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On Domination Morbid Angel, now joined by ex‑Ripping Corpse guitarist and contributing songwriter Eric Rutan, loses conceptual unity and their once inimitable vision is now confused, resulting in a streamlined version of their sound, polished and compromised for a wider range of appeal. Covenant marked the end of a classic trilogy, while Domination fails to uphold the remarkable level of consistency demonstrated on earlier releases, and lacks much of enduring interest. Though the album features moments of quality, the disruption of focus and unity damns this work, earning it the distinction of the first inessential Morbid Angel album.
“Darkness - swallowing all in its path
The blind leading the blind and the "flock" is ever confused
Who has the gift of healthy sight and mind?
Who can withstand while the others are blown away?”
They storm out of the gate with the first three tracks, followed by a gradual decline into material that ranges from episodes of superficial aggression to forgetful, uninspired songs, with the band relying uncharacteristically on common stylistic traditions. The presentation resembles the sequence of Blessed Are The Sick, yet does not achieve what made that work the group's most captivating work. This is due mostly to a lack of powerful expressive character and presence, as well as the preternatural aura, a component of mysterious intrigue that distinguished this band from the common lot. The music relies too much on the impact of crushing rhythm and surface intensity, and its design is puzzlingly de-intellectualized, with a significantly lower grade of song distinction. There is nothing ceremonial about this album. It is baffling in its normalcy and lack of spirited determination. Of course, the instrumentation is superior, but their unyielding spirit and purpose-oriented approach to creativity is absent.
“Years of complacency on the part of the mob
Feeding on lies...so slothed, so full this is it
Restless...and tolerance nearing its peak
Woe to the next ones who push us too far”
This weakly-produced fall from grace marks the final appearance of vocalist/bassist/songwriter David Vincent (though he would return years later), whose venomous and commanding vocalizations served as an essential part of this band's distinctive identity, but whose performance on Domination sounds uninspired and one-dimensional. Eric Rutan also departs after this album to concentrate on Hate Eternal, leaving Trey Azagthoth and Pete "Commando" Sandoval, arguably two of the most talented and pioneering at their respective positions in the death metal genre, to navigate the progression of the band. While Domination isn't a catastrophe to Morbid Angel's legacy, it adds nothing of real artistic value. It would prove to be a disappointing disruption of their program, which was temporarily rejuvenated on 1998's Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, before all inspiration and genuine motivation was lost.
It seems to be that people either love or hate this album. I can't seem to understand why. I had an unbiased approach at it as I heard it before I saw the negative reviews on how they were trying to "commercialize" their sound. Seriously, open your ears, this album is fast and heavy with the classic Morbid Angel sound. Blare this cruising in your car and you're still going to get the standard pissed off look from people as with any other good death metal album. This album isn't soft at all and is far from radio-friendly. Seriously, anyone that rates this album under a 10% should be questioned of their credibility towards metal as a whole. Sure, it's not as good as the first three, but anyone rating it that low obviously has no general knowledge of music at all.
So with this album Trey comes at you with the standard Morbid Angel riffs, a mix between tremolo-picked riffs and the slower, off-timed grooved sections that are now played at a lower tuning, giving a different feeling to their sound, especially the slower-paced grooves that first appeared on BATS. Backed by Sandoval's technical drumming mixing between blast beats, machine-gun like double bass beats, and some great fills, this album is already above average. This was not David Vincents finest output vocal-wise, but give him a break, it's not like vocals are his only priority. The leads are still overall pretty good with Treys trademark unorthodox whammy bar-styled playing that positively contributes to the album as a whole.
The production is a little cleaner then I like, but it's not like it's too overdone like your average core bands of today. This might have been looked at as over-polished back in 1995, but I wouldn't know because I was merely 5 years old. Despite the production, it still holds an aggressive atmosphere to it. All in all, I don't believe this album deserves the shit talk that it gets. The prior albums were a lot better in pretty much all aspects, but those I would rate in the 90s as this one is only deserving of an 80%.
When discussing the back log of the influential Morbid Angel, I'm often surprised that Domination is typically held in low regard. Though I'm a huge fan of their debut Altars of Madness, fan favorites Blessed Are the Sick and Covenant held very little of interest to me. When their fourth album Domination arrived, I was hesitant to take the plunge, what with its gaudy cover art, but it's turned out to be Morbid Angel's most interesting album, a slab of sludgy yet complex death metal with memorable songwriting. It transports their core of dense riffing and infernal drum battery into a realm of sadistic grooves and sinister tones. These days, when desiring a fix from this Floridian staple, more often than not I will reach for this album over any other.
Opener "Dominate" is not a far cry from the material on Covenant, a blasting frenzy which suffers from a slightly dull verse but makes up for it through its bridge and chorus thrashing and sick leads. David Vincent's vocals are incredible on this album: truly dense and brutal in a way the band had not yet manifested. "Where the Slime Live" may be a silly title, but the song is simply phenomenal with its deep, wrenching grooves over Pete Sandoval's apocalyptic levels of double bass, and its simultaneously anti-Christian, anti-political lyrics. Mythos-inspired "Eyes to See...Ears to Hear" is one better, and perhaps my favorite Morbid Angel track aside from "Chapel of Ghouls". The choral verse is fucking incredible, and Vincent is just VULGAR sounding, it's as if he has transc...descended into one of the Elder Gods the band is so fond of in their lyrics.
'Worlds apart are they and I
My world remains in sight
Their lives - despair
The "I's" and "They's" cannot compare'
I should also note the amazing guitar work of this track, both the rhythms and leads are among the best constructed of the band's entire catalog. "Melting" is a brief instrumental featuring some hints at deep cult chanting and bombastic synths, which is followed by the intense "Nothing but Fear", another platter of winding, dense rhythm and the 'swampy' sound permeating much of this material. "Dawn of the Angry" features some blistering axework and utter brutality which should appeal to those who worshiped the previous album. Ditto for "This Means War", with a rhythm not unlike "Eyes to See...", only cranked in velocity. "Caesar's Palace" is another of the album's best, with a wondrous, morbid and majestic intro segment before the slow pummelling grooves of the main body. "Dreaming" is another of the bombastic synth instrumentals which do well to pace the record, and "Inquisition (Burn With Me)" is unflinchingly riff-tastic. "Hatework" combines dark atmospheres such as strikes of a bell into its epic, abyssal composition, to close the album with class.
