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Domine - Ancient spirit rising 4/5

Reviewed: 6-15-07


1. The messenger
2. Tempest calling
3. The lady of Shalott
4. I stand alone (after the fall)
5. Ancient spirit rising
6. On the wings of the firebird
7. Another time, another place, another space
8. Sky rider
9. How the mighty have fallen

One of the most successful Italian power metal bands, Domine, have returned after 3 years to bring us their 5th studio album, entitled ‘Ancient spirit rising’. After a somewhat average debut back in 1997, called ‘Champion eternal’, Domine struck back with their 2nd CD, ‘Dragonlord - Tales of the noble steel’. But where Domine really took off, was with their 3rd CD entitled ‘Stormbringer ruler - The legend of the power supreme’. Domine really hit their strides with that release and it is still probably their most successful CD to date. 2003’s ‘Emperor of the black runes’ was very much in the same vein as ‘Stormbringer ruler’, but just down a notch on it overall.

All of Domine’s releases have been based on British author, Michael Moorcock’s fantasy novels about the “Eternal Champion”, and in particular, the character called “Elric”. Elric is an albino sorcerer who’s fate is to always keep the balance between law and chaos, 2 opposing and equally powerful forces which are neither good nor evil. All throughout Domine’s releases, their song titles and lyrics are based upon Elric’s adventures within those novels.

However, ‘Ancient spirit rising’ is not about Elric and swords, dragons, steel and sorcery. It seems Elric has been given an extended holiday by these lads from Italy. Instead, main songwriter and guitarist, Enrico Paoli has decided on a more “personal” lyrical detail. ‘Ancient spirit rising’ lyrics cover such things as life, death, freedom, misery and personal journey’s. I must say that this new change of theme is surprising, but it is also welcomed. And after listening to the CD a few times, I also feel that it is a breath of fresh air. A band can write only so much about the same topic before it becomes stale. Take Iron Savior for example. From their debut until ‘Condition red’, the theme and lyrics were based around the same thing (the warship named the Iron Savior). Finally with ‘Battering ram’, the lyrics were all not purely based on the above-mentioned theme, and that CD too was a breath of fresh air and possibly Iron Savior’s best release to date. Anywho, back to Domine...

Domine’s sound is still primarily epic (hey, which Italian metal band isn’t?), but the main change that I've noticed, was that it feels more laid-back. I feel that it's softer than their previous releases, but still maintains an epic heavy feel. There is a lot of acoustic guitar and a lot of piano throughout the CD. And as always with Domine’s releases, the track length is still around and well over the 6 minute mark. Tracks being that long in length, particularly with Domine, are all basically mid-paced. But there are about 3 songs on the CD where they really kick up the tempo.

Going by the band’s website, they state that with ‘Ancient spirit rising’, they wanted it to be metal, with hints of hard rock, progressive rock, celtic and acoustic music, classic music with a general 70s feel. And going by their influences, such as Queen, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Kansas, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Boston, Judas Priest, Uriah Heep and Rainbow; you can certainly hear these influences come out with this CD, more so than with their previous releases.

So with this new change of theme, how does it sound? Well, after listening to it a few times, I must say that it is a bit up and down, but mostly up. Some tracks are brilliant and graceful, while others don’t quite seem to fit, or that the song’s structure doesn’t feel right. But that was always going to be the case when a band is writing songs from a more personal perspective, than from a particular theme which they have done right from the beginning.

My favourite tracks on the CD would have to be the 2 longest tracks, the 9+ minute “The lady of Shallot” and “Ancient spirit rising”. “The lady of Shallot” is inspired by the evocative paintings by John William Waterhouse and by the Alfred Tennyson poem by the same name, plus the band’s personal thoughts. The song is a masterpiece, containing a ballad start, which changes to an epic, emotional and graceful mid-paced killer. “Ancient spirit rising” is another fantastic epic track full of emotion, containing soft acoustic parts and heavy bombastic sections. Vocalist, Adolfo "Morby" Morbiducci, gives us one of his best vocal performances I’ve ever heard. Soaring and emotional, you can really feel what he is singing about. And to complete the song, it contains a wonderful and catchy choir chorus, plus a timely soulful solo. Other tracks which I think are very good, include “Tempest calling”, “Stand alone (after the fall)” and “Another time, another place, another space”.

I really enjoy this different side of Domine and I am glad that they made the decision to move away from the theme of the Eternal Champion and Elric and created something more personal, something from their hearts and minds. You still get the same epic and emotional sound from past CDs, but with this CD there is a more creative and relaxing feel, which really hits home. Fans of this band and of the epic power metal genre will enjoy ‘Ancient spirit rising’ and I urge you to track this one down.




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