Album Review – Dragonlord / Dominion (2018)

Exploring themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, here comes Eric Peterson’s fantastic Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal project with their first album in 13 years.

After long and excruciating 13 years, San Francisco, California-based Symphonic Black/Thrash Metal horde Dragonlord, the brainchild of Testament’s own Eric Peterson where he’s able to showcase his darkened side, is finally back with a brand new opus, titled Dominion. Serving as the long-awaited follow-up to their 2005 release Black Wings of Destiny, but taking the fantasy and storytelling to a whole new level, Dominion explores themes of darkness owning and influencing these times we now live in, and things that have come to pass. In addition to Eric Peterson on vocals, guitar and bass, Dominion features the musical talents of Lyle Livingston (Psypheria) on orchestrated keys and pianos, Alex Bent (Trivium) on drums, and notable fantasy metal singer Leah McHenry (Leah) on female vocals and choirs, who has performed and recorded with members of renowned acts like Blind Guardian, Nightwish and Delain, among others.

Featuring a stunning artwork painted by Berlin-based Israeli artist and designer Eliran Kantor (Testament, Iced Earth, Sodom), Dominion is a dark fantasy fan’s musical dream, exploring everything from Nordic history to Lord of the Rings, with its eight songs creating a deep and heady musical journey rife with meaning and menace, from the blackest and loudest recesses of Eric Peterson’s mind. If you’re a fan of the superb work done by Mr. Peterson with Thrash Metal titans Testament, you might be surprised by how visceral, epic and imposing his guitar sounds with Dragonlord, not to mention his devilish gnarls, turning Dominion into a must-have for fans not only of the Symphonic Black Metal genre, but also for anyone else who admires high-quality and vibrant extreme music.

The always mesmerizing sounds of thunder and rain open the gates of the underworld in the intro titled Entrance, before Eric comes ripping with his ass-kicking guitar, all embraced by an epic atmosphere and suddenly exploding into the fantastic title-track Dominion, presenting insane keys and an imposing background choir, while Alex proves why he’s one of the most talented drummers of the current metal scene and Eric sounds bestial with his enraged roars. Put differently, this full-bodied and very detailed lesson in Symphonic Black Metal is what Dimmu Borgir should be doing, and their sonic onslaught of piercing and Stygian metal music goes on in Ominous Premonition, getting faster, more demonic and absolutely amazing, with the keys by Lyle being a thing of beauty while Eric not only growls like a demon, but his riffs and solos are also majestic as usual.

In Lamia it’s quite impressive how Eric’s riffs and Lyle’s keys and orchestrations blend so perfectly, with guest vocalist Leha providing a touch of delicacy and passion amidst all devastation blasted by the rest of the band; whereas epicness and lust beautifully flow from all instruments in the stunning Love of the Damned, a Symphonic Black Metal ballad where Eric’s vocals get more introspective and deep (and I would simply love to see them performing this song live). Then it’s time for a journey to the mighty North in Northlanders, with the bitterly cold riffs by Eric and the gripping keys by Lyle being enhanced by Alex’s precise and potent beats, while the ambience remains as epic as possible in a flawless hybrid between Black Metal and Symphonic Metal.

Dragonlord Dominion Ultimate Dragonlair Merch Bundle

Then featuring Tilen Hudrap (Vicious Rumors, Wartune, Thraw) on bass, The Discord of Melkor is perhaps the most Black Metal of all tracks, a dark symphony of classic and vibrant metal music that sounds very dense thanks to the brutality blasted by Alex on drums, whereas Serpents of Fire, the last song in Dominion, is just as fantastic as the rest of this very detailed and thrilling album, with Eric growling and gnarling demonically while Alex and Lyle generate a massive wall of symphonic and violent sounds, resulting in over eight minutes of a captivating and bold sonority for our total delectation, not to mention how its climatic ending gets closer to the Thrash Metal by Testament, therefore adding an extra pinch of adrenaline to the overall result.

If you think that my words are not enough to describe the music in Dominion, I highly recommend you go watch “The Making of Dominion” video series on YouTube (split into parts one, two and three), and in order to get more details about Dragonlord simply go visit their official Facebook page. In addition, from all album versions and bundles available in the market, apart from the digital options you should definitely take a look at the physical combos available from the Spinefarm Records’ webstore, especially the beyond superb “Ultimate Dragonlair” merch bundle, featuring the LP gatefold version with a large-size 20-page lyric booklet, the CD digipack, a copy of the unparalleled “The Burner” comic book, and a stylish T-shirt. But be aware that, once you enter the dangerous dominion of Symphonic Black and Thrash Metal ruled by Eric Peterson and his Dragonlord, there’s no turning back.

