The Dominion Gate
posted on 3/2006 By:
Oh what the Bless-ed Hand of Roy Z. could do for this French Traditional Metal band...
I’ve been listening to Metal for over 20 years. I’m not saying this to flex some hidden Metal muscle, I’m saying it because I’m surprised I’ve never heard of Nightmare, a band that’s been around since 19-fucking-79. Granted they didn’t get an album off the ground until ’83, and granted the band took a 14-year break from ’85-’99, but I’d like to think I would have come across these guys at least once during my many hours of Metal bin perusals. Nope, no such luck. Despite the band’s 27year life, I walked into this review with the ears of a newborn babe - a big, knuckle -dragging, gauntlet wearing, PBR swilling newborn babe.
Considering the bands' western elusiveness and lengthy existence, perhaps a little introduction is in order. France’s Nightmare got their first big break by opening for (gasp) Def Leppard in 1983. Following this performance, they released two well-received Traditional Metal albums in 1984 and 1985. Unfortunately, right at the time when the band seemed poised to become the Metal band from France, they decided to call it quits, citing numerous internal reasons. 14 years later, in 1999, original guitarist, Nicolas de Dominicis, and original bassist, Yves Campion, both decided it was time to rekindle the French Metal fires. Likely fueled by the unfortunate passing of their original vocalist, the band now seemed revamped, pumped up, and ready to take the world of Metal by the balls. Since then, they’ve released two more full-length albums, and now this, their seventh release in 27 years.
OK, fuck the garnish, let’s get on with the meat. What does The Dominion Gate bring to the table? Well, the most terse, descript word that comes to my mind is ‘decent’. The album’s not bad, but it’s definitely a few pelts short of a spectacular spread. Sound wise, Nightmare forsakes the popular, bouncy, Germanic Power Metal styling for a decidedly darker resonance. In fact, I’d say The Dominion Gate is dark as fuck. No zippy beer hall anthems, no bombastic battle-axe charges, and no smarmy ballads. What’s missing from The Dominion Gate, however, is flare. Not the TGIF smiley buttons, spotted bow ties, and rainbow suspenders bullshit, I mean the motherfucking rip & tear people! If producer/guitarist extraordinaire, Roy Z. (Dickinson, Halford), were to get his hands on this album, I know I’d be writing an entirely different review right now. There are numerous instances where a guitar lead, riff, or bass line really needs to be brought up into the listeners face, or where the vocals really need to take a bit of a back seat. For example, the 8-minute title track eventually travels from a rather slow start into what should be a completely triumphant gait at about the 3-minute mark, but because of the flat production, things pass relatively unnoticed.
I’d rather not cast a shit-shroud on this album, because like I said, there are some decent elements on The Dominion Gate worth mentioning. For example, the band incorporates a number of interesting vocal elements to help diversify themselves from their peers - namely generous use of choral backgrounds, general distortions, and even the occasional deathish growl. Actually, the choral backgrounds find their way on to nearly half the songs, and do a really nice job of adding to the dark atmosphere I spoke of earlier. At times they give the album a very latter-era Therion feel, especially on track 7, “Paranormal Magnitude Pt II”. And as I said before, it’s refreshing to pick up a Traditional Metal album that doesn’t follow the overly-trod European sound. To me, Nightmare has a quality very close to Master of The Moon era Dio, or perhaps Sweet Dreams era Sword, both musically and especially vocally.
The bottom line is this…I wouldn’t be surprised if Nightmare is on someone's ‘favorite band’ list, which could mean I’m in store for some interesting lashings. However, while I can sense their Metal passion, and at times hear some ingenuity, because of the overall lackluster production I would steer those with only a passing interest in the genre towards Pharaoh, or perhaps Winterfell, and save this release only for Traditional/Power Metal enthusiasts.
P.S. I just now found a review of Nightmare’s last album from our own Erik T. Apparently I'm not alone in never hearing of this band. Must be an American thing?
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