The atmosphere and production on Domination is phenomenal, something the band has never so brilliantly captured on their other output. Formulas Fatal to the Flesh too this 'swampy' Everglades feel of death metal to a further extreme, but simply failed to deliver any quality songs (in my opinion it's the worst of their offerings). But the grim luster of this 1995 morass sounds perfect today. It's really a shame this wasn't a bigger splash for the band. It sold fairly well but didn't receive the critical acclaim it deserved. I'm not sure a lot of fans who were expecting another blast fest quite understood it. The thing is, it's STILL a blast fest, Morbid Angel 100% through and through, but the cohesive and sludgy groove of the material makes it truly stand out. There are one or two tracks which slack behind as far as memorable writing, at least in part, but the rest of the album is surely the stuff of cosmic cult horror.
Of all the albums in the David Vincent era of Morbid Angel, this one has been the most difficult for me to fully understand, in large part because I was torn between the opinions of various people who I’ve conversed with, some of them being people who actually got me into the band. In many quarters, “Domination” is considered the absolute nadir of their career, even when considering the less than stellar albums that followed Vincent’s departure. The objections most tend to focus on the notion of the album being dumbed down and repackaged for commercial consumption. The former half of this assertion strikes me as utterly bizarre since having listened to the album multiple times, the latter holds true to an extent in the album’s production, which is notably clearer and more polished than past works, but still well out of the realm of anything that could be called mainstream. Ultimately this hostility seems to be centered on the fact that many didn’t accept death metal as being something that could sell extensively or be appreciated by a wide audience. But as present day metal culture shows, even the intentionally antiestablishment world of black metal is not beyond the curiosity of popular culture, though they do tend to have a pedestrian understanding of it.
Although I consider this to be the weakest of this band’s offerings during the Vincent era, this is still quite a morbidly good listen. The guitars have been loaded up with enough sludgy depth to make Crowbar proud, while simultaneously reasserting that doom-laden yet clear atmosphere that typified “Covenant”. In fact, the characteristics that made said album appealing have been magnified on several songs on here, particularly that of the somewhat rough edged and overly processed “Where The Slime Live”. They get a little carried away with the vocal effects, but this song shows a band that is willing to explore slower tempos and depth of atmosphere while still constantly referring back to the genre’s extreme thrash roots. And when the band revisits the high tempo glory of their earlier works, the format is a little easier to follow and painted with a brilliant set of methodical lead guitar elements that go beyond the typical barrage of Slayer-inspired whammy bar madness and frenetic scale runs. Particularly on the sludgy thrashers “Eyes To See…Ears To Hear” and “This Means War” lay a beautiful array of melodic leads loaded with passion. It’s pretty easy to see where Demonaz got his influence for those awe inspiring leads on “Blizzard Beasts”, as the guitar tone and tendency to keep things expressive rather than overly frenzied heard in Azagthoth’s lead breaks are all but a perfect match with said album, not to mention a casual similarity in riff construction, though on here things are a bit more doom inspired and dissonant.
While the muddy meanness on display throughout the majority of this album is not really out of character for this band, there are some side elements that are. Amidst the two instrumental interludes on here, and the longer epics “Caesar’s Palace” and “Hatework” is a collection of keyboard sections that range from ambient sorrow to an almost epic symphonic character. I’m not sure where Azagthoth got the ideas for these sections of the album, but it brings a uniquely intelligent character to what is otherwise a musically vulgar condemnation of all things light and peaceful. It’s unclear whether or not anyone in this band was aware of any work done by Burzum or Enslaved, but the woeful ambient sounding marching instrumental “Dreaming” sounds like it could have come from one of the earlier works of either band. Perhaps it was the keyboard content that turned off many of Morbid Angel’s older fans to this album, but speaking for myself, it isn’t a negative. Given the general tendency towards a clear and polished sound, these additives actually seem the logical course to complement songs that aren’t always cutting off heads at tempos above 3 clicks per second.
Regardless of what many steadfast trustees of death metal may say in opposition, “Domination” is not a bad album, and isn’t really all that much of a decline in quality from “Covenant”. If one can get beyond the fact that Morbid Angel was enjoying a brief period in the lower echelons of mainstream interest, this is something that can be enjoyed as a more organized and somewhat progressive variant on what is pretty much still straight up death metal in all its morose glory. And besides, if they can come up with a genre like epic doom metal, why not apply the same concept to the one that features vocals that are deep and dark enough to make your floors tremble.
In 1993, Morbid Angel released an album that simplified their sound and presented it to the ignorant masses. As planned, their popularity increased and the record sold well. It was a far cry from their previous works, but it was still bearable. However, in 1995, they crossed the line with Domination. A new studio, a new producer and a new band member as well. Erik Rutan, of Ripping Corpse, was brought in as a second guitar player. He also contributed to the songwriting. I would like to be able to blame him for what happened on this album, as he is the only new element that was introduced into the equation. More likely, Trey decided that it was time to experiment. That was common for many bands, by this point in their career, as well as the era that the album was written and recorded. Whatever the reason may be, the end result was a pile of stinking feces that should never have been released to the public.
It's difficult to even decide where to begin, when attempting to list off the countless faults that this album possesses. The most obvious flaw has to be David Vincent's vocals. His performances on Altars of Madness and Blessed Are the Sick were great, the former being one of my favourites ever. On Covenant, his style was a bit boring and one-dimensional (suiting the overall vibe of the album, really), but it was completely acceptable. For Domination, apparently, he lost any and all will to put forth real effort. I'm not just talking about the horribly comical effects used on "Where the Slime Live"; he sounds bloody awful throughout the entire album. He sounds incredibly weak, as if he lost his voice right before recording. His vocals are strained, pathetic and irritating in every way. It's no wonder that he left the band, shortly after this, as he must have just lost interest in what he was doing. Words fail to convey my utter disappointment in his "efforts" here.
