Review: Hammerfall – ‘Dominion’

Gothenburg’s kings of metal make a welcome return with their latest slab of Swedish power metal: “Dominion”. While some bands change their style throughout their career Hammerfall have always stuck to their roots and stylistically have varied very little from their first album to this their 11th studio outing. Much like a new release from AC/DC you pretty much know what to expect when you give it it’s first spin. If you’re a Hammerfall fan you’ll be happy to know that there’s no misjudged change of direction or experimentation here (Metallica’s Lulu springs to mind). In a recent interview Oscar Dronjak commented: “I think it follows in the same path as we were going with both (r)Evolution and Built to Last. It’s pretty much an extension of that.”

Opening track “Never Forgive, Never Forget” sets the fist banging tone for the rest of the album. This up-tempo upbeat melodic rocker, inspired by a documentary on the Vietnam war, will be sure to please most fans. Catchy vocals, epic choruses, impressive drumming, and in your face guitars. It encompasses everything you’d expect from a Hammerfall song and improves with each subsequent listen. Highlights of the album for me are “Scars of a Generation” as it’s the fastest and most aggressive song on an album which is mainly full of mid-paced anthemic songs. I also enjoyed “And Yet I Smile” for some of the same reasons in that the song-writing felt a bit more adventurous. Lyrically the band cover what seems like familiar ground although the tribute to Sweden’s rock/metal scene within “(We make) Sweden Rock” is a nice touch. Apparently there are 28 bands mentioned within what is a relatively short lyric. It’s quite good fun to try and spot the various references. “Testify” is also interesting and vocalist Joacim Cans, on a recent Napalm Records video, described the lyrics as “On the first day man invented God. What I’m trying to say here is that I’m kind of questioning religion all around the world. I mean come on there should only be one God in your life. It should be yourself and no one else. You are the master and you are your own fucking God”.

As far as production goes the album is very polished, and the playing is incredibly precise, but I would have liked it to have sounded a bit more raw. Hammerfall have always been a great live band, I’ve never seen them do a bad show, and I think much of this material may come across better within that arena.

Hammerfall have created a musically very safe album with not much in the way of surprises. The band aren’t breaking any new ground here and the song-writing is predominately mid-paced anthemic metal songs. The bands motto seems to be “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. At first I was slightly disappointed by this, it all sounded a bit overly familiar, but the album did grow on me with each listen. It’s a good album with some strong tracks but for me it’s not quite up there with albums such as “Crimson Thunder”, “Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken” and “Threshold”. If you’re already a fan of the band then yes you definitely should pick this one up. If however you’ve never been keen on their previous material then this album probably won’t change your mind.

Reviewer: Martin Patterson

‘Dominion’ is available now through Napalm Records.

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