Artist: Morbid Angel
Release Date: May 9, 1995
Label: Earache (Europe), Giant (North America)
Lineup: David Vincent, Trey Azagthoth, Erik Rutan, Pete Sandoval
#1 Billboard Single on this date: Montell Jordan “This Is How We Do It”
#1 Billboard Album on this date: Live Throwing Copper
“We must dominate!
With IRON through our VEINS
And a will made so elite”
Aptly setting the tone for this classic album, the above lyrical excerpt is from “Dominate”; the first track off Morbid Angel’s fourth release, Domination.
Also, it’s a not-so-subtle nod as to where this site got its name.
Following the major label success of 1993’s Covenant, Domination served as a multifaceted transition album for Morbid Angel.
Domination introduced second guitarist Erik Rutan, who would later go on to front the unrelenting death metal group Hate Eternal, as well as launch Mana Recording Studios. Shockingly, following a lucrative, global tour of this album, frontman extraordinaire David Vincent announced his (first) departure from the band.
Though the inner workings of Morbid Angel were, at times, fraught with dissent and differing creative visions, that’s not the focus of this article. Let’s talk about the brutal, unforgiving, and timeless metal these four individuals constructed over 25 years ago.
Two years prior to the release of Domination, Morbid Angel garnered national attention with their video for Covenant’s “God of Emptiness”, which was later featured on an episode of MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head. Watch it here.
Though the animated characters mercilessly lobbed tongue-in-cheek jabs at everything from Vincent’s vocal stylings, to the video design of “just another naked dude lying on the floor”, Beavis and Butt-Head’s exposure helped catapult Morbid Angel to an even larger mainstream audience. The release of Domination further galvanized this effort.
Simply put, Domination does not pull any punches. Out of the gates, the listener is sonically assaulted by the literal war anthem “Dominate”. The iconic jun-jun-junjun-juh intro, with unison cymbal chokes and heavy guitar palm muting, raises my pulse every time I hear it. If I’m about to deliver a big work presentation, meet with a client, or need some motivation to exercise, I blast this track. Though I can’t quantifiably prove it, I’m fairly certain “Dominate” can also replace your morning cup of coffee for a boost of energy.
Following the earth shattering blast of “Dominate”, there is little reprieve before the thunderous groove of “Where The Slime Live”. In my humble opinion, this track is one of the catchiest songs in death metal history. Each time I stream it, or spin the record, this piece gives me a clear guarantee that its main riff will be stuck in my head for at least 72 hours. What makes this track so effective is its relative simplicity. The tempo shifts to a pace significantly slower than the album’s opening track, and creates a nice juxtaposition which only augments the heaviness felt. If you’re a metal fan listening to “Where The Slime Live”, and don’t immediately want to start headbanging, you might want to check your pulse for signs of life.
These days, it is commonplace to use terms like catchy or groove to describe death metal. But, this practice was not as prevalent back in 1995. This only further highlights Morbid Angel’s songwriting prowess, attention to detail, and forward-thinking mission.
Though most of the album features Vincent’s commanding growl, the song “Eyes to See, Ears to Hear” grants the listener a sample of the frontman’s classic, bassy croon. Again, the key here is the skillful use of dynamics, which further increases the album’s overall heaviness.
Near the middle of Domination, the listener is greeted with another unquestionably catchy track: “Dawn of the Angry”. In its 4:39 run-time, this song manages to capture all of the band’s signature elements: blast, tremolo picking, groove, old school death metal, multiple guitar solos, sing-along vocals, innovation, thrash, you name it. To me, this is the most quintessential song of the entire album. To put things in perspective, my wife is a classically-trained singer who doesn’t really care for metal. When I play this song in the house, I often catch her humming the main riff’s melody! That’s the power of this song.
This album is just a riff-monster. Trey and Rutan’s tremolo picking live on another plane of existence throughout. Their lightning fast, surgical guitarwork is reinforced by Pete “Commando” Sandoval’s double-kick mastery. The band is firing on all cylinders, portraying the confidence and ingenuity of one of death metal’s progenitors.
To complement the band’s intensity and serve as an inventive marketing tool, Earache Records assembled a special album packaging for Domination. What happened next would become one of the most infamous chapters in Earache’s long celebrated story.
Inspired by an old Slayer blood pack release, Earache designed a slime pack; a CD sleeve literally filled with bright, green slime.
The concept was simply brilliant.
Tragically, production of this special release was halted due to the discovery that the slime packaging was incredibly toxic. The result: thousands of copies were destroyed by a local hazardous waste disposal team.
You can listen to a first-hand account of this experience from Al Dawson, Earache’s US Label Manager, here. From Dawson’s vivid retelling, it is painfully obvious that the manufacturing blunder was not the fault of Earache.
Seriously, a death metal album that is potentially lethal to the owner? Holy shit, if that’s not the epitome of death metal, I don’t know what is!
It would be like buying a copy of Avengers: Endgame, and getting a fully-functional Thanos Infinity Gauntlet. Granted, it would be terrible for repeat business (and the world), but you get the idea.
Per Al Dawson, somewhere in the world, floating in the murk, less than a dozen of these slime packs actually exist. If you or anyone you know has access to one of these, I am willing to discuss a fair price to add it to my collection.
Morbid Angel’s Domination is a timeless classic. This is a must have album for any metal fan, new and old alike. Due to the album’s ambitious sound, I firmly believe it could be released in 2020, and still be just as successful. I get excited every time I listen to it, as it further reinforces my love of this genre.
Add Domination to your collection here.