The next problem to address has to be the songwriting. Trey must have run out of ideas, long ago, or become obsessed with the idea of 'making it big'. True, there are still some good riffs that have managed to sneak onto the album, and the solo work is still what one would expect, but the overall composition of the songs leaves a lot to be desired. There are way too many catchy riffs, and it's very blatant. To be fair, even the better songs probably don't get the credit that they might have, due to Vincent's awful vocal performance and the overdone production job.
Regarding the production, it's far too clear and modern for a Death Metal album. Of course, Morbid Angel weren't alone in this and some small credit should be given to them for straying from the typical Morrisound production, but it was too little, too late.
Even the artwork was a joke, as it looked both cheap and too modern, at the same time. The primitive computer-generated art and bright colours was the last thing anyone wanted to see, and certainly aided in the damaging effect that this album had on their career. While it's not important to everyone, I appreciate when the aesthetics fit, and even accentuate, the atmosphere being created by the music. Of course, this abomination doesn't really succeed in imbuing the listener with anything but disappointment, so the cover may be more accurate than it first seemed.
It's sad to see a great band throw away their potential and become a caricature of itself. That is exactly what Morbid Angel did with Covenant and Domination. For whatever they may have gained in the short term, they sacrificed their credibility and have never really recovered. In short, Domination represents the death knell for Morbid Angel. Despite their efforts they were neither accepted by the mainstream nor fully welcomed back into the underground after this betrayal.
Not a proud moment for our favorite death metal band. Having achieved an impressive level of commercial success, by death metal standards at least, and without compromising, they decided to... compromise. We hope. If this album wasn't a plea for a wider audience, it becomes a hell of a lot harder to make any sense of it, especially seeing as they went back to being good after it failed to reach the mainstream.
To start with the least of this album's offenses, the production sucks outright, from the thwipping drums to the radio transmission guitars. I faintly recall reading somewhere that the producer didn't grasp death metal at all, and while I can't back that up, it's believable based on the final results. The vocals are pushed way up in the mix, but that's probably not an accident. They're noticeably less growly and more intelligible than past releases, which isn't so much a problem as a symptom: this is supposed to be a repetitive and predictable scream-a-long album, with the sluggish guitars providing a rhythmic backdrop instead of leading the way.
Even as dumbed-down, semi-commercial death metal, it's not particularly enjoyable; it's not very catchy and half the songs sound the same. Even the distinctive Morbid Angel-ness of the riffs and solos can only do so much to save it.
The last track, “Hatework,” tries to spare the album from total disaster with some keyboards and march drums; it might sound kind of stupid, but at least it wasn't an idea born of audience surveys and pie charts.
To date, this is the worst thing the band has done by far; the only arguable exception is “Heretic,” but it at least has the dignity of being an apparently well-intentioned failure.
The last album (so far) to feature vocalist/bassist David Vincent, Domination seems to encourage the most extreme differences of opinion. Aside from Heretic, it is generally the lowest-rated album amongst fans and casual listeners alike. The fact that it was their second album on a major label (Giant/Warner) as well as being quite different in both lyrics and atmosphere from both Altars of Madness and Blessed are the Sick (and to a lesser extent, Covenant) may have contributed to some of the prejudice, but in my view it is utterly ignorant to disregard an album due to these facts alone.
By 1995, death metal was in a state of flux. Many of the bands were by this time releasing substandard material and, along with the legions of inferior bands flooding the market and the failed attempt to commercialize the music through the now well-documented merger of Earache Records with Columbia/Sony, contributed to a general air of disinterest and boredom amongst fans. Also, black metal's extreme ideologies and church-burning antics were making headlines and effectively capturing the attention of listeners, and combined with the previous factors, death metal could not really compete.
The fact is, Morbid Angel smashed through these barriers and let none of this prevent them from creating a masterpiece. This album is the ultimate statement of what Morbid Angel is capable of - it is almost obscenely dogmatic at some points, and displays exactly what Morbid Angel had become by 1995.
In contrast to it's predecessor, which features a muddy and murky sound, Domination features a great production. Everything is loud and clear, with good instrument separation, yet at the same time, heavy and thick - an increased budget is perhaps one of the main factors for such an improvement. This works to the benefit of the material; a song like Where the Slime Live would not be nearly as effective with a less bass-heavy production. The drums, however, suffer a little - Pete Sandoval delivers yet another outstanding performance, however, he does sound a bit restrained, due to a slightly sterile drum sound. The overall tempo is generally much slower than anything the band had done previously, although there are still some very fast songs like Dominate and This Means War.
The guitar work is amazing. Forget all the other guitar teams out there: Hetfield/Hammett, Hanneman/King, Owen/O'Brien, the Hoffman brothers - Trey Azagthoth and Erik Rutan are superior to them all. Trey turns in his usual 110% effort, with his customary flowing riffs and out-of-control solos, although in keeping with the atmosphere of the album they are a little more melodic and dream-like than before. This being the first album he performed on, Erik Rutan asserts himself unbelievably well. His style is markedly different to Trey's - more lush sounding and classically-inclined (his solo on Nothing But Fear is particularly well done; why isn't he as good as this in Hate Eternal?)
This being David Vincent's final album with the band (excluding, of course, the upcoming album and the live album Entangled in Chaos), you'd expect him to depart in triumph. And he does. Following the tradition of previous albums, his vocals change yet again. In contrast to Covenant, which featured drier, more guttural vocal work, Domination's vocals are a raspy, articulate roar. I can't really say a great deal about his basswork, save that is perfectly competent and adds to the thick heaviness of the album.
Highlights are incredibly difficult to pick, as Morbid Angel do not fall into the fault of so many death metal bands in making all their songs sound overly similar. Every song here is given its own identity and voice. Where the Slime Live, with it's sludgy, monolithic atmosphere, swamp-like vocals and extremely harsh lyrics (which seem to be expressing condemnation and scorn of politicians and religion) is a definite standout.
Eyes to See, Ears to Hear and Nothing But Fear run well together - both songs have quite a similar feel. Eyes to See is more "mystical" sounding (I'm not really sure how else to explain it) and Nothing But Fear is particularly impressive, with its intelligent lyrics and an outstanding solo from Erik. Its really a shame that Morbid Angel doesn't play more songs from this album live.
