Sunday, April 19, 2009

Immortal Dominion Does the Evolution

Originally published in Colorado Music Buzz, April 2009
They look like they rose out of some subterranean sludge, but Immortal Dominion’s origin story actually begins in the house of God. It was at a youth-oriented ministry, complete with Rock music and laser lights, where drummer Ben Huntwork met guitarist/vocalist Brian Villers and vocalist/guitarist Ray Smith. The three’s membership in the church would be short-lived but the friendship stuck.

Fifteen years later, the Rock continues to Roll as the Death Metal quartet drops their new album, Primortal, this month. As a band, they’ve experienced the typical challenges and lineup changes including the addition of current bassist Ed Schmidt in June 2007, but no time before was comparable to the rollercoaster ride journey of the past four years.

The week following the release of their last full-length, Awakening: The Revelation, then-ex-bassist Stephen Sherwood shot and killed his wife – Villers’ sister-in-law – and himself. Two years later, fortunes were reversed when five songs off Awakening were added to the soundtrack of “Teeth,” a coming-of-age horror film centered on a shark-toothed vagina. Inclusion in the instant-cult flick brought the band considerable attention from the Metal press and a re-release of the album.

Eager to start work on the next album and press on to the next level of the industry, Villers scanned album jackets for producers who’d worked with his favorite artists, shooting out emails to gauge interest. Returning the call would be the name on the back of Hellyeah’s self-titled debut, Sterling Winfield. Winfield has produced for several celebrated Metal acts in his time, Pantera and King Diamond to name a few. Entering the studio with a group whose previous recordings were strung together with little professional guidance presented a “unique experience” for the Texan producer.

“They didn’t have a whole lot of studio experience, yet they wanted to make an album that sounded like they had a whole lot of studio experience,” he says. “I had my work cut out for me on this one.”

Winfield had the band reorganize its recording schedule and pushed the group to develop a keener musicianship. It was, at times, a butt-kicking; the kind of learning experience the four had hoped for.

“I think we get trapped in our bubble here in the local scene sometimes,” Villers says. “To get a more worldly perspective was really interesting.”

Early tracks indicate Primortal will be more accessible than previous works. The guitars are heavier and the instrumentation is more precisely packaged, and the frontman is mixing it up, too. “I do a different vocal styles now,” Smith says. “I can’t really do the high stuff anymore like I used to, it’s a lot of work if I try.”

If it sounds as though this is the making of an entirely different Dominion, don’t fret; Villers assures us that the Death Metal aesthetic has not been compromised. “We’ve always had a lot of these songs in us,” he says. “But when you’re standing up in front of 200 Death Metal kids, you don’t want to be playing a ballad.”

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