Hammerfall, being a seminal institution within the genre should need little in the ways of introduction at this point. Having recently unveiled their eleventh full length Dominion, the Gothenburg five piece seem to have settled on their style in a comfortable manner. What’s mentionable - or rather, criminal to neglect - is the wobbling quality of their outputs in the previous decade and a half. 2016’s Built to Last came strong as the band’s highest reach since 2005’s Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken, after a series of fairly uninteresting efforts and lackluster albums sporting a decent track or two on its roster, and as such Dominion needs to carry the flame from the last album. However, the album falls back into the likes of No Sacrifice, No Victory (2009) and (r)Evolution (2014), and ultimately brings little new and little interesting to the table aside from a few choice cuts strewn throughout the length of the album.
Sure enough, the album kicks off on a high point with its strongest track; Never Forgive, Never Forget, which the rest of the album fails to keep up with. It’s got that weighty presence and crisp tone in Oscar Dronjak’s guitars and melodic magic sprinkled with Joacim Cans’ flourishing vocal presence; it’s exactly what a flying Hammerfall anthem needs to be. The title track too has some neat melodics and vocal melodies with Cans showcasing his high register as strong as ever, but after that the album sharply declines into boring ”heard one, heard them all’s” and the useless ballad that is Second To One which is nowhere near the cheesy highs of their early album balladry. One of the biggest sinners is lead single (We Make) Sweden Rock, a festival rocker that exists only because of the band’s 2019 appearance at the festival of the same name. Release it as a standalone single before the festival appearance, sure, but as the lead single for a full length? Yikes.
Production wise the album is sharp and crisp, and even with the songwriting and material being of the less interesting kind, it’s undeniably Hammerfall. Much like most of their albums, it’s one you can put on and have an enjoyable listen if you don’t go about analyzing it too much. Melodic punches do stick out at times and there are definitely some great riffing from Dronjak and Pontus Norgren tossed in with fleshy rhythm sections here and there. Scars of a Generation brings the majesty up a bit after the downturn, with it’s speedy tone and great guitars and Dead By Dawn has the cheesy singalong chorus you can’t help but nod along to. Basically, the biggest problem with Dominion is that much like so many of the band’s albums it’s hampered by the repeating formulae, shiftingly sub-par material and just not being interesting in its weakest parts with a few good to great songs plucked throughout the runtime, even though the style and the sound is ostensibly what’s come to be expected by the band at this stage.
Standout tracks: Never Forgive Never Forget, Scars of a Generation