As per the Morbid Angel tradition, Domination features two instrumental tracks. The first is Melting, a short ambient track with some bubbling noises in the background, which, to be honest, is rather forgettable. The other is Dreaming, a great piece that evokes images of Ancient Rome, which makes it a great companion to Caesar's Palace, another highlight with lyrics devoted to - who else? Julius Caesar.
Hatework... this song gives off such an incredibly hateful, sinister atmosphere of doom that there is really nothing else like it on any of Morbid Angel's albums. Along with God of Emptiness from Covenant, this song showed that Morbid Angel were willing to experiment a little, unlike some of their peers at the time. Composed of deep (possibly David's deepest ever) vocals, martial drums and a mind-blowing solo at the end, this song wouldn't be out of place on a doom album. A masterpiece.
And so the album ends. That this album is cast aside by so many people is a shame. I think that a lot of people disregard it simply for the fact that it is so different from what had come before it and clearly, many fans either can't or won't accept change.
Domination is a testament to creativity and atmospheric, "dominating" death metal; it represents Morbid Angel at their peak, both success-wise and musically.
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Ah, how to review this album. An album that has inspired much controversy over the years amongst many death metal fans and thus, by extension, many Morbid Angel fans. An album that made Morbid Angel even more famous in the metal world, but at the same time, caused them to be regarded less highly by the metal underground, many of whom felt this album was a betrayal of Morbid Angel's principles - a "sell out", so to speak.
There are good reasons for this, to be sure; this album is indeed far more commercial than any of Morbid Angel's previous albums. It has a clear, thick production - hating it for that reason, however, is just plain stupid, in my opinion. That is thankfully probably not the reason why most Morbid Angel fans dislike Domination and feel Covenant is much better.
The biggest reason why, and I think the best reason, is that the songs are more bland than the songs from the first three albums. And they do feel less chaotic in the good way that Morbid Angel's first three albums feel chaotic. This is pretty obvious just from the first listen to "Dominate" the album's opening track. Right from the start it doesn't feel as genuine, either in crushing doomy riffs like Blessed are the Sick did with its opening song Fall from Grace, or in sheer brutality as Altars does with its opening song Immortal Rites, and Covenant does with its opening song, Rapture. It just isn't as good. The worst aspect of this is David Vincent's voice. What the hell happened to it? On Covenant it was incredibly throaty and deep and very menacing. It sounded very genuine and easily as truly satanic as Deicide. But on Domination, his voice actually sounds less deep! It's more of a gravelly growl, which isn't necessarily bad, but makes the music a lot less menacing than it would be if David's voice was as deep as it was on Covenant.
Also, the music clearly isn't as good either. It sounds a little uninspired almost. This is an ok opening song, very aggressive, but it doesn't really set the mood for the rest of the album, which is decidedly slower than Covenant. And most of this time, this isn't in the effectively doomy, creepy way Blessed are the Sick was slower, or how their later album Gateways to Annihilation is slower. Both of those albums are, to put it bluntly, just plain better than Domination.
The one good aspect of this fairly unremarkable opening song is the solo. This is a little more melodic than usual, probably due to Erik Rutan's presence - this would be seen even more overtly on Gateways to Annihilation, where Erik contributes some very melodic solos indeed - but not melodic in the corny, silly way that melodeath is. Melodic in a dark and sinister and otherwordly way, as it should be. And although the solos are ok here, I definitely prefer the ones on Gateways to Annihilation.
So, with that song out of the way, we're onto the next song, "Where the Slime Live". This is a very sludgy and slower song. Now, just because the second song on a Morbid Angel album is sludgy doesn't automatically mean that the whole album is almost entirely sludgy and either slow or mid paced, because it isn't. After all, Covenant, which is easily overall one of the faster Morbid Angel albums ever, slowed down considerably on its third song, World of Shit(the Promised Land). But shortly after the one minute mark, this song also sped up. Such is not the case on "Where the Slime Live", however. This song is more like God of Emptiness from Covenant in that it stays at a slow tempo throughout the whole song. There's nothing really wrong with this though - in fact, this is easily one of the best songs on the album. The only annoying thing is the rather weird and admittedly slightly silly sounding distortion effect used on David's voice for this song. It certainly makes it sound less "deathly" than, say, God of Emptiness from Covenant or the title track from Blessed are the Sick, if we're comparing other sludgy songs. Also, this song isn't the best of Morbid Angel's sludgy songs - "Nothing is Not" from Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and the slower songs on Gateways to Annihilation are better in almost all respects, and also don't have those annoying distorted effects on the vocals. But that aside, this is still one of the best songs on Domination. Heavy, thick, crushing, sludgy.........all things Morbid Angel does very well. And this is no exception. The solo is this song is great too, very eastern inspired like Erik Rutan's solos on Gateways to Annihilation are too. Fairly clever lyrics too, avoiding the over-present war themes that make up too much of the lyrics on most of the rest of the songs on this album. Instead they seem like a criticism of religious dogmatic lies, as far as I can tell.
Does this song set the mood for the rest of the album then? Not exactly. That's another problem I have with this album - all of the rest of Morbid Angel's albums manage to keep the majority of their songs' tempos one way or another - fast or slow. Altars being fast, Blessed being slower(although it does have some very fast songs too)Covenant being fast again, and Domination is.........well, mid paced. That's part of the problem - the opener is very fast, and then you get the second song, and that's slow. That's mostly fine, but then there's the third song: "Eyes to See, Ears to Hear" which starts out fairly fast, but again, like the previous two songs, lacks the visceral power of their previous albums' songs. It is much faster than Where the Slime Live, but slower than Dominate. It's in between really, and ends up being pretty unremarkable. The solo is, again, the only special thing here, as it is a little different sounding from the solos on the first three Morbid Angel albums. But at the same time, the song isn't bad, it's just nothing that special in comparison to the brilliance of, say, a song from Covenant like Vengeance is Mine.
But still, it's ok - the lyrics are fairly clever too, again avoiding over abuse of war themes. But it's hardly as vicious or satanic as the lyrics to pretty much any of Covenant's songs.
