Review: Domination Campaign – Onward To Glory
Review: Domination Campaign – Onward to Glory; or, How Not to Throw Bolts
It’s said that music is the universal language, something that can be understood by anyone anywhere regardless of language or cultural background. This, of course, is a load of shit, disproven by the mere existence of Ad Nauseam (among a multitude of other reasons, but that’s the most convenient example). A far more universal experience these days, particularly for musicians I would imagine, is boredom under quarantine. Without shows and tours happening, it seems like half the metal bands out there were writing new albums, and the other half were starting entirely new projects.
Thus was born Domination Campaign, the brainchild of Psycroptic vocalist Jason Peppiatt and supported by the talents of drummer, mixer, and fellow bandmate Joe Haley. Shelve any expectations you might have for this band, though; despite featuring a pair of members of the aforementioned tech death stalwarts, Onward to Glory is a straightforward death metal album, described as “bone basic” by its frontman. Turn back if you’re looking for cool, flashy instrumental work- there is nothing of the sort to be had here, no honor in this place.
Instead, this feels like it was a vehicle for the musicians involved to simply switch off their brains and play some riffs. The album is rife with low- and mid-tempo chugs and grinding, militaristic tremolo picking. It sets out on iron treads to follow the now well-worn trail that Bolt Thrower blazed decades ago, albeit with the much cleaner sound that one would expect from a Psycroptic production job. The band’s goals aren’t lofty or even particularly ambitious, and it shows.
In fact, it shows a little too well. A lot too well. The thing about aping Bolt Thrower is that it’s been done a hundred thousand times before, and it’s been done much better. The only thing that sets Domination Campaign apart from the legions of unsigned underground Bandcamp acts doing this exact thing is the sterile production. That sound is necessary for something as intricate as tech death, but here, it only serves to highlight how dull and uninspired the music is. Some grit would have gone a long way in giving this thing something resembling a personality, but there’s none to be found.
To call this album forgettable would be charitable; it’s downright boring. I don’t think that music needs to be catchy in order to be good; a lot of great music hinges more on the feeling it leaves you with upon completion rather than a particular sequence of notes burning themselves into your mind. In the world of death metal, you have acts like Ulcerate, Cosmic Putrefaction, and the aforementioned Ad Nauseam that do this masterfully. Domination Campaign have none of that; save for one or two interesting parts (the opening of “Against the Odds” speaks to greater things but naturally doesn’t go anywhere), everything on this record is in one ear and out the other. It doesn’t make me want to just turn off my brain and mosh; it makes me wish I was listening to Frozen Soul or something.
You might get the impression reading this that I am anti-fun when it comes to death metal, that I am opposed to the meat-and-potatoes riff. That’s not true at all; a few of my go-to records from the past couple years are less than intellectual. Hell, I play in a terminally stupid death metal band. I certainly don’t begrudge artists for throwing together an album to tide them over during quarantine, either- that’s given us a few fantastic pieces of work. But it’s one thing to be vanilla and another thing to be flavorless entirely, and unfortunately for Domination Campaign, they fall squarely in the latter category.