by Nick Keseric
I recently reviewed Dragonforce’s newest album, Extreme Power Metal, and my thoughts on Hammerfall’s newest album, Dominion, are eerily similar. I would both critique and commend both bands as one thing: consistent. Hammerfall’s early albums were amazing, and at the time were very fresh. As they went on, Hammerfall got better and better…until they peaked, and then kept on at the same level, fluctuating a bit every album.
Barring 2011’s Infected, most of Hammerfall can be described as “templar metal” – lyrically, there’s a low fantasy vibe to most of their music. Musically, Hammerfall stands somewhere between full-on power metal and classic heavy metal, and that’s very evident on Dominion.
The album opens up with “Never Forgive, Never Forget,” something that sounds a lot like it belongs on 2009’s No Sacrifice, No Victory. The slow opening that quickly builds up energy really brings you into the album, and the rest of the song keeps up that high energy.
Following up Never Forgive is “Dominion,” the titular song. Both “Dominion” and “Testify” are a bit slower than some of the other songs on the album, but more than make up for it by being powerful. Both Joacim Cans’ vocals and the backing vocals sting hard in these tracks, and both Oscar Dronjak’s guitar work and the drum work of David Wallin on these songs hit just as hard.
“(We Make) Sweden Rock” is one of those “metal songs that glorify metal,” as well as being an anthem for the band, and it works well for that, though it brings up an issue I have with the album. The album, lyrically, skirts the usual “templar metal” themes of the band, and “(We Make) Sweden Rock” brings me out of that immersion the band brought me into. Even worse is when it’s followed by “Second to One,” It’s almost obligatory for Hammerfall to include a ballad-style song on their albums, and while “Second to One” is good, it serves to bring the album a bit away from their usual themes. “Scars of a Generation” and “Dead by Dawn” sort of bring it back, but it’s not until “Bloodline” that the album really feels like “templar metal” again.
“Bloodline” would have worked well as a title track for the album just as well as “Dominion” would have; for that matter, with the intro track “Battleworn” in front of it, it would also worked very well as an opening track. “Bloodline” certainly feels a lot more “power” than “heavy” by Hammerfall standards, and its follow-up, “Chain of Command,” stays with this theme. A lot of the tracks between “Testify” and “Bloodline” feel kind of in the middle. Finally, we end with “And Yet I Smile,” a sort of metal-ballad that ends the album really well.
All in all, Dominion is a good palette of what Hammerfall has to offer: some powerful songs at the front and more melodic yet still hard hitting hits at the end. It’s still not the band at its height, but it is the band doing what it does well.
Dominion gets 3.5 out of 5 stars. It’s a bit run-of-the-mill for Hammerfall at this point, but they still made a good album that fans will enjoy.
If you’re interested, you can listen to Dominion on Spotify here.
I also recommend checking out Napalm Record’s Dominion Track by Track on Youtube, for a little bit of context into the songs on the album by lead singer Joacim Cans.