Then we have a rather pointless instrumental interlude track, "Melting". Not really bad, and not really that annoying, but not really necessary. However, this doesn't matter that much.
Now we're onto the next song, "Nothing but Fear". This song is mostly mid paced throughout - not brutal, malevolent, really overtly satanic and incredibly fast like most of the songs off Covenant, or skullcrushingly doomy, slow, and suffocating like most of the songs off Gateways to Annihilation. Instead this is somewhere in between, and like the first three songs on this album, it just lacks the feeling of the songs from the first three albums. It's not bad, in fact this is quite a good song, very good lyrics, quite intelligent, and quite occult based too - but it simply doesn't capture the same feeling as the songs from Altars of Madness, Blessed are the Sick, and Covenant do.
Next up is "Dawn of the Angry". Quite a well known song, this one, and it's pretty good. Although this marks the beginning of the over-done war lyrics, the actual song is good. There is a great solo here too, very melodic in a dark and brutal way. This song isn't overly long, it's mid paced, yet it's aggressive and mostly straight to the point. The riffs here are actually very good, great for headbanging, and again the solo, very eastern styled and just very well done. Easily one of the better songs on the album, weird lyrics notwithstanding.
Now we've got "This Means War". Which is, to be honest, rather unremarkable. It's shorter, faster, and more aggressive than most of the other songs on this album - and isn't that a good thing, since this is a fairly slow album? No, because this isn't a fairly slow album. Gateways to Annihilation is Morbid Angel's truly slow album, and that album pulls off the slowness effectively. Domination, on the other hand, is mostly mid paced, and thus it doesn't need to have an ultra fast song when the previous song wasn't that slow. But this song is ok. It works as a very aggressive sounding song. And although it is aggressive, and well, angry, it still doesn't have the malevolence of the brutal fast songs in Altars and Covenant, or even the couple of fast songs in Blessed are the Sick. Why not? Well, besides the fact that is simply isn't as brutal as, say, "Maze of Torment" or "Damnation" from Altars of Madness, or as brutal as "The Lion's Den" or "Pain Divine" from Covenant, the lyrics are about war, rather than being about the occult and killing christians and satanic things, which they were on Altars and Covenant and ought to be about here. Still, this song is ok.
Next up is "Caesar's Palace" - which is, well, not that great. It has a pointlessly long intro, for one - the actual song, meaning the heavy riffing and vocals, doesn't start until over two minutes into the song. And when it does start, it quickly goes very mid-paced. This isn't a bad thing by itself, but it means that it fails to achieve a doomy effect which it could if it was slower, or a more brutal effect which it could if it was faster. The lyrics are about Caesar, which is.......well, it isn't about the occult at all. Where's all the lovecraftian influences that were so prominent on Blessed are the Sick? Where's the brutal satanism and anti-christianity that was so prominent on Covenant? Instead, we've got lyrics about war and about emperors.......not a bad subject for death metal at all, but it just doesn't fit in with the rest of their albums' lyrics - which are all about lovecraftian stuff, sumerian stuff, and/or satanism and anti-christianity. So it makes the album stand out, and not in a good way. This song is still ok really, but nothing special.
Then we have an instrumental interlude, "Dreaming". Not bad, in fact it's a lot better than the first instrumental on this album.
Next is "Inquisition(Burn with Me)". This song is pretty good. Again the lyrics are mostly war themed, which as I said before I can't help feeling is a little out of place when they should be lovecraftian or satanic. But still, besides that, this is a good song overall.
Finally, we have "Hatework". This is easily one of the weirdest songs that Morbid Angel ever did. Mostly because it has a huge amount of keyboards and weird sythesised effects, which to be honest doesn't really fit in that well with the guitar. It sounds like over-use of keyboards to the point where they drown out a lot of the other sounds. Thankfully Morbid Angel never used Keyboards in this way again on any of their later songs, and instead mostly regulated them to the instrumental interlude tracks. In any case, this song is not very good for headbanging. The riffs sound odd underneath the wall of keyboard sounds, and the whole song is very strange. But the one good thing about this song is that it does give a feeling of impending doom and crushing, nightmarish darkness - something that the other songs on Domination just didn't do, unlike the songs on Blessed are the Sick, which succeeded in this regard. Even so, for a slower Morbid Angel song I still far prefer God of Emptiness from Covenant, the closing song on that album.
Overall, this album isn't bad at all, it's just not really that special or interesting throughout. That's it's biggest weakness - it lacks the darkness, otherwordly feel, and brutality of not only the first three albums, but also of the following two albums. This is stands in between as an album with over use of weird vocal effects, too many keyboards in some places(the intro to Caesar's Palace and the whole Hatework song), a bit too much focus on trying to be more accessible, not as memorable songs as previous albums, and an uncertain speed - it tries to replicate the atmosphere of Blessed are the Sick, but it doesn't succeed in this very well. It's certainly slower than Covenant, but it's nowhere near as slow as a lot of people make it out to be. Instead, it's mostly mid paced. Which means that on most of the songs, it fails to capture either the terrifying aggression and brutality of the previous albums' faster songs, or the crushing doominess and creepiness of the previous albums' slower songs. Thus it doesn't really create a very interesting atmosphere throughout the album in comparison to any of the other albums, earlier and later.
Even so, it isn't a bad album. If you're a Morbid Angel fan, you should definitely still own this. And if you're a casual death metal fan trying to get into death metal more properly, this album may be the perfect way into death metal, as it isn't as harsh or as inaccessible as their first three albums, or their following two.
Despite the amount of time I've spent criticizing the songs on this album, I actually still like the album a lot. I don't like Hatework or Caesar's Palace that much, but most of the other songs are either pretty good or very good, even if not as brilliant as those on, say, Altars of Madness or Covenant. It still has some very good stand out songs and is just as brutally crushing and heavy throughout in most ways. Thus I'm still proud as a death metal fan and as a Morbid Angel fan to have this album in my collection.
I don't get why this album has gotten rather underwhelming reviews from people. I consider this to be better (or at least on par) than anything done after this with Steve Tucker. Perhaps its the timing of this release, given that it came out after 3 classic Morbid Angel releases in Altars..., Blessed... and Covenant. People may have been let down and it's hard not to compare this to three death metal classics. But Domination is a very good album nonetheless, also I find David Vincent's lyrics and voice to be more interesting than Tucker's.
