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Dominia - Theophania

Dominia - CD Review


Domina - Theophania 




CD Info
Fono Ltmd / Domestic Genocide Records
English lyrics
9 tracks



Well, in the truest interpretation of Femme Metal, this one might not qualify. It’s Gothic to its core, as dark as anything you’ll ever hear. But, the primary vocals are strictly male. So what’s it doing here. Gaby Koss is what its doing here, she sings the backup vocals and if its good enough for Gaby its good enough for me. The world doesn’t get enough Gaby Koss and any opportunity to get more of her out there is my mission in life. But, beyond that, this is killer Russian Gothic and that country just doesn’t produce enough of that. So that’s the facts, Jack.

What we have here is one of the darkest Gothic releases I’ve had the privilege of listening to. And Gaby makes it even darker. Here’s a quick introduction to the material and that should let you know quickly whether or not you want to stay with this review or head on over quickly to the latest Beiber material. The Russians don’t ordinarily do this sort of stuff. But this may take you to an entirely new interpretation of Russian metal. Interestingly enough, Dominia has been around for a while so clearly there are Russians who appreciate this style. So do I. And there are some interesting features associated with the music from this St. Petersburg, Russia band. For one thing, you get a rather broad musical vehicle with this one. There are some symphonic components but, beyond that, there is a featured violin which seems to be the visual tag for the band on this release. It’s also a large part of the music. They’re provided by Dmitry "Casper" Rishko who also does keyboards, acoustic and lead guitars. The lead vocals are done by Anton Rosa. So what you get are elements of Gothic metal, Melodic Death Metal, Doom Death Metal, Black Metal and I’m not sure what you would call the parts that feature Gaby. What’s the difference, they’re killer.

Clearly, music of this caliber is more than just a few good musicians and a little good writing. This band has been doing strong material for a while. But, it’s interesting what can happen to a sound by chance. With Dominia, chance came in the form of a violin player, Anton relates, “About the violin... It was a very lucky experiment once. We just asked our friend to ask for some violin player in his music school to check him out and I am a big fan of My Dying Bride, you know, then Casper came to the rehearsal and showed the awesomeness of his talent, after it he showed that he is a good composer too and then we started to write music and arrangement together, Casper and me.” That combination was the basis for Theophania. And Casper was not a beginner on the music scene. Anton continues, “About Casper, he is famous musician and producer here in Russia, he also plays in a very popular in our country punk rock band Knyazz, he is an endorser of Gibson guitars, GEWA music”. So, you take that combination, and add one of the great voices in femme metal and this is what you get.

Music in this genre comes with various strategies. IMO this is probably Doom metal with a Gothic message, and the addition of Gaby enhances this Gothic direction. There are few voices in femme metal that can provide the emotional component that Gaby does when she chooses to go in that direction. But, there’s more here. For me the term “dense” seems to relate what I’m hearing here. Yea, there’s death vocals, there’s the violin, there’s a VERY strong metal component, drums, guitars, even keyboards. But, it’s how they’re put together that defines the work. And that means there’s someone behind the scenes who is doing magic with the sound board. And here, that someone is Finnish producer Hiili Hiilesmaa, producer of bands like The 69 Eyes, Apocalyptica, HIM, Lordi, Amorphis, Moonspell, Negative, Sentenced, Kypck. You can never overlook the value of that kind of talent and his influence shows through here.

The work opens with a track that is probably not entirely representative of the general direction of the release. The track is Everyone Else. You get a soothing keyboard to open things up, followed by that violin I’ve been talking about. Eventually, the metal cranks up with Anton taking the death metal lead. The violin is featured and it becomes a Doom / Gothic sound that is further enhanced as Gaby joins in the funeral march. Lyrics are clearly taking us to the dark side:

Everyone else will decompose / Everyone else, no matter black or white
We are still living here, we belong to the earth / But in time every being must be dead

Everyone else will die. No more birth / This material world is not forever
We have drank too much blood of the earth / It is fading. . . . We are dying together

The second track makes the first sound like a children’s lullaby. I have a vid for this one but it doesn’t feature Gaby like the track on the release. This one, however, gives you some idea of what to expect here. So, take this, add Gaby and pray for redemption. The lyrics again promise little in the way of hope:

The sickness. . I'm waiting for the Gods / Within the dimness of the candle lights
I'm alone on my deathbed / Awful sorror. . I'm almost dead

They come from another world to find me / They try to take me back to eternity. . .

I wouldn't say it all sounds like a funeral dirge, but there’s little of what I would call an uplifting sound. The vocals can move to clean directions on occasion, but even here, we don’t approach boy band material by any means. This is dark metal, even if you don’t follow the lyrics clearly. The violin is utilized as an instrument of the damned, the guitars pound an unholy beat over killer base and drums. This is a particular type of music and, from that perspective, it is as good as it gets. The Shadow of the Last Prophet makes clear where we are headed. Pounding metal with that howling violin support the death vocals. And even when the sound softens a little, as is the case with Mother Plague, they don’t stay there long. And the message is always one of hopelessness:

Your dreams will be like rays of Eden Sun / Trust me and I’ll save you
I’ve seen the end. Give me your eyes / Comprehend the final truth - I am the chosen one
The blindness is my gift to you / The way to paradise

With this release you go from dark to darker. The pain never seems to end. A Murderer takes us to another side of the equation. Here Gaby again provides a sound that enhances that desolation. We get some interesting guitar involvement that takes us to the doom of the violin. Lyrically, things continue in the general direction we’ve experienced previously:

Her dead body smells like flowers

The first rays of sun / The dawn lights up her slaughtered throat
I stroke her arm with my hands / Her blood is still warm

Anton talked about this one, “ About A Murderer, we just writing music on emotions, we really don't think about how it should sound like. Sure, we don't use bad ideas, if we think its bad melody or something.” Clearly, the musical vehicle drives the track, the lyrics are secondary, at least here.

The release concludes with the darkest track and that’s saying something here. In Solitude is the final funeral march, Gaby goes to her darkest sound and the entire band seems headed to the cemetery. Anton talked about this one as well, “The same with In Solitude... But this song is very important to me, because this song is about the spiritual side of our world, Dominia world, actually my world. And to me its my favorite song I wrote for Dominia.”

Well, this is something of a diversion from our standard fare here but I don’t think many will find fault with it. This is solid material, and when you add in the Gaby Koss component, it takes it off the charts for me. Would I have liked more Gaby, sure. But that would take the music in a different direction than what was intended. So I’m happy with what we have here, strong music, killer lyrics, solid vocals. . . what more can you ask.