Sweden’s Hammerfall are back at it again with another thrilling release that I would certainly consider to be one of my favorite discs in their ever-swelling discography. Dominion without a doubt captures the band at their very best, with all engines running at full speed. There’s not one single song that I found to be lacking on this disc, though there is definitely a piece on this album that I found to be a colossal waste of time. I don’t even consider it a song, because it isn’t and comes out of nowhere. I didn’t even catch it the first time because of how short it was. This waste of studio time that I’m referring to is called “Battleworn” which is actually nothing more than a forty second handful of riff structures. It felt like the beginning of an unfinished song and probably should have been fully completed before being added to the album. I could understand if this piece were the opener on the disc, but that isn’t the case here at all. Instead, we’re offered what I’d consider to be the album’s best track, a nod to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead in the form of “Dead By Dawn” (and no, it’s not a Deicide cover) only to be followed up by this odd bit of meandering before heading right into the disc’s next dose of thunder, “Bloodline.” The most interesting thing about “Battleworn” however, is that it doesn’t even open up the next song. You’d assume that maybe it was the introduction to “Bloodline” which would have been at least some part acceptable, but it seems to be just there, with no real purpose at all. How utterly bizarre.
Aside from that, the record features a treasure trove of catchy numbers like it’s title cut, “Testify”, “One Against The World”, “Chain Of Command” and more. A fierce bout of passion becomes fully unleashed on album ballad, “Second To One” replete with an equally romantic guitar solo. The same might be said about the disc’s closer, “And Yet I Smile” which definitely works to show a continued maturity to an already great band. I wasn’t sure if these guys would ever be able to makeup for the flop that was Infected, but they have showed me that from (r)Evolution onwards, there is simply no way that they’re going to put the hammer down. Even lyrical changes coming from a band who once sung about kings, warriors and glory have moved onto topics like the biblical fall of Lucifer, romantic relationships and need I remind you, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. It’s this kind of lyrical brevity that I think keeps the band moving forward, because people do eventually get tired of hearing power metal albums that haven’t changed from the D&D schitck since Ronnie James Dio.
The record doesn’t feature any real musical innovations, but I feel that the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach has been working well for the guys here and hopefully they’ll stick to that. There are more than just a few songs on Dominion that work well for the stage, like the single “(We Make) Sweden Rock” which the band recently shot a video for as well as “Never Forgive, Never Forget” which opens the disc with a hearken back to the old days. The band definitely sound a bit more mainstream than they may have back in the nineties and that’s no different here, but at least the performance is pleasant as a whole and doesn’t result in me skipping over any of the actual songs on the disc. I still don’t understand what was going on with “Battleworn” and we may truly never know, but there’s more than enough material here for fans to raise their hammers high while chanting loud, thunderous praise to the heavy metal gods. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.