Domains - _Sinister Ceremonies_
(The Sinister Flame, 2014)
by: Chaim Drishner (9 out of 10)
"Those hearing the trumpets of victory, there will never be a new dawn..."

Like these slightly flawed very lines, taken from the seventh track, "Crowned at Dusk", of Spaniards Domains' debut album; like these very trumpets, as if they were the ones Joshua used when wrecking the walls of Jericho; one single album has managed to demolish the high, thick walls of the aesthetics of death metal and everything we thought we had known about this style of heavy metal -- rebuilding and rearranging the art of death metal in the image of the band's dark idols, as if it were nothing but clay, reshaped and designed by gifted pottery-makers.

_Sinister Ceremonies_ is probably the most articulate death metal album in recent years; its message, both thematic and musical, is loud, clear, sharp and leaves no room for guessing and no soul unscathed. You -know- it's death metal; you -know- it's highly Satanic; you -know- it's exquisite. Even haters of death metal would probably appreciate this album, because it is virtually perfect in every aspect in such a radiant way, that this set-in-stone fact couldn't be denied or overlooked by anyone who even mildly appreciates good metal.

_Sinister Ceremonies_ should have been the next evolutionary, logical step for Pestilence, following the band's magnificent 1991's magnum opus _Testimony of the Ancients_, instead of the odd but very loveable _Spheres_. Domains sound like a slightly updated, more macho and darker version of Pestilence, and like the latter, Domains push the boundaries of heavy, dark and sinister music to the next level. Push? They eradicate the old dogmas, re-shuffle the aural cards and deal them again so that in the end everybody gets the hellish cards they wanted.

Veterans of the style will be reminded of the great masters of the craft of death metal like early Morbid Angel, Pestilence and Asphyx; left-hand path musical enthusiasts will be given their fair share of dark occultism practiced by old Therion, Shaarimoth and Father Befouled; finesse aficionados will be given a lesson in progressive, psychedelic, crude, hinted overtures, crass esoteric dialogues and finely tuned, fiendish atmospherics.

The songwriting, for a non-progressive metal band, is stupendous; evading stark similarities by sounding just-like-but-not-quite, the album sounds like prototypical, dark and primitive death metal of old, but just peel away the surface and a whole world of underground reveals itself before your very eyes.

Domains paint a unique world of dread by doing everything like it should be done, taking everything into its most extreme phase of perfection. The lyrics are genuinely dark and interesting, written in an excellent, poetic English despite the fact it isn't the band's native tongue, articulated perfectly by night-bringing vocals that could have made Asphyx's Martin van Drunen both proud and ashamed that he could never accomplish such a hellish vocal performance. In that regard, the only complaint you might have lies with the pronunciation of some of the words that would sound, if you follow the lyrics, a tad goofy, as well as some infinitesimal language glitches. Other than that minor defect, the vocals are huge; macabre and sinister, cavernous yet with a unique edge to them exercising an airiness of sorts coupled with the ability to float around and exploit vocal gymnastics that are far more flexible than your average, monolithic death metal "singing"; most importantly, however, is the fact that they fit the music like a tailor-made glove.

The bass-heavy, low-end music has got the velocity of death metal and the impact of doom metal, while in between you get to enjoy some '70s keyboard psychedelia, some Death (the band) inspired, mesmerizing guitar solos, some haunting Eastern scales and a sea of guitars numbing you till you succumb to the currents of Luciferian theology.

The listening experience would be complete when reading the lyrics while listening to the music; this is one of those rare occasions you are advised to do so, as this would lead you further into the dark, surreal world of unearthly rituals portrayed so well by Domains, and make you really understand the music. This is also one of the few really well written, pretentiously positive texts in the school of 'primitive death metal' that an intelligent person can follow in awe and not ridicule.

But Domains are no 'primitive death metal' band; their songs are advanced and complex, layered and articulated to the bone, devoid of any death metal cliché, paradigm or banality; each song is the perfect embodiment of darkness, a world of horror created, manifested and completed in just about four short minutes.

The guitar playing is phenomenal, offering a plethora of harmonies and playing techniques, overlapping black metal's most atmospheric moments, but always with a mild streak of avantgarde; the bass pattern and the drumming follow the same traditional-versus-unorthodox method with which Domains' tools paint this eternal night.

This reviewer is extremely picky with his death metal offerings, most of which are complete garbage, even those who most will regard as 'classic' or 'great' or some other nonsense; picking his death metal offerings with the finest of tweezers, should this reviewer ever be asked what death metal albums he'd take with him to a deserted island, forsaking most of his collection -- Domains' _Sinister Ceremonies_ would be among those very few and selected.

_Sinister Ceremonies_ is the zenith of death metal, the genre's glorious past and its promising future, while its present is drenched in dark colors of sinister esoterica, vile frequencies and tamed, imaginative creativity -- one will have to hear it in order to believe it; and after you are done listening to it, you will never look at death metal the same way as you were prior to the _Sinister Ceremonies_ experience.

Get. This. Album. Now!


(article published 2/4/2014)

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