My friend owns a record shop in my city that sells pretty much everything, including all kinds of metal music and he tells me that of the 3 most sold MA releases Domination is third behind Blessed Are The Sick and Altars Of Madness. Is it because of the two "big" tracks in Domination and Where The Slime Lives? No, the rest of the album holds up very well, especially tracks like 'Nothing But Fear', 'Dawn Of The Angry', 'Hatework' and 'Inquisition (Burn with Me)'. There's a lot of strong tracks in here and as an album is holds its own with the first three classics, maybe not on their level but great either way.
I don't get why they never had Erik Rutan do rhythm duties with Trey after this. He complimented him so well and made the guitar sound great, thick and lush. Wonderful duo they were but I wonder if Trey's ego got the better of him and decided to let him go. I hope they use the same lineup in the future album(s) as this one. To me it's their best and if they want to recapture their past glory they need to do so.
Morbid Angel have been dishing out hellacious and ball shattering music for quite a few years now but "Domination" stands to be one of their best releases along side "Covenant". The only flaw, albeit sort of a daunting one, is that some of the tracks just seem to be like filler tracks in the sense that they are no where near what Morbid Angel can really put forth.
Aside from that flaw the album has actually a very brutal and technical presence. Right from the start of "Dominate" the album pummels and plows through three tracks of eargasm only to have it stop at a filler track, "Melting". The action then picks up with "Nothing But Fear" and "Dawn Of The Angry" which are my two favorite tracks off of this album. The remaining four tracks are decent but nothing truly groundbreaking or new to mention (although "This Means War" is a killer track).
The musicianship and veracity of Morbid Angel is no doubt present on "Domination". Pete Sandoval again blows us away with pulse pounding blast beats and gut rumbling double bass kicks. Trey also melts the faces of those who listen into slime with the nice and truly wicked sick guitar solo's presented on the album. The lyrical content of course is the trite and tired same old themes of war, death, Satan, etc. Nothing new in there either.
Morbid Angel do not have another "Covenant" on their hands with "Domination" but nonetheless it is still a very good album with a few minor set backs. Hopefully Morbid Angel won't continue to experiment with these filler tracks that much more and get back to what they do best, kicking ass.
Despite the muddy and incoherent production and mix (by Bill Kennedy instead of the usual Morrisound crew) and the fact that David Vincent was not bringing his A-game to the table with vocals and lyrics, this album is still a mighty blow to the weak and watered-down shite of the mainstream. The songs are still for the most part there, the definitive feel of organized chaos that MA could still bring to the table like few others could or have since then.
Trey Azagthoth and Erik Rutan were one of the best, if not the best, Death Metal guitar teams at this time (mid-90s). Erik's fluid melodic creations coexisted alongside Trey's wilder flailing and shredding beautifully, the solo in opening title track "Domination" being a fantastic example. Trey contrasts this well with his frenetic leads on "Where The Slime Live" (great title!) and "Eyes To See, Ears To Hear". Two eccentric and individual stylists on top of their game, you've got to love it. Their instrumentals leave a bit to be desired, though; while interesting, they feel out of place on this album.
David's bass is not as distinct in the mix as before, but it still maintains somewhat of a presence, and his vocals are not as coherent as "Covenant", my personal favorite performance of his. Pete Sandoval, well, he's Pete, the Neil Peart of Death Metal. Nuff sed.
This album tends to be better in its beginning, as it fizzles out slightly by the end--"Hatework" is not one of the better songs on display here. "Dawn of the Angry" and "This Means War!" make up for this a little, but the first three songs are the strongest on the album, no two ways about it. As mentioned, the instrumentals are good but not great. By about halfway through, it kind of dies a little, but it rallies back and manages to not fall on its face too terribly hard. It still beats the pants off of "Heretic" and "Formulas..." by far.
"Covenant" is still their shining moment of perfection, their Unholy Grail of pure true Death Metal with feeling and character as well as musical muscle and the songs are just there. "Domination" is inconsistent at best, but still is far from their worst effort. For David's swan song, it doesn't quite rival Judas Priest's classic "Painkiller", but still they coulda done worse anyway...*shrug*
Allow me to reveal my ANUSite heritage for a moment: HIV+ - A phrase within the American Nihilist Underground Society used to denote not only a complete and utter failure of something on its own terms, but also an impure connection society at large. This is a phrase often used in conjunction with albums that are both terrible and a cheap attempt at a cash-in with greater public attention. Properly, it signifies the ultimate sell-out: a compromise of one's own values for money, and an actual failure at that process. Nothing is more pathetic than an album labeled HIV+.
'Domination' is one of these HIV+ albums. This repugnant album represents the complete and utter nadir of Morbid Angel's work, now and forever. I dare say that it would be impossible without considerable effort from the band itself to eclipse this LP in pure, unmitigated worthlessness. Rarely does the mere presence of an album make megenuinely angry, but this one does. Perhaps it's even more horrendous due to the previous history of the band, with three nearly flawless albums under their belt. Whatever the factors, one can rest assured that 'Domination' is not only a festering wound on Morbid Angel, but on the metal scene as a whole.
What can possibly rationalize such an insanely precipitous drop in quality? Surely this can be in some ways forecasted by the time: 'Domination' came around at the deepest artistic trough for death metal that had occurred since its inception. In 1995 death metal had been to a greater or lesser degree abandoned by the deepest parts of the underground, which had fled the genre like rats from a sinking ship in favor of the more ideologically solid (and less commercially inclined) sounds of black metal. This was in significant part due to Earache's attempted deal with Giant Records, which at this point was on its last rapidly disintegrating legs. But these are all just influences and not really quality excuses for the abortion that is this album, which is not merely an abomination on an artistic level, but can't even muster up any entertainment value to make it worth the occasional spin.
