HammerFall - Dominion

HammerFall Dominion cover
Napalm Records
Oh boy… HammerFall have been around for more than twenty-five years and active for more than two decades with “Dominion” being their eleventh studio album, I think. Where have all those years gone… I remember me being a young kid and enthusiastically reacting to the band’s debut and sophomore albums, after which I felt they were pretty hit and miss especially in the past few years…
After attempting to go a little “Rammstein” with “Infected”, which cost them half their sales, they returned with a back to the roots as well as solid as fuck album with “(r)Evolution” in 2014, before changing labels and releasing the rather so and so “Built to Last” a couple of years later. Live they always delivered and pretty much the two decades and countless dates later, despite the lineup changes, they’re nothing but rock solid.
“Dominion” manages to recalibrate things, with much better songs that its predecessor that cast aside any doubts and concerns about the bands ability to deliver.
“Never Forgive, Never Forget” is the typical majestic swift on its feet, mid to fast tempo opener, that the band has made standard fare in its mid-period, with sufficiently cool riffs and a chorus to match them and even a predictable, if not enjoyable solo. Cans sounds as good as he ever did, so all is good, in Hammerland, I suppose.
The title track, “Dominion”, starts but reiterating a fat, Accept meets Priest riff, which is followed by sulfury wailing licks. Cans, here, reminded me of his Warlord days, an interesting, slightly more nasal version of his with a bit more reverb and width in the mix. It’s big and measured chorus that is delivered without haste along with the sing-alongs that follow manage to make it a welcome addition to the bands canon.
“Testify” opens with gang vocals that don’t exactly pique interest, but it follows up with a song structure that could have worked in Priest’s “Painkiller” (bar a misfiring mid-section). It’s a bit of a mixed bag, in that respect, but it mostly lands its payload. With a few tweaks it could have been the best song of the album.
“One Against the World” is not bad, but seems to have dual/sing-along vocals in way too many parts and a dodgy digital crushing sound effect that is cringy. It’s slowed down Gamma Ray aesthetics, suffer because of that, despite a very neat solo that made me feel like it’s the middle 90s again!
“(We Make) Sweden Rock” that the band debuted quite appropriately at Sweden Rock Festival, gets all the ducks in order, paying tribute to all the Swedish rock bands that preceded and followed them to the country itself, while sounding quite irresistible musically. It makes sense that it was selected as a single.
“Second to None” is a piano ballad. And while the band has done better ballads in the past, it’s not far behind all those… it’s just a little predictable and that sort of steals the thunder from it, when it turns into a fully electric power ballad later on, despite it’s trying to throw a curve-ball with some bluesy licks thrown in there for misdirection.
“Scars of a Generation” if it had harsher vocals, is a song that Accept of the Tornilo reunion might have been happy to have written, although it also often gravitates towards HelloRay territory.
“Dead by Dawn” hits hard, with a “Demon”esque lyric and aesthetic that channels “The Grand Illusion” far too often. Not that this is a bad thing, by default.
“Battleworn” is an ascending guitar-intro (very Judas Priest like) to “Bloodline” a muscular mid-tempo epic that begins quite frantically, only to majestically be transform into a Warlord inspire hymn accented by Cans smooth, but powerful delivery. One of the better songs the band has presented in recent times.
“Chain of Command” is not a Jag Panzer cover and despite having some pretty neat ideas and all the ingredients that could make it a good song, it is plagued by a rather unimpressive first verse and a bridge that is not exactly great. Too much contrast between the parts that make it up, without enough cohesion between them to make everything work without a hitch. A minor complain though.
“And Yet I Smile” begins with a bizarre keyboard line that guitars mimic in a much heavier session and sell. It’s not exactly a ballad, but a very melodic and rather experimental mid-tempo song, with quite a vibe that mostly works for me. Interesting…
Overall, “Dominion” is an album that sits very comfortably in the band’s canon and definitely in the top half of its studio output. It’s not the best by a wide margin, but it does what it does with conviction, that delivering the goods?! Dominating? Not so, but winning, yes and without breaking a sweat!