Sound: It's genuinely hard to find a band that lives up to a genre expectation. This can be seen with technical death metal: A lot of the bands focus on being fast with a landslide of guitar sweeps and miss the point entirely, unless it's Atheist. Same with symphonic metal: A few keyboards and synth violins and trumpets, and hey, you're epic. But that's not REAL symphonic metal. Few bands usually have the resources to hire orchestras or musicians and because of that, it's not as good as the real thing. A band like Septic Flesh, for example, is one of the only cases of 'Symphonic Death Metal' I've come across. But here we are with Dominia and this is something else entirely.
Hailing from frosty St Petersburg, Dominia bring a proper form of Symphonic death metal to the table. As well as the staple 2 guitarists/bass/vocals/drums, there's a multi-instrumentalist using a violin and a cello. Well, doesn't sound like anything special, but just wait till you hear it.
The opening track 'The Prophecy' is one of the most epic songs I've heard in a while, the harmonies and melodies of the guitar and strings combine into spine tingling sounds with some pretty ferocious melodeath riffs to add. And let me not emphasise enough that these songs can be looooong, like a proper orchestrated piece. Don't read the liner notes on the album cover, they lie. Take note of the last song 'Mountains of Gods depression' (aptly named for such a piece) is stated at being 9:34 in total, but in actuality is a towering 14:11 long. I don't know if my version is different or whatever, but the point stands, it really requires your full attention either way. However, those 14 minutes are probably some of the best you'll have in a while if you like this sort of thing.
The production is surprisingly clean and full when comparing to their general anonymity. The guitars have that typical 'Buzzsaw' tone but the riffs are revised and refreshed through the implementation of the other stringed instruments. The bass is also pretty heavy and utilizes bucket loads of distortion. The drumming is tight and satisfactory yet somewhat running-with-the-music as in the beats don't break the mould or flow. The strings also fit with the music very well which explains how Apocalyptica have turned it from a joke into an honest and serious career (cello metal, ha).
In general, it's a very tasty recipe, but there are a few stodgy ingredients. For one, unless you have the hearing equivalent of photographic memory then it's unlikely the songs will stick in your head for very long because there's a lot to dissect in the music. Another problem is that one of the key highlights of Dominia (their vocalist) has been mixed in a rather stupid way in that every clean vocal section there is an underlying harsh vocal section that drowns out his cleans. You have to listen closely to tell if he's singing at all a lot of the time but there are sections where he solos and then you can hear its simplistic harmony. // 8
Lyrics: As with all symphonic bands, there HAS to be a good set of vocals going on, whether they are clean or harsh (or usually both). Dominia has the harsh side hammered down with a nail and the cleans are pretty much on par with the music if a little lacking in the loud department. They fit well with the music but almost too well, as if this band are just too good at this orchestration business ('In Russia, music plays you' and all that).
Lyric wise, it's a... well, okay subject. They are suitably epic and descriptive of what they're trying to portray, which is (and yes, I'm sure of this) Anti-Christianity, general Misanthropy and philosophy. From the song 'God is a Brand':
The churches tell of paradise
We live to bring them sacrifice
We live in foolish Happiness
Becoming dumb & blind, distressed
And every time we have to pay
And every time we have to die
In grief of Jesus Christ
We will return to paradise
All the roads are blocked to traffic
Every sheep is going to Hell
Writers, Singers, Cult Classics
They all completely fell
We feel a bitter taste of Power
We live in ancient gloomy towers
The Holy Bible is a devious joint
The look of Christ on a golden coin
Aha, take that... anyway, as with a lot of extreme metal, you wouldn't have any idea the vocalist was singing it so they do work with the music. // 7
Overall Impression: Apocalyptica have a tight grip on the reign of symphonic contemporary music (I refuse to call them metal, unless it's that Gojira song or that Amon Amarth song that they're in... er, anyway) but Dominia should effectively gain their own dominion (Aha) over melodic death metal as no other band really comes close in sound.
Note 'should': They still don't quite hit the mark. Fabulous album of course but it's nothing that breaks enough ground to shoot them forward into the limelight of recognition.
Songs to look out for: Each one has its good and bad points so it'd make more sense to try every song unless you're feeling wimpy, in which case don't try 'Mountains of Gods Depression'. // 8