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”

Album Review – Howls Of Ebb / Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows (2016)

Derranged howls, mesmerizing riffs, distorted screeches and hellish beats. These are the main ingredients for one of the most unique and interesting heavy albums from the past few years, brought forth by an eccentric duo from San Francisco, California.

Rating4

IVR058 - HOWLS OF EBB - Cursus ImpasseSometimes I think I overuse the words “weird”, “eerie” and “unnatural” in our reviews at The Headbanging Moose, but after taking a listen at Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows, the first full-length release by American Black/Death Metal act Howls Of Ebb, you’ll have to agree with me there are no better words to describe the distinct music crafted by this talented duo from San Francisco, California. This is not an album for the regular fan of heavy music, but a journey though the most distorted thoughts and horrifying visions created deep down the human mind.

After releasing their debut EP Vigils of the 3rd Eye in 2014 and the MLP The Marrow Veil in 2015, it’s time for Howls Of Ebb to expand their deranged horizons and offer another blast of the freakish drug they call music, forged in the pitch black darkness of their evil den in the United States. Simply look at the names of the songs and tell me if you’ve ever seen anything as crazy as that in your entire life as a metalhead, but when you hit play you’ll realize those names are even too “soft” for all the insanity and outcry coming out of the screams and strings by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund and the beats by Roteen’ Blisssss, not to mention the eccentric cover art named “Theoin II”, by Italian artist Agostino Arrivabene.

Zee-Luuuvft-HuundIn the opening track, curiously entitled The 6th Octopul’th Grin, distorted and piercing noises and growls attack the listener mercilessly, with its Doom Metal beats and wicked riffs creating a tempestuous ambience, therefore turning this amazing song in the perfect soundtrack to a soul-torturing horror flick. If you survive this demented tune, you’ll be smashed by a furious Progressive Black Metal turmoil named Cabals Of Molder, where the guitar sounds like anguished screams by an evil entity from hell, being perfectly complemented by its constantly-changing rhythm and the grim vocals by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund.

The slower and sinister tune Maat Mons’ Fume offers a creepy atmosphere enhanced by its somber lyrics (“Fetid foul upon Sullied Jowls / Endlessly propagate! / We send gifts from afar / Now, Giant Red Tomb Agitate!”), with both guitars and drums growing into a thunderous level of aggression that goes on until a purely Doom Metal ending (guided by the low-tune bass lines by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund) put an end to this hellish creation. There was only one thing that came to my mind while listening to 7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm: this is the type of song that would never, ever play in any radio station so anti-mainstream it is, which in the end means it reached its main goal, right? This multi-song brings forward seven minutes of distortions, vociferations and demonic echoes not for the average listener, and it’s interesting how each instrument sounds “individualist” at first, but together they work extremely well.

Roteen' BlisssssGaunt Vertigo is a smooth but dark instrumental bridge that prepares the listener to The Subliminal Lock – A Precursor To Vengeance, an explosion of Black Metal and Blackened Doom showcasing lyrics as bizarre as possible (“Come Dark Morbid Zen! / Illusory sub-Gnosis takes deeper root / Fleshly cowls crawl deep in the soot / The wick is raised, eyes in pursuit / Come Dark Morbid Zen!”), with the instrumental pieces always “surprising” the listener with all tempo changes, distorted passages and mesmerizing riffs and screeches. And as one last raid we have The Apocryphalic Wick, where after its initial three minutes of wicked noises, an obscure feeling grows uncontrollably until demonic growls open the gates of the underworld. Moreover, the despair in the voice by Zee-Luuuvft-Huund is superb, as if he’s getting asphyxiated due to his soul being consumed by darkness.

This unusual and interesting opus can be found on sale at the I, Voidhanger Records’ BandCamp, or at the Cagliari Records’ BandCamp or webstore. And if you like the  weird effect caused by the noises from Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows penetrating your ears, go give Howls Of Ebb a shout at their Facebook page. Or maybe I should say you must give them a deranged howl instead, it all depends on how much your soul gets darkened by their music.

Best moments of the album: The 6th Octopul’th Grin and Maat Mons’ Fume.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 I, Voidhanger Records

Track listing
1. The 6th Octopul’th Grin 5:31
2. Cabals Of Molder 6:14
3. Maat Mons’ Fume 8:14
4. 7 Ascetic Cinders, 8 Dowries of gA’nOm 7:09
5. Gaunt Vertigo 1:20
6. The Subliminal Lock – A Precursor To Vengeance 6:23
7. The Apocryphalic Wick 7:21

Band members
Zee-Luuuvft-Huund – vibrations, low auras, polysyllabic morbid mysticisms (a.k.a. vocals, guitar, bass)
Roteen’ Blisssss – cadence of limp and duress, bronze aura (a.k.a. drums)