Best moments of the album: Dominion, Love of the Damned, Northlanders and The Discord of Melkor.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Spinefarm Records

Track listing
1. Entrance 2:34
2. Dominion 5:36
3. Ominous Premonition 4:40
4. Lamia 4:15
5. Love of the Damned 5:21
6. Northlanders 6:45
7. The Discord of Melkor (feat. Tilen Hudrap) 7:09
8. Serpents of Fire 8:09

Band members
Eric Peterson – vocals, guitars, bass
Lyle Livingston – keyboards, piano, orchestrations
Alex Bent – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Leah McHenry – female vocals, choirs
Tilen Hudrap – bass “on Discord of Melkor”

The Year In Review – Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016

“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.” – David Bowie

The unexpected death of the most badass musician in history, Motörhead’s heart and soul Lemmy Kilmister, on December 28, 2015 was a harbinger of all the bad, shocking and revolting things that would turn the year of 2016 a true nightmare for mankind. That dark prophecy was confirmed less than two weeks later, more specifically on January 10 when we lost another true star in rock music to cancer, the unparalleled chameleon David Bowie, just two days after the release of his final masterpiece Blackstar. If that was not enough to make 2016 a miserable year, we also had to endure the passing of other icons who, despite not being metal, have always inspired countless bands and artists in heavy music. We lost Prince, Leonard Cohen and Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), to name a few, all irreplaceable losses to music in general. In addition, important names in the history of Heavy Metal also left us in 2016, such as Nick Menza (Megadeth) and Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio), not to mention the disbandment of amazing groups like Eths (who are by the way part of our top 10 this year), Crucified Barbara and Bolt Thrower. And I’m not even going to talk about all other types of disasters and tragedies that happened all over the world, as the list is too macabre and grievous to be remembered in full.

Fortunately, 2016 was considerably generous for us headbangers in terms of the quantity and quality of albums released throughout the entire year, especially for diehard fans of old school Thrash Metal. Except for Slayer and Exodus, all other prominent names in Thrash Metal blasted the world with their high-speed, thrilling music, led by another superb album by Testament. Even Metallica released a decent album this year, just to give you an idea of how fruitful 2016 was for this rebellious type of music. Having said that, it’s time for The Headbanging Moose’s Top 10 Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Albums of 2016, excluding EP’s, best of’s and live albums. And even if 2017 is as hideous as 2016, let’s never forget the wise words by Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted “Theodore” Logan. Be excellent to each other, and party on, dudes!

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snake1. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake (REVIEW)
Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet.
Best song of the album: The Number Game

cover2. Charred Walls Of The Damned – Creatures Watching Over the Dead (REVIEW)
A magnificent lecture in Heavy Metal by four electrified beasts.
Best song of the album: As I Catch My Breath

Cover3. Eths – Ankaa (REVIEW)
One of the most prominent and innovative French bands of all time returns with a true masterpiece of complexity, darkness and heaviness.
Best song of the album: Nefas

cover4. Primal Fear – Rulebreaker (REVIEW)
Who said rules must be broken for a metallic eagle to spread its wings and soar high in the skies of heavy music?
Best song of the album: Rulebreaker

megadeth_dystopia5. Megadeth – Dystopia (REVIEW)
And the dystopian world portrayed in the brand new album by the iconic Dave Mustaine and his Thrash Metal army is beyond awesome.
Best song of the album: Lying In State

abbathsoloface_6386. Abbath – Abbath (REVIEW)
The one and only Abbath takes a new step in his career with a brand new band an album.
Best song of the album: Fenrir Hunts

death angel_the evil divide7. Death Angel – The Evil Divide (REVIEW)
Fast and furious anthems, dark mid-tempo songs, austere lyrics and endless stamina. This is how Thrash Metal should always be done.
Best song of the album: Hell To Pay

anthrax_for all kings8. Anthrax – For All Kings (REVIEW)
A classy and electrifying Thrash Metal album especially crafted for all of us, the real kings of heavy music.
Best song of the album: Breathing Lightning

front9. Axel Rudi Pell – Game of Sins (REVIEW)
You might be a sinner, but don’t be a fool and go relish another magnificent album by Mr. Axel Rudi Pell and his loyal henchmen.
Best song of the album: Falling Star

nervosa-agony-201610. Nervosa – Agony (REVIEW)
Brazil’s meanest power trio returns with another marvelous blast of their kick-ass high-octane Thrash Metal.
Best song of the album: Theory of Conspiracy

