There’s nothing that says thrash more than an Ed Repka cover art. Denmark’s own Hell’s Domain figured that out, as they used some of his artwork for their debut, self-titled record. Over the course of 11 tracks, Hell’s Domain provides the listener with moments of great thrashing fury, as well as moments of mediocrity. Perhaps the biggest issue that pervades this album is the lack of conviction. It’s no secret to me that this sound has been done before, but if the band believes they are presenting something new (ala bands like Warbringer) it can make for a more interesting experience.
The good news is that there is plenty of variety on “Hell’s Domain”. There is the speedy blistering force of “The Needle and the Vein” (which also throws in some interesting chords in one of the riffs), as well as the Exodus-influenced closer, “Sneaking Disease”. This final track has some similarities to Exodus’ classic “Strike of the Beast”, but these are largely easy to ignore because of how “Sneaking Disease” will send you into a fit of headbanging. Likewise, the opening riff to “In The Trenches…” is pure Exodus worship. On the other hand, there is plenty of less energetic riffing. Surprisingly, the opening track, “100 Days in Hell” is not particularly fast, nor does it feature some of the albums strongest riffs. Another highlight is “Crawling In The Shadows”, which is the only track that is easy to recall after the record finishes.
The musical elements on “Hell’s Domain” are all in order. The riffing is crisp, and crunchy, as if Gary Holt himself approved the guitar tone. This fantastic sound is best noticed on “In The Trenches…” where a thrash breakdown comes in to obliterate your aural senses. The drums are extremely abrasive and in your face, but do so without being the loudest instrument. Singer Alex Clausen has a fairly melodic voice. His accent is noticeable, but not overly thick (unlike thrash’s German counterparts). He can sing, scream, or shout when he needs to, and mostly just adapts to whatever the remaining instruments are doing. A great example of his versatility is on “Order #227”, where Clausen pulls off some John Connelly-esque singing moments in the chorus (the “Evil prevails” line mirrors Connelly’s nasally tone), but also sticks to his bark in other parts of the track.
“Hell’s Domain” isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. It’s not remotely original, but that doesn’t make it terrible, nor does it prevent it from being a solid record. It may take a few more listens to really get into than some other new thrash albums, but there is plenty worth hearing here. If you are someone who likes to stay on top of the best new thrash bands around, Hell’s Domain is well worth hearing!
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“The Needle and the Vein”
“In The Trenches…”
“Crawling In the Shadows”
3.7/5 or 74%.