Review Summary: There’s nothing left to see...you know you’re never going back again.
There is a certain beauty about the ocean that can best be observed from the shore. As a child living on the coast of Southern California, I would spend hours at a time standing on a quiet beach during a hot Summer day, admiring the simple elegance of the ocean as I dig my feet into the sand and listen to the chirps of seagulls as they soar into the unknown. From the shore, the ocean appears to be calm and simple; an illusion that masks the unfathomable depths below that house more life, both gorgeous and terrifying, than will ever be discovered by man. Not too dissimilar from this is Death Has No Dominion, a Danish two-piece ambient folk outfit that aim to recreate the experience of gazing off into the endless ocean on a bright Summer day.
The elegance of Death Has No Dominion’s self-titled debut is found in its simplicity. Minimal instrumentation and softly-sung vocals create gorgeous atmospheres that reflect the heart of nature. Tranquil ukulele melodies place the listener into a trance, guiding the listener as he or she embarks on an out-of-body experience through lush forests and icy plains. The pacing of the album is slow and contemplative, allowing the listener’s mind to wander aimlessly as one song seamlessly melds into the next. Bjarke Niemann’s murmured, slightly off-key vocal delivery is by no means great, but the softness and sincerity of it fits with the ethereal nature of the music. While his poetic lyrics add to the music's serenity, his voice shines brightest on tracks “Uproar In Heaven” and “No Return,” in which he chants and hums quietly as the ambient melodies take center stage. Death Has No Dominion
is an aural journey through the imagination of two young musicians armed with ukuleles.
Although each song on Death Has No Dominion
is similar in structure and rhythm, the album is by no means boring. Each track paints a similar picture, but conveys a subtly different tone from the one preceding it. The slight nuances of “Uproar In Heaven,” such as its exotic melody and heavy tribal beat, make it profoundly different than previous track “Reaching the Shore” and the rest of the album likewise. “Coming Like a Hurricane” is an easy standout, serving as the most emotional and gripping track on the entire album. The song begins in a rather somber fashion, starting off with harmonizing ukulele strumming and mournful lyrics. Yet, as the song progresses, it becomes increasingly powerful and uplifting. Ghostly melodies delicately burst and soar in the distance over the rest of the song, painting a breathtakingly vivid picture of a colorful environment alive with all sorts of life. Unfortunately, the short length of “Coming Like a Hurricane” highlights the biggest problem with the album. On average, each song spans three-to-four minutes in length, stopping dead in their tracks just as soon as the listener has become invested. While this flaw is quite disappointing and affects nearly every song, Death Has No Dominion
makes up for this by having a steady, cohesive flow. In fact, the entire album feels like a thirty-four minute song.
Death Has No Dominion are as humble as they are ambitious, crafting emotional atmospheres and painting beautiful pictures with use of little more than two ukuleles and vocals that range from mumbled poetry to harmonious hums. This idea is not new, but here, its execution is so earnest that one can’t help but be intrigued. Death Has No Dominion
places me back onto the shore I stood on as a child, staring into the ocean and admiring the fallacy of its magnificent simplicity.