And here we have the runner-ups, completing the top 20 for the year:

11. Blaze Bayley – Infinite Entanglement (REVIEW)
12. The Silent Rage – The Deadliest Scourge (REVIEW)
13. Neverworld – Dremasnatcher (REVIEW)
14. Ancesttral – Web Of Lies (REVIEW)
15. Front – Iron Overkill (REVIEW)
16. Dö – Tuho (REVIEW)
17. Be Under Arms – Doomed To Life (REVIEW)
18. SystemHouse33 – Regression (REVIEW)
19. Gojira – Magma (REVIEW)
20. False Coda – Secrets and Sins (REVIEW)

As in Heavy Metal the artwork is just as important as the music itself, like what always happens with bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, KISS and tons of other metallic titans, we decided to list the Top 10 Cover Artworks of 2016. There are several reasons for an album art to be considered outstanding, such as its strong connection with the music like Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, its visual impact (usually associated with its controversial content) like Slayer’s God Hates Us All, or its perfect minimalism and finesse like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. Do you agree with our list?

1. Anthrax – For All Kings [by Alex Ross]
2. Primeval Mass – To Empyrean Thrones [by Karmazid]
3. Witches Of Doom – Deadlights [by Carlo Muselli]
4. Ragehammer – The Hammer Doctrine [by Robert A. von Ritter]
5. Howls Of Ebb – Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows [by Agostino Arrivabene]
6. Testament – Brotherhood Of The Snake [by Eliran Kantor]
7. Henriette B – Tales of Reality (EP) [by Pierre-Alain D.]
8. Skáphe – Skáphe² [by H.V. Lyngdal]
9. Diabolizer – Apokalypse (MCD) [by Robert A. von Ritter]
10. Hostis – Hostis [by Zvonimir Grabić & Milena Nićić]

Rest assured in 2017 we at The Headbanging Moose will keep providing you the best of the underworld of Death, Thrash, Black, Symphonic, Epic, Power Metal and all other genres and subgenres of heavy music, as well as our view of the biggest names worldwide. There are already brand new albums confirmed for 2017 by Kreator, Sepultura, Grave Digger, Battle Beast and more, which means at least musically the new year promises to be really good. Thank you very much for your precious time, and keep on rockin’! Au revoir!

Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year! See you in 2017!

Well, before we go, here’s a special gift from Iron Maiden to all metalheads all over the world… A nice festive yule log fireplace to keep our hearts warm during the entire season!

Album Review – Testament / Brotherhood Of The Snake (2016)

Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet or die.

Rating1

testament_brotherhood-of-the-snakeRight after taking your first listen at Brotherhood Of The Snake, the eleventh studio album by American Thrash Metal servicemen Testament, you’ll realize what you have in your hands is a newborn metal classic. From start to finish, Brotherhood Of The Snake offers fans of both old school and modern Thrash Metal everything we love and crave in this type of music, from deep guttural vocals and supersonic blast beats to intricate and hellish guitar riffs and solos. And after Brotherhood Of The Snake, we can also say Testament brought into being a new first-class trilogy in heavy music, as all albums released after the band’s huge time off from studio in the early 2000’s, those being The Formation Of Damnation (2008), Dark Roots Of Earth (2012) and now Brotherhood Of The Snake, are beyond magnificent.

Featuring a menacing and classy artwork by Israeli artist Eliran Kantor, who has been working with Testament in all their releases since 2008, Brotherhood Of The Snake transpires pure Thrash Metal in all its 45 minutes of duration. Of course there are also their classic mid-tempo and slow, heavy tunes, but more than half of the album is comprised of high-speed thrashy material that will certainly ignite some demented mosh pits during their live concerts. Regarding the main concept of the album, Chuck has stated in one of his interviews that the album draws lyrical inspiration from the ancient astronaut hypothesis, namely through the Ancient Aliens television program. Furthermore, he said the title comes from the name of an ancient secret society (set up thousands of years ago by an alien named Ea or Enki, by the way).

