|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: Jacobs Dream|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 77:40|
The history of Columbus, Ohio based Jacobs Dream can best be described as a “tale of two eras”. The first, featuring the high pitched vocal flavorings of David Taylor, includes the groups self-titled debut from 2000 and the 2001 follow up effort Theater Of War. The second got its start in 2005 with Drama Of The Ages, a thirteen song album highlighted by the low key sensibilities of new vocalist Chaz Bond, but also incorporates the most recent work from Jacobs Dream, the independently released 2008 offering Dominion Of Darkness.
Dominion Of Darkness picks up where Drama Of The Ages (and all the bands previous efforts) leaves off by heading in a classic US power metal direction. Also similar to Drama Of The Ages, Dominion Of Darkness gives prominence to the heavier and more guitar driven sound – fans of Iron Maiden, Queensryche, Sacred Warrior, Barren Cross and Scepter will find a lot to like here – while still showcasing the groups penchant for composing a song with a solid chorus hook. This is best exhibited on the catchy sounds of “Demon World”, “Can’t Break” and “Dark Alliance” (abundant hooks on these three) along with the melodic based ballad “Don’t Talk”. “Curse Of Antikythera” reflects a creative touch of progressiveness while the mournful “Embraced By Sorrow” approaches doom metal territory. “Hands Of Doom” is a very well done instrumental and “Mercy Killing” a dramatic piece written from the standpoint of Christ at the time of the crucifixion. Notable hooks are also present on “Hero”, “Dissolution Of Purity” and “Violent Kingdom”.
Chaz Bond brings a deep and resonant vocal style combining the best elements of Jimmy P. Brown II (Deliverance) and Eric Clayton (Savior Machine)- all the while adding partial touches of Geoff Tate (Queensryche) or Ty Cook (Antithesis). His delivery is mostly of the smooth sounding variety (check out the emotion he imbues “Embraced By Sorrow”) but he can reach down low for an aggressive – almost thrash-like – growl as well (such as on “Can’t Break”).
John Berry and Jon Noble form as solid a guitar team as you will find. As previously mentioned, Dominion Of Darkness features the more guitar driven sound (at least in comparison to the bands earlier material), a determinant which reflects not only low key qualities Chaz Bond brings to the table but the abundance of rhythm guitar contributed by the two. The likes of “Demon World”, “Curse Of Antikythera”, “Dark Alliance” and “Mercy Killing”, for instance, are made up of some of the heaviest riffs of the groups career (and as stated in my review of Drama Of The Ages, heavier does not mean any less listenable). Lead guitar wise, you will find plenty of adept moments here, particularly on “Can’t Break” and “Hero” – both standing out with their intense stretches of soloing – and “Curse Of Antikythera” (with its radiant run of lead guitar).
Production values, a step above Drama Of The Ages, deliver all the needed qualities: the guitars and drums are in your face and the bass thick and heavy. That said, you will find a slight hint of muddiness that, while not a detracting factor, is noticeable nonetheless.
Packaging could have been improved upon. The back of the CD fails to include a track listing while several of the band photos are difficult to see (they blend into the black background). Also, I hate to nit-pik, but the cover artwork features the title of the album but not name of the band. Keeping in mind that Dominion Of Darkness is an independent release, my overall feeling is this represents an area requiring a bit more time and attention.
“Demon World” delivers one of the albums stronger melodies. The song begins to several seconds of open air guitar before taking off to a bone crushing riff. Driven ahead at an unremitting upbeat tempo, the song deepens as it obtains a catchy chorus highlighted by the doom-like feel to Chaz Bond’s vocal delivery. “Demon World”, as its title implies, warns of the evils in the world:
Plots of destruction in the minds of people who
Have caught the disease of a dark mentality
Of hatred for righteousness which points to stability
For God in the flesh, for God in the flesh
“Can’t Break” commences to a stately instrumental opening that brings to mind some of the riffs off “Keeper Of The Crown” (from Drama Of The Ages). The song settles down to a pronounced bass line at the start of its first verse, impetus not building until the rhythm guitar returns to impel things to a hook laden chorus that comes across near mesmerizing in capacity. Some of the albums most intensely delivered lead work graces a sweeping instrumental section.
