Review Summary: Morbid Angel show a new side of them without it descending into a mess like Illud Divinum Insanus.11 of 11 thought this review was well written
Morbid Angel are one of the few death metal bands that has achieved iconic status within the metal world as a whole, with their earliest albums considered to be among the finest albums in that particular genre. They also achieved some negative attention for the release of their final album to date, Illud Divinum Insanus, of which the less said about it the better. It is not only Altars Of Madness and Blessed Are The Sick that deserve the attention the band receives however as both Domination and Covenant were more than competent examples of how death metal should be done properly, with Domination standing out as one of the best albums the band has released to date.
This album chugs along at a much slower pace than the average blast beat infested death metal release which may come as a surprise to some due to the fact that Morbid Angel were perhaps the first band to utilize blast beat drumming. However the band knows how to put together some cracking slow paced riffs as this album shows on songs such as Where The Slime Live. This song is essentially just a mass of power chords and pinch harmonics that makes for an interesting listen with its low end chugging coupled with the startling murky effect added to the vocals for this particular rout of blasphemy. For those looking for aggressive and speedy numbers by the band they definitely deliver here as well with opening song Dominate, This Means War and the galloping Hatework sticking out as the two most aggressive and straight-forward songs on here. This is not to say that the album is slow paced as it still races along with some fast guitar lines, but much of the pace is more well thought out and there is not as much reliance on purely blast beats for the speed.
The riffs to this album are a mixture of power chords and the occasional hyper fast tremolo picked line, with some occasional thrashy open string gallops used to great effect. This is also an album that attempts to mix up the low guitar tones with a huge number of pinch harmonics scattered across each of the songs to break it up a little bit. The drumming is no less intense than any other Morbid Angel album with this album sticking mainly to fast double bass work and some quick fills. This Means War reintroduces the blast beats that the band is known for with a lot of aggression before calming down a little bit during the solos and afterwards. This is an album that has near constant use of double bass drumming to make a constant rhythm in the back ground and leaves the variety to the guitar work. The vocals are fairly powerful but are nowhere near the standards set on Altars Of Madness and this may come as a let down to some. They are still low enough and more than understandable but fast become grating due to the complete monotony to them.
This album primarily succeeds due to how memorable many moments of it are such as the opening riff to Where The Slime Live and the song Dawn Of The Angry. Despite its ridiculous title the latter has one of the finest solos on the album despite the fact it is a little more deliberately paced but the second one is more of a shred-fest, and it also contains some of the best slower riffs towards them middle of the song. The chorus to this song is one of the best on the album as well, with the roar of "My hand is on the trigger" as the higher pitched tremolo picked lines move along at full speed ahead. This is also a good example of the changes in tempo that this album brings with it with a string of chords leading into the tremolo picked sections perfectly. The outro to this song is one of the slowest moments of the album and could not have closed it off better had it tried. One thing to complain about this release is that the production is not quite up to scratch with some of their other works and that the guitars have a fuzzy tone to them that makes them just blend in with the mix and not sound remotely interesting until the band starts playing in a higher register, such as the tremolo picking during the chorus to Dawn Of the Angry, or when they play pinch harmonics. The drums have a brilliant tone but the guitars are so densely mixed and the bass is completely inaudible that it makes you question whether the band cared about the overall sound of their release.
Domination is a more than solid death metal album that merits a listen or two from anyone who would claim to enjoy the genre. This is not death metal played so slow that it will send you to sleep but has a much more interesting pace than the ten-for-a-dollar blast beat infested releases that come out every month. This is the rare case of an album that aspires to break the stereotypes of its genre and succeeds perfectly with some great use of more mid-paced chord based riffing such as the introduction to Nothing But Fear. Whilst this does not touch their first three albums in terms of quality it is a solid album in its own right with some choice cuts such as Where The Slime Live that are full of incredible riffs.