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Review: Domine - Emperor Of The Black Runes
Emperor Of The Black Runes

Label: Dragonheart Records
Year released: 2004
Duration: 59:38
Tracks: 10
Genre: Power Metal

Rating: 4.5/5

Review online: July 12, 2004
Reviewed by: Sargon the Terrible
Readers Rating
Emperor Of The Black Runes

Rated 4.75/5 (95%) (20 Votes)

I've always kind of liked Domine, but none of their previous efforts have really lit my fire. I thought "Dragonlord" and "Stormbringer Ruler" were pretty cool, but they weren't first-rate, and I rarely listen to them. And that is why I am so surprised and impressed by this album, as "Emperor Of The Black Runes" is easily the best work that Domine has ever done.

Okay, it does start with the mandatory keyboard intro track, but it's short and not boring, and then the first thing you notice as "Battle Gods" kicks in is that Domine have turned the guitars waaaaaayyyyyy up, as that slashing first riff sounds almost like something Cryonic Temple would come up with. The first song highlights everything that is cool about this album: amped up, crunchy guitars, killer riffs and melodies, and first-rate vocals with plenty of screaming high notes and an instantly catchy chorus. I am really impressed by Morby's singing on this album. He's no kid anymore, but he hits those high notes like it was no big deal, and he has tamed his native accent as much as he is probably ever going to.

But mostly it's just that the songwriting here has taken a big leap forward. Before Domine always seemed to have too many throwaway tracks with tepid choruses and too much keyboard wankery. Not here. On this disc they travel between speedy metal-hammers like "Battle Gods" "The Song Of The Swords" and the absolute killer "True Believer" (where Morby finishes a line, actually yells 'guitar!', and the solo that follows is actually cool enough to justify it.) To their trademark epics like "The Prince In The Scarlet Robe" or "The Sun Of A New Season". "The Forest Of Light" is a ballad, but not a bad one, though it isn't one of the album's better cuts.

The centerpiece of the disc, and worth mentioning because it's probably the best thing they ever wrote, is "The Aquilonia Suite" – a six-part, eleven-minute epic that is essentially a tribute to "Conan The Barbarian". Not content to sound kind of like Poledouris' score (a la Bal-Sagoth), they went ahead and took entire themes from the movie soundtrack, mutated them into metal riffs, mixed in their own stuff, and voila a heavy metal movie soundtrack. This is just a killer song, and it is way too much fun for me to complain about it.

The package is a digipack, but it's pretty sturdy. The art is by the same guy who always does their covers, and he's no better than he usually is. I seriously think he used Morby as his model for Elric, which is so nerdy it's actually kind of cool. Lyrically Domine wallow in the Moorcock/Howard worship we all know and expect, except for the more generically 'inspirational' lyrics of "The Sun Of A New Season" – which comes off as rather preachy.

If Domine never impressed you before, then this is an album you need to check out, as they have finally pulled out all the stops and produced one ironclad killer of an album. Seriously, if you don't believe me, go to their site and download "Battle Gods" and "True Believer" – they sold me on this album, and if this kind of crunchy Power/Speed Metal is at all your bag, they will sell you too. Highly recommended.

Other related information on the site
Review: Ancient Spirit Rising (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Dragonlord - Tales of the Noble Steel (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
Review: Stormbringer Ruler (reviewed by Sargon the Terrible)
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