“Curse Of Antikythera” proves one of the albums more intricate – and bottom heavy – tracks. This one stands out with its time changes: from the quietly played guitar upholding its first minute to the melodic based passages carried by a catchy guitar riff that follow, an almost technical environ prevails. Rounding things out, conversely, is a hard hitting chorus interwoven with smooth sounding vocal harmonies. “Curse Of Antikythera” talks about an ancient device found in 1901 that some say predicts the end of the world:
The world of science scoffed
The figures must be off
Refusing to believe in God or eternity
But what if it were true
What if there’s a debt to pay
Sinners in the hands of a God
Who must be angry
The instrumental “Hands Of Doom” comes a bit early in the track listing for my taste; still, the song is very good so I will take it. At this point it must be noted the emphasis Jacobs Dream has placed on its instrumental sound over the years, recording instrumental tracks for its three previous albums (“Black Watch” off the self titled debut; “De Machina Est Deo” from Theater Of War; and an unnamed instrumental bonus piece at the end of Drama Of The Ages).
“Hands Of Doom”, which really isn’t very “doomish” at all (it actually reflects a Rush-like vibe in places), does a good job showcasing the precision drumming of Gary Holtzman. The song begins its first half to a joining of incessant guitar riffs and showy lead work before slowing for a passage upheld by an acoustic guitar. Things return to a more decisive tempo as “Hands Of Doom” reawakens for its final minute.
A luxurious semi-ballad that almost gives rise to a radio friendly feel, “Don’t Talk” rivals “Demon World” – and perhaps “Can’t Break” – for the albums most notable melody. This one hearkens back to some of the more melodic numbers conceived by Jacobs Dream, with “Tale Of Fears” (Jacobs Dream) and “Traces Of Grace” (Theater Of War) both coming to mind. A crisp acoustic guitar interlaces the song its first minute and a half, initiative not building until the rhythm guitar abruptly kicks in to drive a chorus of a near poignant variety. “Don’t Talk” is a song about true love:
Have you lost, lost your soul, lost it in sacrifice
Did you kill your pride, kill your pride and pay the price
If wishing ever made it so it would be worth its weight in gold
Saying goodbye wouldn’t’ be so bad, if it didn’t turn out so sad
An anthem-like riff backed by sledgehammer drums initiates “Hero”. Sustaining the fixed impetus as it drives ahead, the song culminates for a decisive chorus repeated twice in precipitated fashion. An ardent run of lead work holds sway over an energetic instrumental section. Heavy, driving and catchy, “Hero” represents all that works well on Dominion Of Darkness.
