Domination Black – Judgement IV Review

I recently got over a massive and long-lived death metal kick where all I wanted to hear was nasty, brutish music, only to stumble headlong into an unexpected power metal fixation. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but this led me to scoop up Domination Black‘s Judgement IV for judgment. Hailing from Finland, Domination Black have been knocking around since 2003 and this is their fourth full-length release, coming a lengthy 8 years after their last album. Never having heard a thing about them before, a cursory sample was enough to get me interested, as their sound reminds me of Excalion and Thunderstone, two Finnish acts I’ve long enjoyed. This means you can expect catchy fare with all the tried and trve power tropes, and things are held together by enough heft and beef to keep the material punchy and reasonably crunchy.1 They aren’t doing anything unique or cutting edge but they craft fun, memorable songs with a minimum of fantasy shtick. In a scene full of pirate-y, Middle Earthen silliness, that’s a major win in itself.

Judgement IV introduces the uninitiated to the band’s sound with opener “The Judgment,” which is 100% pure, unadulterated Europower awash with vocal hooks and catchy harmonies. It’s easy on the ears and super accessible yet not without muscle and urgency. Matias Palm has an unusually edgy and gritty delivery and he provides a dose of rough charm to the music, which is especially evident on album high point, “Obsession.” Heavy and intense, it benefits from a winning bridge where Matias solemnly intones “I am the law” to great effect. There are guitar pyrotechnics and hooky harmonies aplenty and everything clicks perfectly. It’s a lot like the stuff off Excalion‘s Dream Alive and just about my ideal kind of power metal. The aggression dials back for album single “Center of the Universe” and a catchy, easy breezy tune results. It’s not my favorite song on the album but the chorus is highly infectious and I can’t seem to get it out of my head.

Other high quality cuts include the aggressive and rocking “VAT” and effortlessly anthemic “Though the World Perish,” which has another ginormous chorus you can’t help but sing along with. Elsewhere, “Master of Deception” loads up on the heavy riffs and unleashes Matias to explore borderline extreme vocals for a barnburner that relies on catchy keyboard melodies to keep things in power metal territory as the music threatens to run wild. These kinds of numbers make me wonder why I haven’t heard of Domination Black before because they’re really good at this whole power game. Hell, they even nail the big power ballad thing with “Beyond the Shadows” and it’s good enough that I don’t bat an eye at its 7 minute runtime. This song is especially saturated with top-notch guitar work with a surprisingly bluesy tilt, reminding me of vintage Great White. While not every track is playlist fodder and there is a slight drop off quality-wise on the back-half, the front-half is truly inspired and overall this is a solid album with a wealth of ear wrangling moments.

This is guitar-forward example of Europower and Teppo Heiskanen and Ville Wiren showcase some impressive chops, balancing heavy riffing with soaring harmonies and ripping solo-work. They bring enough thunder and anger to the riffs to satisfy the average metalhead and prove themselves adept at balancing the hook with the hammer. Matias Palm is an effective vocalist and I like that he doesn’t sound like every other Europower wailer. His rougher delivery works well and he has a good ear for vocal earworms. That said, his upper range is a sonic freakshow that gives me involuntary eye spasms. It sounds like a feral cat mating with a rabid elk after they got into some discarded hobo wine, and it’s jarring and unintentionally hilarious whenever Matias reaches for those stars. Keyboardist Juuso Elminen deserves mention as he manages to keep his playing well behind the guitars, choosing his moments to take the lead while generally remaining unobtrusive. This I appreciate and applaud.

Judgement IV is a good and often very good power metal release by a band I suspect most never heard of. If you like your Europower catchy and with bite, Domination Black can deliver those goods. I’m impressed by both band and album and I’ll be keeping my eye out for their next adventure. Powers.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Pride and Joy
Releases Worldwide: July 17th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. As opposed to fruity and unreasonably tooty.
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