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Fifth Dominion : Towards Elysium [demo] (1995) : Metal albums reviews

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Fifth Dominion : Towards Elysium [demo] (1995), brief review

Fifth Dominion : Towards Elysium [demo] (1995)

Band name: Fifth Dominion

There we are … Fifth Dominion, the second attempt. Maybe it would have been better to change the name, instead of continuing under the old moniker. Things would have been much clearer with such a decisive cut. Reality is messy and has often none of the orderly concept one would long for. Nevertheless, the first compositions of Arcane Sun appear on this very demo. To be frank, their debut album is rather a compilation than an ordinary output, like countless other bands tend to spread it. Towards Elysium marks the first focal point in the band's history. Even though it maybe be of some importance to have at least taken a small dive into all of the releases, which preceded this first major output, when it comes to discussing the music of Arcane Sun, the last tape by Fifth Dominion cannot be neglected.

… and this output is of some additional importance: it reveals part of the schizophrenic nature of Arcane Sun's debut.

In terms of the music, the style and the approach it is difficult to place it all in such a way as to create a thorough red line. There is a break … and is starts with the “Pain, Rage & Laughter” and widens with the “Promo 1994” output. Therefore, with this 1995 one, it may not been a complete restart, but it is safe to say that the band tried to reinvent their concept a bit. What had been death metal at some point, became a mixture of death and doom metal. The contrasts, odd juxtapositions on the preceding demos, are now an important aspect in the band's approach. Heaviness and aggressiveness are no longer dominating the compositions, but have to share the space with calm moments and it is difficult to say which of these extremes has the larger impact. In case someone has followed the band over the courses of the years, then this person would have to admit that the evolution since the early days of Misanthropy is quite remarkable.

Four tracks are on Towards Elysium, all of these would later reappear on Arcane Sun's debut. The contrast with the later versions, leaving the aspect of the production aside for a moment, is the overall coherence of the music on this demo. Fifth Dominion does not give the listener a chance of contemplation; the tension is maintained and kept up all the time. Maybe it has to be this way, maybe they did not want it to break apart or give the impression of uncertainty. After the shifts in the line-up and the ever changing direction of the music, which lead to a rather chaotic mess on the Promo 1994, the 1995 output feels much more controlled and with a clear idea behind it.

The death metal parts can be examined in eruptions rather than in longer passages like they used to. This genre is allowed to shine through, wake memories on the band's history, and adds a punch to a certain focus on the doom influences; Cory Sloan, the bassist of the band, would play in a more psychedelic doom band called Thy Sinister Bloom at that time. Anyway, the fury or aggressiveness of their early days are actually only allowed to shine through in one track: “Sundrenched (Beneath the Very Skies We Sought)”. A strange and somehow even archaic praise of the sun appears in the lyrics and out of this one last burst of death metal inspired music the band Arcane Sun arouse like a Phoenix. The band had been drenched by the death, or, to put it more broadly, by the extreme metal, but preferred to venture away from it with each of the outputs.

Calm (acoustic) guitar parts have found their way into the music, the compositions open with keyboard textures – a calm ambient-inspired counterpoint – and dynamic patterns in the arrangements that add some additional twists to the music. It is strange how the opener has these metal riffs, which are not allowed to have much an impact later on. They set the stage, but are an illusion after all. A couple of minutes reveals the concept of the band much better.

Yet the release has more to offer. While “Pain, Rage & Laughter” deals with a lot of social issues and even discusses the aspect of abortion in a single kind of way. These days are over and the name of the 1995 demo gives it away.

Elysian plain…where life is easiest for men. No snow is there, nor heavy storm, nor ever rain, but ever does Ocean send up blasts of the shrill-blowing West Wind that they may give cooling to men. Homer, Odyssey (4.560-565).


According to Eustathius of Thessalonica the word "Elysium" (Ἠλύσιον) derives from ἀλυουσας (ἀλύω, to be deeply stirred from joy) or from ἀλύτως, synonymous of ἀφθάρτως (ἄφθαρτος, incorruptible), referring to souls' life in this place.

The topics have become more personal and are some kind of meditation about one's origins and final destiny. Furthermore, they appear in the way of an actual journey, as if someone would reflect upon what happened at some point and what effect these impressions had. They is a mystical touch to it all, a narration with an emphasis on metaphors without trying to come over too pretentious or artificial. Yet these aspects play a larger role in the first two compositions, while the track “Sundrenched (Beneath the Very Skies We Sought)” is more in the ordinary metal kind of way. Rather intense music comes with intense lyrics and these are on the spot: very short and fragmented paragraphs (four lines and expressed with an aggressive voice) have a counterpoint with the wording “Sundrenched” (with a clean and maybe even chanting voice). The Promise (A Culmination in Sorrow) is more of an epilogue, after the burst of energy of the preceding piece of music.

What makes it kind of a challenge to deal with the demo in a proper kind of way is the general lack of comparativeness with the earlier two outputs. The long used – now changed – description at the Metal Archives of “technical death metal” is definitely misleading, because the demo foreshadows the path the musicians proceeded on. Compared with the more familiar version of the four compositions, the old style has much more emphasis on the guitars and on death metal. Nevertheless, the oeuvre already presented the art with the clean vocals, the calm interludes and the extreme switches in the aggressiveness. Here all is rawer, more intense, and unpolished. Arcane Sun + X; if you know what I mean.

Influences? References? The debut from Paradise Lost points in the correct direction and the one from Anathema is also not too far away; maybe My Dying Bride should be mentioned as well. The difference to these three bands is the general approach of Fifth Dominion in this respect. While the aforementioned ones stuck to a peculiar kind of death / doom, the folks from Ireland offered something more in vein of Decomposed but here with more facets, variety and occasional emphasis on the doom stuff. Towards Elysium has more breadth and sounds more daring. What makes this demo interesting is a comparison with the version, which has found its way on Arcane Sun's debut output. Yet, this early piece of music is not only recommended to those, who want to dig a bit deeper into the history of the more famous Irish metal band, due to the overall quality and the generally strange conceptual approach, it can also be recommended to those with a fancy for things that fall out of the ordinary routine.

Available here:

Album: Towards Elysium [demo], review

The bands country origin: Ireland

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