Opener 'Dominate' is similar to previous MA openers such as 'Rapture' in its high-speed intensity. Certainly this is a reflection of the previous albums, and for the brief two and a half minutes of its existence it nearly offers a glimmer of hope for this LP. Of course, it doesn't have any of the genuine fury that Morbid Angel had on previous releases, but perhaps you could dismiss that as a fluke. But to the observant, one can clearly see that the spirit and passion of previous releases is fundamentally missing. The instruments, vocals, and lyrics, despite all their implied aggression cannot muster up the misanthropy of albums like 'Covenant'.
But let's say we get past this. 'Where The Slime Live', despite being rather flat and commercial is at the very least amusing. The conviction present here is rather stale and contrived, but the overall instrumentation isn't a total loss. Too bad that's what defines the best points on 'Domination' - not total losses. The next track, 'Eyes To See, Ears To Hear' follows this trend of 'well, it's not THAT bad'. And then there's the superbly telegraphed 'Melting', one of MA's regular ambient tracks, except this time it has no greater significance whatsoever except to fulfill the slot of ambiance that Morbid Angel provides on every release. Then, hey, another tolerable track in 'Nothing But Fear'. It doesn't seem that bad, does it?
Well don't worry, the HIV is about to erupt into full-blown AIDS.
First off is the pungent, whimpering combination of 'Dawn Of The Angry' and 'This Means War'. With utterly nothing to distinguish them from any other mid-90s death metal track, they are forgotten as quickly as they arrive. This is a first in Morbid Angel's career; tracks in their catalog simply aren't forgettable. Up to this point, every song they had written had life and personality. But not now, not to this Morbid Angel who has more interest in endearing themselves to Pantera fans than writing quality death metal. 'Domination' is little more than thundering rhythms and overwrought growls designed to elicit squeals from children who have never heard such, like, brutal tunes, man.
And there's four more tracks after those, each worse than the last. 'Caeser's Palace' is an utter embatassment, a track that attempts to call upon the majesty of 'Blessed Are The Sick' but simply falls flat on its face through the idiocy that 'Domination' cultivates like a delicate bonsai tree. To seemingly pair up with that we get 'Dreaming', yet another ambient track that mercilessly parodies previous gorgeous ambient tracks such as 'Nar Mattaru' or 'In Remembrance'. Witness the horror, yes, the abject horror of the realization that the previously mighty Morbid Angel have fallen in favor of appealing to fourteen year-old boys with delusions of grandeur and attention-deficit disorder.
But no, the worst is yet to come. Perhaps the most fundamentally loathsome track on the album is 'Inquisition (Burn With Me)', whose lyrics go far beyond laughably inept and turn utterly disgusting. What in god's name was David Vincent thinking when he composed such odious lines as 'They'd sell their mothers just to save their skin/that this might keep them alive'? Who thought that such uselessness, such HIV+ insanity could infect the writers of 'Altars Of Madness'?
Which brings us to 'Hatework'. We ascend the mountain of untermenschen-pleasing songs and we arrive at 'Hatework'. A monument to artistic death, an emblem of the rapid, horrific decomposition of death metal in 1995. Under the pretense of 'originality', Morbid Angel crudely chains together martial drums, aimless (and utterly pretentious) guitarwork, and overblown distorted vocals. And it finally ends. This style, this representation of all that is wrong with mid-90s death metal, finally ends to the cheers of all those who love music. All that you're left with is the feeling of molestation that occurs with such a tremendously bad experience. But it's over, and one can be thankful for that.
So who can we blame for such a travesty? Perhaps Erik Rutan? Most likely not; his contribution to 'Domination' was minor at best, and his major flaw is arriving in the wrong band at the wrong time. Pete Sandoval? Also a no. His contributions to the artistic qualities of Morbid Angel have always been mostly drum-based, so the blame does not effectively fall on him. But the two remaining members of the band, David Vincent and Trey Azagthoth, are the snake's head of this abomination.
Some degree of competition between Vincent and Azagthoth has always been detectable on Morbid Angel's albums. Vincent would roar his grotesque vocals, Azagthoth would match up with his fierce alchemy of riffs and solos, and in this dimension both members would ratchet each other up throughout the song. Up to this point, it had been a subtle element that worked with, not against, the music. However, upon the departure of the crucial buffer between those extreme personalities in Richard Brunelle, the structure that had been kept in balance began to fall apart. This at first resulted in a tight, vicious album where the competition between Vincent and Azagthoth reached an all-time high in 'Covenant'. But afterwards, with Vincent already contemplating his way out (in order to work on his wife's industrial rock/metal project, the Genitorturers) and Azagthoth attempting to seize control of the band in Vincent's absence, the personalities ground up against each other and cross-diffused, resulting in a useless exercise in juvenile futility. So with two oppositional personalities, nothing was achieved with 'Domination'. Vincent's lyrics and vocal performance are dreadfully subpar, and Azagthoth's riffing and solos are dripping with pretense and egotism. In this is the fundamental issue with Vincent and Azagthoth on this album: the former doesn't try, the latter doesn't think he needs to. Vincent and Azagthoth's compete and utter betrayal of the metal scene is an act that was too soon forgotten. It is nigh unforgivable, this assault on the virtues and triumphs of the metal scene.
What is 'Domination'? 'Domination' is the cash grab that failed. 'Domination' is the album that crippled Morbid Angel. 'Domination' is the album that set up Trey Azagthoth for hatred from the metal community. 'Domination' is the album that made David Vincent leave the metal scene in utter shame. 'Domination' is what death metal was in 1995.
'Domination' is HIV+.
From the start, this is a solid and promising death metal album. Back again are the deep growls that characterizes MA (and also basically every DM band) and the heart pounding double bass drums, along with the guitars chugging out evil riff after riff. The production is excellent, and definitely a high point to the album. Everything seems to be right in the mix, and not an instrument is left out. Note: this album sound 100x better with the bass turned WAY up!
Dominate opens up the album in typical aggressive fashion, but is only a prelude to the album's best track (and single, I believe), Where the Slime Live. Some great riffs and drum work are present on this thrashy/deathy piece of metal mastery. For sure the best track on the album. Other notable songs include Dawn of the Angry, which opens with an incredibly sinister riff and molds into a great headbanger of a song and also Hatework, but that comes at the end of a lot of turmoil.