The initial cavernous roar by Chuck in the title-track Brotherhood of the Snake is the epitome of the whole album, being barbaric, intimidating and thrilling at the same time. Moreover, the perfect riffs by both Eric Peterson and Alex Skolnick are mightily enhanced by the thunderous beats blasted by the juggernaut Gene Hoglan, making the lyrics sound even more meaningful in the end (“They’ve taken the tablets and hidden the scrolls / To deceive the ones they protect / The truth of creation, mutation of man / Entombed in the vatican walls”), with the song’s heavier-than-hell ending being just the icing on the cake. And it looks like their Thrash Metal onslaught has no time to end based on the amazing The Pale King, where it’s possible to savor the potent sound emanating from each instrument due to the crystal clear production of the album, in special the rumbling weapon carried by Steve Di Giorgio. In addition, Chuck treats us all with another of his flawless performances on vocals in this rhythmic and raw composition, something only a band like Testament can provide.

testament-2016Stronghold feels like a tribute to themselves and to the golden years of Bay Area Thrash, a fuckin’ kick-ass mosh pit-generator with bestial vocals and even more bestial backing vocals with the guitars by Eric and Alex penetrating our bones and lacerating our spinal cords mercilessly. In other words, this is a sonic orgasm for fans of fast and furious Thrash Metal from the 80’s, and I guess I don’t need to repeat myself and say it will sound absolutely perfect when played live. Following that thrashy storm, we have Seven Seals, showcasing beautiful guitar solos by Eric and Alex as well as intelligent and meaningful lyrics powerfully declaimed by Chuck, all embraced by heaviness to the second power, and it doesn’t matter if Gene is playing at full speed or if the song demands groovier and more rhythmic beats, he always delivers. And Born in a Rut, another groovy composition with fierce drums and a more serene (but also obscure) aura, concludes the first half of the album on a high note, perfect for enjoying a cold a beer while banging your head to another lesson in heavy music by Testament.

Another sensational hymn by Chuck and his unstoppable horde in undoubtedly Centuries of Suffering, where the dynamic duo Eric and Alex are once again on fire with their boisterous guitars, delivering riffs and solos that sound like if they were forged in the fires of the underworld. Not only that, what Gene does with his drum kit at around two minutes is truly impressive, increasing the song’s quality and ferocity to a whole new level. That guy is indeed a human wrecking machine. In Neptune’s Spear (a beautiful name for a first-class song), I can’t decide if the pounding drums by Gene or the blazing guitar riffs and solos by both Eric and Alex are the best elements of it, not to mention the aggressiveness brought forth by Steve and his unique bass sounds; whereas Black Jack is the ultimate soundtrack for an insane cards game “in the city of sin”, with its straightforward lyrics being boosted by its demolishing instrumental.

brotherhood-of-the-snake-boxset

Brotherhood Of The Snake Limited Edition Book Boxset

I’m neither pro nor against the theme explored in Canna-Business as I believe each one of us has the freedom to do whatever we want with our lives, and that’s why I want to focus on the music itself rather than on the discussion if that’s right or wrong. The whole song is evidently overpowering and electrifying, as expected in any composition by Testament, a high-octane chant with Chuck barking like a beast as well as providing some really deep vocals and vociferations. And lastly, The Number Game keeps the fire of Thrash Metal burning high and bright, with the performances by Chuck and Gene trespassing the frontiers of aggressiveness. No words can describe their awesomeness, especially the crazy beats and fills by Gene, therefore I suggest you simply go listen to it nonstop and don’t forget to break your fuckin’ neck headbanging to its brilliant hellish riffs.

There’s a series of videos on Nuclear Blast’s YouTube channel where Testament discuss each song of the album, their inspiration to write Brotherhood Of The Snake and the ancient alien theme, among other topics, like you can see for example HERE. I personally recommend you go watch those videos to get more involved with such an epic album, and of course if you’re planning on buying this instant classic just go for the Limited Edition Book Boxset, which includes the CD, the complete album on five brown 7 inch EP’s, an oversized 7 inch booklet, a 40×60 inch poster flag and a metal pin. Join the Brotherhood of Thrash Metal spearheaded by Testament, one of the heaviest, most technical and most electrifying bands on the entire planet or die. As simple as that.

Best moments of the album: Brotherhood of the Snake, Stronghold, Centuries of Suffering and The Number Game.

Worst moments of the album: Obviously none.

Released in 2016 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Brotherhood of the Snake 4:14
2. The Pale King 4:51
3. Stronghold 4:00
4. Seven Seals 5:38
5. Born in a Rut 4:57
6. Centuries of Suffering 3:34
7. Neptune’s Spear 5:27
8. Black Jack 4:21
9. Canna-Business 3:47
10. The Number Game 4:38

Band members
Chuck Billy – vocals
Eric Peterson – guitar
Alex Skolnick – guitar
Steve Di Giorgio – bass
Gene Hoglan – drums