Domain - The Last Days Of Utopia


Year of Release: 2005
Label: Limb Music
Catalog Number: LMP 0502-077 CD/SPV CD 08
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:35:00

This progressive metal opera takes a few pages from the Star One (and Ayreon) book, throws in a vocalist who sounds like a Glenn Hughes/Sammy Hagar hybrid and calls it Last Days Of Utopia. That may sound like a snarky statement, but I don't mean it that way. That's what Domain have done - created something with a big, epic and theatrical sound... and pretty damn good at that. If you go back to my review of their 2002 release The Artifact, I said that I wanted to hear more stuff along the lines of "Charade." I don't know what they did on The Sixth Dimenson - other than from Marcel's review, but on Last Days... they've delivered just that. It's a concept album - the title alone probably gave that away. The story involves a man who leaves his home to escape his past, in search of a better life, a paradise, he knows is across the sea. After a stormy trip, his ship arrives at the kingdom of Utopia, where he falls in love and is happy. However, things take a dark turn, as his having shared his past with others, brings about the fall of Utopia. (A phrase that keeps popping to mind is a lyric from an Eagle's song, "The Last Resort" - "call someplace paradise, kiss it goodbye.")

Along with the rock opera feel - though only Carsten "Lizard" Schulz sings lead vocals - we get what I call "warrior metal," that which includes harmonized vocals like a band of brothers. This doesn't quite have a medieval feel, a la Blind Guardian - and Domain are a little more symphonic, but you can be sure this a fantasy-based world. And yes, we can think of Tolkien, even though this isn't (so far as I can tell) related to The Lord Of The Rings in anyway.

I don't actually mean to suggest that Domain have been influenced by Star One; this is Domain's seventh album (an eighth is on its way, as of this writing), but certainly this falls into that same niche. The band paints this epic on a large canvas with boldly painted colors and strong lines. This is rollicking progressive power metal with terrific, fiery guitar solos from Axel "Ironfinger" Ritt; epic, classical influenced keyboards from Erdmann Lange; dynamic drumming and percussion from Stefan K?llner; and meaty bass from newcomer Jochen Mayer. I think this quintet executes this epic quite skillfully, they are tight and very much in sync... a lot of that has to be credited to the production work done by Ritt. It sounds great, clear and very warm. Classy.

After a short power intro, "Habour Of Hope," nearly all epic chorus (well, operas start that way, of course, setting the scene), "A New Beginning" swoops you up and takes you along on the journey, played at a heart-pounding place. "On Stormy Seas" (an album highlight) throttles things back a bit, thought he churning of bass and guitar mimics the choppy seas, the tonal colors the darkened skies (and there's something very cool about the way this one ends, with lots of atmospheric, orchestral keys... cool.) In much the same way, the hurried pace of "The Great Rebellion" evokes the violence and chaos the lyrics paint. This is perhaps their most Blind Guardian like moment, if only Schulz' vocals are little more freewheeling than Hansi K?rsch's.

Marcel (and a few others, I noticed) compared Schulz' vocals to Jon Bon Jovi, and I have to say that yes, there are moments where he does, most especially in the loaping "Ocean Paradise," which also has flashes of Queen in its swoopy guitar riffery (and yes, the reference would be A Night At The Opera). And the classical interlude is quite lovely with what sounds like harps (guitars or keys)... a very pastoral feel is heard here. That Queen ... well, Brian May-like ... guitar tone returns on "The Great Rebellion," as does Schulz' sounding like Bon Jovi. BG is evoked in the warrior-chorus. Another great power epic here is "Endless Rain," and you can hear more classical influences in the stippled guitar solo from Ritt. And again in the title track... On more than one occasion, the term - perhaps overused in this genre (and by me) - tour de force comes to mind. And perhaps because they both deal with nautical themes, I kept thinking of Symphony X's The Odyssey, though I don't wonder if that doesn't also have to do with the fact that SX's vocalist Russell Allen sang lead on Star One's Space Metal. But then, SX came to mind with the The Artefact, too.

There are three moments where the energetic pace takes a breather. Firstly, there are two similar guitar solo pieces "The Shores Of Utopia" (track 4) and "Underneath The Blue" (track 10) - both sound almost like a lullabye, though the guitar tone is sharp and just shy of being shrill. In the latter, the guitar solo undulates enough to mimic the undulating sea; keyboards provide an atmospheric background and the sound of ocean waves provide a setting. In the former, the full band is heard as well, absent from the second. The third is "The Beauty Of Love" is the obligatory power ballad, putting the piano-like keyboards of Lange up front, backed by orchestral arrangements, softly searing guitar phrases, and the steady pulse of drums and percussion. It sounds good and well short of being saccharine (at least in sound; the actual lyrics? Well...), even though it sounds like a billion other metal power ballads.

While it seems I've yet again mentioned every song here, mention of the album's last song - "Left Alone" - must also be made. And not just to say I mentioned it. This is different from anything else on the album, as it harks back to the power bluesy-AOR style as heard on The Artefact. It's still heavy and metal, but gone are symphonic touches. It has a slinky, strutting feel, though topically, it keeps with the album's concept as we have our "hero" (or anti-hero if he brought down Utopia) adrift at sea.

A special edition - perhaps now only available on the "after-market" - was released as well, which featured a bonus disk containing "non-epic" versions of "A New Beginning," "Endless Rain," and "Left Alone," along with two additional track "Head Above Water" and "Caught In The Flame" and a video clip for "Endless Rain" (LMP 0502-077 Ltd 2CD/SPV CD 087-40750).

All in all, this is pretty damn good progressive power metal release. I like this more than The Artefact, which I gave high marks. It's an overall stronger release. If you love symphonic, operatic, epic, progressive power metal, then... well, enter Domain's domain.


Tracklisting:
Harbour Of Hope (1:10) / A New Beginning (4:49) / On Stormy Seas (9:09) / The Shores Of Utopia (1:21) / Ocean Paradise (5:34) / The Beauty Of Love (4:35) / The Great Rebellion (5:36) / Endless Rain (5:29) / Last Days Of Utopia (6:31) / Underneath The Blue (1:12) / Left Alone (6:10)

Musicians:
Axel 'Ironfinger' Ritt - guitar, backing vox
Carsten 'Lizard' Schulz - vocals
Erdmann Lange - keyboards
Jochen Mayer - bass
Stefan K?llner - drums and percussion

Discography:
Kingdom - Lost In The City (1987)
Our Kingdom (1988)
Before The Storm (1989)
Crack In The Wall (1991)
Collection 1986-1992 (1992)
One Million Lightyears From Home (2001)
New Horizons (2001)
The Artefact (2002)
The Sixth Dimension (2003)
Last Days Of Utopia (2005)
The Essence Of Glory (2005)
Stardawn (2006)
The Chronicles Of Love, Hate And Sorrow (2009)

Genre: Progressive-Power Metal

Origin DE

Added: February 5th 2006
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Score:
Artist website: www.domain.de
Hits: 1082
Language: english

  

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