“Dark Alliance” ranks with the finest compositions put together by Jacobs Dream. A dark and unfathomable slab of creative metal, the song puts in place an environment that borders on the prevailing during its strapping verse portions. As the energy level picks up, “Dark Alliance” procures a distinguished chorus that comes across in the form of a battle cry:
I’ll remember our dark alliance
Always remember death before dishonor
A riveting run of lead guitar stands in support of the songs emotional feel. “Dark Alliance” ultimately deals with a tormented soul that in the end finds God:
No there’s no reason to be afraid
To sleep waking soaked in sweat and tied in sheets
Nothing else to fear while I watch your back
As long as you wish, I’ll hold your secret fast
Turn on the Light, shine on me
No more night
“Embraced By Sorrow” is a slower, almost doom flavored track standing out with its bottom heavy low end and swarthy ambience. Laboring its extent to a plodding guitar riff, the song establishes an emotional – almost fervent – ambience of the type that will send shivers down your spine. No, this might not be the albums catchiest piece – the melody here is on the subtle side of things – but the all out heartfelt delivery keeps it a compelling listen. “Embraced By Sorrow” describes an individual who, realizing he only has a short time to live, regrets his selfishness and past mistakes:
Death is coming to take me away
There’s no escape
I pray for release from the curse
That I brought on myself
Soon the mysteries revealed
As I please to God
Please take me into your embrace
“Dissolution Of Purity” starts to an interesting instrumental introduction with the lead vocals (purposefully) buried in the mix. Weighty and mid-tempo in capacity, the song takes a dominant rhythm guitar sound and joins it with a chorus on the firm and unyielding side of things- both musically and lyrically:
Now here we are
Puppets in this game unless we choose to stand against it
We’ll never be the same
So rise up take your place in line
At our eyes can see
No more dissolution of purity
The open air rhythm guitar at the start of “Violent Kingdom” gives way to a heavy duty rhythm guitar. A plethora of grit and edge is projected as the song trudges through its verse portions, impetus picking up as the song makes a changeover to a sweeping – and swiftly moving – chorus accented by a slight hint of vocal harmonies (courtesy of former vocalist David Taylor). I like how the pace abruptly picks up for an instrumental section sustained by a fast paced run of lead guitar.
I cannot help but feel that Dominion Of Darkness, a 13 track and 77 minute effort, might have been a couple of songs too long. The case in point being “Awaken The Man” and “End Of Days”, two numbers I have never been able to grow into. “Awaken The Man”, a semi ballad dealing with true love in marriage, fails to stand out, while the same can be said for the driving metal of “End Of Days”. What is lacking on the two – in my opinion – are the notable chorus hooks and inspiration the albums better material brings to the table. I tend to pass, though I can see how others might get into them.
Closing things out is “Mercy Killing”, an emotionally charged piece bringing a dramatic feel not unlike that of “Critical Mass” (off Theater Of War). A song bringing the creativity and compelling aura Jacobs Dream is renown for, “Mercy Killing” moves its first six minutes at a sublime mid-tempo pace all the while providing a discourse on the crucifixion (written from the standpoint of Christ):
The pain and agony
Man’s rage will crush me
I’m guilty of no crime
But I will pay this price
They curse my name and abuse me
With no relief I fight for every breath
As I walk to my own death
The time has now come
I must complete this task
The song closes out its final minute and a half to an instrumental section joining some adeptly performed lead work with female vocal harmonies. This one is perfect in every way.
There is a lot to like about Dominion Of Darkness. The album features 11 great songs out of 13 (a very high percentage). The bands performance is solid throughout as well. In putting together the review, it took some time for the material here to grow on me; but it was my experience that the more I listened to Dominion Of Darkness the more I enjoyed it. At this point am I out of line to suggest that Jacobs Dream sign with a quality (the key word here) label for its next album? Perhaps with the backing of a supportive (again, the key word) label the group would be able to iron out the problems in the areas of packaging and – even though minor - production. Not that Metal Blade proved helpful in either on Drama Of The Ages, which might have been influential in Jacobs Dream going independent for Dominion Of Darkness. Still, my overall feeling is that the future is very bright for Jacobs Dream.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Demon World” (5:30), “Can’t Break” (5:27), “Curse Of Antikythera” (6:20), “Hands Of Doom” (5:02), “Don’t Talk” (4:48), “Hero” (5:21), “Dark Alliance” (5:51), “Embraced By Sorrow” (8:29), “Dissolution Of Purity” (5:27), “Violent Kingdom” (5:48), “Awaken The Man” (5:50), “End Of Days” (6:09), “Mercy Killing” (7:39)
Chaz Bond – Lead Vocals
John Berry – Guitars
Jon Noble – Guitars
James Evans – Bass
Gary Holtzman – Drums
David E. Taylor III, Raquel Bond & Steve Vaughan – Backing Vocals
Also Reviewed: Jacobs Dream – Drama Of The Ages