Domination Campaign
A Storm of Steel

The island state of Tasmania, located just across the southern Bass Strait from mainland Australia, is tiny. And being, you know, an island, it’s pretty isolated as well, despite it’s proximity to Australia. So it comes as no surprise that the output of quality metal bands from there might be a bit limited. That said, the area’s biggest, most successful export, Psycroptichas certainly done plenty all on its own to make up for the relative lack of Tasmanian metal production, having bashed their way into the realm of Death Metal elite with their brand of highly technical Death Metal that has dazzled, crushed and dizzied metal fans for getting on 23 years now.

But look, 23 years is a long time to be sticking with the same band, right? Hell, even 18 years would be a lot, which just so happens to be how long vocalist Jason Peppiatt has been at Psycroptic‘s helm. So who could blame him for needing to venture out a bit? To stretch his legs and refresh the system with a whole new and different project to keep the creative juices flowing at maximum capacity, which I’d imagine why he’s decided to go completely wild and… start a Death Metal side project… with the help of Psycroptic drummer David Haley… Listen I said Tasmania is small OPTIONS ARE LIMITED.

I’m being intentionally obtuse here, obviously, because actually Domination Campaign, if you hadn’t caught their debut album Onward to Glory in 2021, is quite a different beast than Peppiatt’s regular gig. Where Psycroptic blows you away with technical wizardry, Domination Campaign, as the name suggests, is pure and simple aggression. We’re talking war-themed Death Metal in the style of Death Metal. No frills, no fuss, just churning, grinding heft with a newly increased dose of melody to make every Bolt Thrower and Sinister fan sit bolt upright in rapt attention. This is a record that will give every Asphyx or Hail of Bullets fan a semi in 5 notes or less, and a full-on, diamond-hard soldier at full salute by album’s end. Full transparency: my pants are real uncomfortable right now.

Also full transparency, this is far more my preferred kind of Death Metal than the Tech-forward offerings of Psycroptic. I will make no attempts to compare the two because, well, it’s pointless, but from first note I knew Domination Campaign and I were gonna get along just fine, with opener “Time to Die” getting things started with the kind of drumming onslaught that could kickstart an entire army into a blitzkrieg attack. Coupled with some heavy, straight-ahead, aggressive riffing and Peppiatt’s instantly recognizable vocals, it’s a celebration of everything good and mighty about classic Death Metal – a notion made even more clear on “The Iron Beast” which, as much as I’m thoroughly enjoying Peppiatt’s guitar work, truly showcases how much of this project’s juice is driven by Joe Haley’s militaristic, thematically spot-on drumming. It’s a masterclass, elevating the simple but hugely effective riffs laid down throughout this record, including the one unleased at the 1:38 mark that makes me want to start a non-mechanical, completely hands-on home demolition business. Just grab a sledge hammer and fucking get at it. Even when he does decide to get weird, like backing the final breakdown of “Winds of Death” with some jazz grooves (because why the fuck not?) it doesn’t come across out-of-place. It’s just super interesting.

This record truly has no let-up. It doesn’t so much take you on a journey as much as it just drop you right into the middle of a World War II campaign and let the ceaseless horrors assault your senses from start to finish. The super groovy “D-Day” hits with the intensity of its namesake, putting you directly on some French beach as machinegun fire rains down around you, artillery shells blasting in every direction. I especially love the slowed, epic break leading directly into the track’s pulverizing bridge. It’s the sound of a tank phalanx slowly and inevitably grinding bone and guts beneath their treads as they advance over a battlefield, leaving nothing but human pulp in its wake. The sheer droning heft of “Storm the Lines” is enough to make any regiment trying to defend their ground feel doomed, the inescapable fate of their brutal demise becoming more and more clear with every volley of enemy fire. That hopeless feeling continues to “Pit of Disease,” which seems to drag you face-first through every stage of onset madness that I’d assume would come from being trapped in a fetid pit of rot and decay – from the panic of it’s frantic, chaotic beginning, through the lucid awareness of Death’s presence just over your shoulder, to the complete mental breakdown that comes from waiting for it to pounce. It’s as brilliant as it is pummeling, which is, I can tell you, VERY.

The relentless energy of A Storm of Steel is such a nice little surprise to stumble across in the new year, and I’m feeling really confident this is one I’m gonna keep coming back to throughout the year. Certainly, there’s no questioning the pedigree of the musicians involved in this project, and the end result is a fantastically effective, even if pretty straight-forward record any Death Metal fan should be more than thrilled to add to their rotation. The riffs are plentiful, the grooves bone-shattering, and with just the right amount of melody thrown in, this is a really easy record to put on and enjoy right away. Check it out PRONTO.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Steve K
January 24th, 2024

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