This album simply drops off after Dawn of the Angry. Plain and simple as that. Much ambience fills the void of metal, and this is not a good thing, especially when one buys a Morbid Angel album expecting some death! The album rarely picks up pace until the final track, Hatework. Read: Ceasers Palace is a piece of shit. Never listen to this song, ever.
Overall, this is a decent album, which would be exceptional if it kept in the same pace and tone as Where the Slime Live and Dawn of the Angry.
A lot of people, even a good majority of MA fans, look down upon this album, and I really have no idea why. This is a killer Death Metal album, start to finish. David Vincent delivers an awesome vocal performance, and the riffs and atmosphere are in abundance. Pete Sandovals drumming is excellent without being over the top, and I really think he's one of the best drummers out there today.
The opening track, Dominate, is straight up brutal ass-kicking death metal. It doesn't really sound much like the rest of the album, but it is awesome nonetheless. Where the Slime Live is probably one of my favorite slower death metal songs of all time. Slow and groovy without being boring. Eyes to See, Ears to Hear has some interesting riffs in it, and a kick ass evil marching type bridge that makes me splooge my pants every time I hear it. The next little instrumental track is too long and waste of time, but the song it leads into makes up for it with pure ass kickage. Nothing but Fear is fucking classic, and the guitar solos are some of the best guitar work ever. The opening riff to Dawn of the Angry is awesomeness incarnate, and the rest of the song speeds along quite nicely. The other song worth mentioning is Caesar's Palace, which is one of my favorite songs of all time, barring the unnecessarily long intro. I get chills every time I hear the "Hail Caesar! Hail Caesar!" section. Fuck yeah. I like the instrumental keyboard track, though it's really just filler.
Anyway, this is a pretty damn good album over all. It's also the last with David Vincent, which is a damn shame. Worth buying if you're into MA or their style of death metal in general.
I've heard that this album, Domination, is different from Morbid Angel's previous stuff. Like they changed there style of playing death metal! I really don't have an idea if this is true or not. Mainly because this is the first Morbid Angel album I have ever heard...and it doesn't sound that bad to me. I am not for sure what exactly changed about it, but what ever it is, it isn't entirely bad.
This album has a lot of potential; a lot of positives and a lot of negatives. So instead of listening tracks and what is good and bad about them I will review the positives and negatives (in no particular order). One positive you can hear right off the bat is in Dominate. This album has speed, and lots of it. The drums are just amazing. Double bass and constant beating will leave you headbanging for hours. I must warn you though, all of this album isn't pure fastness. Some parts are more slower. While not melodic, it still has the occasional feeling of draggin on. For example the beginning to Caesar's Palace. This slowness only gives it a doom metal kick, which is very interesting to listen to.
The singing has both positive and negative aspects about it. Overall it is the growly type you would hear in most death metal bands. However, on some songs the vocals are distorted...WAY distorted. Almost giving it a gurrgle (if that's even a word) type sound; like someone singing under water. Best example of this is on the song Where The Slime Live. Another negative about this album would be the joining of songs. It doesn't happen much, but when it does...lets just say it doesn't blend togther as well as it should.
Another of the great positives are the guitar riffs and solo's. Most of the time on this album they are slow, doomy type riffs. While other times they are blazing, almost thrashy type riffs that will leave you headbanging for hours. Solo's are sometimes choppy, but it is a nice different take of pentatonics. Sometimes the riffs seem recycled, not for sure but that could be a possibility. Musically this album has it, especially for the feel of the listener. This can be heard best at the beginning of Hatework!
Over all there are some good songs, and some okay songs. Personally I think this album is one of those albums where the appreciation of the album goes down if you listen to it every single day. Once in awhile listen for intense headbanging recommended for this album. Some songs I'll recommend are Dominate, Nonthing But Fear, Dawn of the Angry, Caesars Palace, and Dreaming/Inquisition!
So one day I had some money. I had just gotten paid, and my first stop was the used record store. They had a whole bunch of metal albums that looked interesting for fairly reasonable prices. I picked up one album each from Death, Enthroned, Hecate Enthroned, and God Dethroned, three from Ancient, and two from Morbid Angel. This was one of the ones I got from Morbid Angel, and I think I'm probably worse off for it. It seemed like a good idea at the time; all of that for about fifty dollars. But from that lot, I got two that were great, two that were ok, and a bunch of others that I don't listen to. This happens to fall into the final category, and I will explain why.
Before I begin, though, I'll say a word about experimentation. Let me say that in metal, as with every other school of thought, there are liberals and conservatives. Ultra-liberals love experimentation and don't really believe in "selling out." Ultra-conservatives hate experimentation and think any band that has more than a handful of fans is completely MTV. Most casual metalheads fall somewhere in the middle. Most fans of extreme metal fall far to the right. The great problem with metal is that if you don't like a band because it does something different, you're close-minded, but that if you embrace experimentalism, you're some kind of mallcore pussy. Morbid Angel represents this problem excruciatingly well with "Domination." On the one hand, it's something you want to like because, hey, it's Morbid Angel and if anyone has earned the right to try different things, it's them. On the other, you just can't get into it, because the simple fact is that it's not that good. If an unestablished band had made this record, it would be severely ridiculed by just about everybody.
Ok, so on to the actual review. As the title of this review states, this sounds like an overly-distorted version of Pantera. If Phil and Dimebag decided to join the death metal racket, this is what it would sound like. There is absolutely nothing here that advances the genre of death metal in any way and there is absolutely nothing here that Morbid Angel hasn't done before and with better quality. This album is a rehashing of their old ideas, slowed down and distorted more than necessary. Even the vocals get distortion. Why? What's the point? They sound terrible. Apparently they have a new vocalist, as if anybody cares at this point. Trey Azagthoth pretty much makes things up as he goes along here. No real purpose or structure manifests itself at any time.
You know, I don't mind it when a band does something different as long as that "something" is good, which this is not. Buy "Altars Of Madness" or "Blessed Are The Sick" instead of this. If you happen to come across this in a used record store, as I did, LET IT STAY THERE. If one discerning metalhead didn't want it, chances are you won't want it either. 37 is an arbitrary figure I grabbed out of space, since I hate number ratings.