wrote:
31 days ago
Sounds very promising! Looking forward to checking it out! Haven't heard a good amount of HF in ages! :)

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