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Call From the Grave

Call From The Grave: Dominus

Often times, a band will put out a decent slew of records but will disband, never to be revived again. While in some cases that leads to the formation of another band (such as today’s example), other times it’s completely buried, thus I bring you what’s known as “Call From The Grave.”

There’s a band I discovered about five years ago hailing from Denmark that went by the name of Dominus, who formed in 1991 and disbanded in 2000. They dropped four albums total with a slight change in sound in each record, ultimately starting as an old school death metal band and working towards groove territory (after all, that was a popular thing to do in the ‘90s).

Dominus in the earlier, death metal days

After disbanding, lead vocalist Michael Poulson would take the groove-laced rhythms that dominated the later records and form a new band called Volbeat, who would eventually reach commercial success. The only real signs of Dominus within their music can be found in the debut groove metal banger known as The Strength / The Sound / The Songs, and the fact that the band name was taken from Dominus’s third album titled Vol.Beat. But focusing on the band at hand here, I’ve decided to go back and look closer at the four Dominus albums chronologically to bring them to the light.

View To The Dim (1994)

The first effort by Dominus is an absolutely nasty and brutal onslaught of riffs and guttural growls. View To The Dim sounds exactly as threatening as the album cover looks, and you may not believe that this is the same front-man as Volbeat, but it is. There’s really no sign of melody here, and the production is dirty enough to give a feeling of a shed full of rusting metal shards, but the rhythms are tight as hell and reflect the earlier brutal acts. The title track’s haunting intro is acoustic based with guttural vocals atop, and the break into death riffs is mesmerizing. Overall, this does make for a stagnant record with solos and changes of pace being the main source of breaking, but it’s a worthwhile listen for sure, and doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s also a bit brutal for my tastes, but there is without a doubt a crowd out there that would eat this up. Quite a tough disc to acquire, but thankfully the album is available for streaming in full.

Final Grade: B

The First 9 (1996)

While still heavily rooted in the death metal stylistics, The First 9 was a much cleaner effort and injected substantially more melody. Poulson would begin his rock ‘n roll embarkings around here, and it shows on this disc and follows all the way up to today. All of this wound up fitting the shoe of what we know as “death ‘n roll.” The guttural vocals are dialed back and come off more in the traditional death metal style, there’s a bit of bounce to the rhythms, and the solos have a sharper swing. Mostly due to the tones, there are also small signs of groove metal making its way in, but rest assured that at the end of the day this is a death metal record from start to finish.

Final Grade: B-

Dominus in the later, groove metal days

Vol.Beat (1997)

A year after the last true death metal release, Vol.Beat completely lays on the groove metal riffs, the rock ‘n roll attitude, and does away with death metal growls. It’s still very much a heavy release, and the singing has a hard rasp to it despite actually having some melody. This is also the first sign of the band showing what would wind up being the groundwork for The Strength / The Sound / The Songs. The entire record follows the concept of rebellion and stories involving rock n roll, with spoken samples about the style bridging the tracks. Personally, this is my favorite record by the band as it’s the first one with many standout tracks. “Beat, Booze, The Hookers Lose” is loaded with hooks and catchiness to the extreme. Others like “The Path” are straighter to the face with speed and grit, preventing the record from losing any momentum. Solos and leads compliment the singing perfectly here, and it’s truly an overlooked masterpiece. Easily the most accessible release, which is why it stuck with me so well from day one.

Final Grade: B+

Godfallos (2000)

The final effort Godfallos breaks away from the previously established flow after taking a three-year break between releases. Though you would think it’s the most accessible record of the four, it actually backpedals in history and fuses all of the styles together. Thrashy hints get added to the batter, with death metal vocals, shredding solos, and harsh rhythms. Album opener “Thine” does a good job at showing all of this by switching between harsh and cleaner vocals as well as maintaining a darker attitude. Songs like “Manipulated Density” lean heavier towards the groove territory thanks to the start/stop rhythms. This is spread this across most of the release thanks to the guitar tones but is less dominant in other tracks. Although this can get awkward at times, it very much serves a purpose.

Final Grade: C+

All releases can be found on Discogs, but they’re worth a pretty heavy coin and may be tough to find elsewhere.

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