Arriving September 21st, via Spinefarm Records, Dominion is the newest album from Dragonlord, Eric Peterson’s (Testament) solo project. Dominion will be Peterson’s third solo album, and it’s easily his most ambitious Dragonlord album to date.
Peterson recorded Dominion at Northern California’s Trident Studios and produced it with an assist from engineer/mixer Juan Urteaga (Testament, Machine Head, M.O.D.). Dominion was mastered by famed producer/engineer Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studios in Sweden. In addition to Eric Peterson, Dominion features the musical talents of Lyle Livingston (Psypheria) on orchestrated keys and pianos, Alex Bent (Trivium) on drums, and notable fantasy metal singer Leah on female vocals and choirs. Leah has performed and recorded with members of Blind Guardian, Nightwish, and Delain.
Over eight tight new songs, Peterson casts the net wide on Dominion, delivering moments of utter heaviness intertwined with epic segments of orchestration, riffs, musicianship and collaborative music-making with some great contributors. Peterson is also working on taking his Dragonlord concert outside the realm of mere musicianship with a new comic book project entitled The Burner, based on the concepts and song-writing themes behind this third Dragonlord album.
In the following interview, Peterson discusses the new music’s origins and inspirations, his interests within the comic book community, along with his collaborative efforts making this album. Also, there is some Lord Of The Rings dialog. Do read on.
Well let’s let’s get down to it how would you say that Dominion differs from your 2005 release of Black Wings of Destiny?
Eric Peterson: By twelve years? (laughs) Yeah, you know it’s the same spirit I think. I think on this one, first of all, I played the bass and all guitars. There are a lot more solos on this record. And then working with a new drummer, Alex Bent and getting Leah, a Celtic singer from the Vancouver area, getting her involved to handle all the female choirs and also she did a kind of a duet with me. Maybe not a duet but she sings on a song with me called “Love of the Damned.”
So other than it being more like a project and (not taking a long time) but the process was spread out over a long time. Which was kind of weird because you get different ideas you know. Like I would have an entirely different vision and then like a year later when it still wasn’t done I’d come back, and I would be like “I didn’t have that feeling anymore.” It was a different feeling. So there were a lot of obstacles, but I was never given a problem without a gift for me to figure out something better. I just had to work for it. You know, having a lot more time to figure things out. So I guess the difference is just you know having a lot more time and different influences, rather than a short time span, like a regular record; Work on it, schedule the time to record it, record it, and then you’re done, right? This one was all over the map.
Check out some sweet riffs on the “Dominion” lyric video.
And you added in an element of fandom by dreaming up a comic book called The Burner that I believe you recently showcased at San Diego Comic-Con, right?
Peterson: Yeah. Yeah, that went really well actually. You know, I didn’t even know about Comic Con. I’ve ever heard of, but I’d never done it. Testament was actually scheduled to play it. Actually, Testament was going to have a bio-comic out, but when I saw it, it was based on, you know, from the beginning. And it had the old members. So that’s still going to happen. But I didn’t want to have that come out without our new members. “How come we’re not in it?” So…
You know a lot of people wouldn’t care about that. So kudos.
Peterson: Yeah I just felt like, you know, whatever. But anyway, I had this other one, The Burner thing going on for a while before I even knew about, so it was kind of good timing for that. So it was the people that I was talking to about the Testament one, while they were putting that one together they had brought up to me, “Would you like to do a Dragonlord one?” I was like “Yeee-ah, but it’s not so much known.” So I was thinking more of doing something like more like a character rather than doing it based on a band that has really only done maybe 25 shows in its history (and we’ve been around for eighteen years). It’s more like a pet project. So what I did was; we have a character; I have some artwork… First of all Dominion, the lyrical book has a lot of graphic type comic-ish kind of graphic novel pictures for each song. They kind of pull you into the lyrics I think. And one of them was a potential for the album cover, and we ended up giving it the nickname “The Burner.” It was for a song called “Northlanders,” which is going to be coming out pretty soon with a video… And that character just built. When I showed them the character, where he’s from and what he’s about that took on its own life and we decided to have a comic called The Burner and Dragonlord would play a part in there, through telepathy. The Burner is a time traveler and a pretty crazy story, it’s still yet to be told. But yeah…
So that’s how that came about. It’s kind of cool timing. I’m planning on trying to get the label to bundle that in because we have a bundle package. The label is putting the LP out with the CD and digipack. So a t-shirt and poster maybe. Try and get the comic put in there as well – that would be kind of cool.
Oh man. That would be awesome.
Peterson: Yeah. Looks like there is a little future for The Burner. There’s a couple of bigger companies that are interested in publishing it so hopefully, I’ll be able to put out like a five series arc and maybe follow it up with a graphic novel again. That would be kind of cool.
Dominion is due out on September 21, 2018, via Spinefarm Records.
Would you describe yourself as a longtime fan of comic books are you into the genre or were you?
Peterson: Oh yeah. I mean, I don’t have like a huge collection of a lot of stuff. I have a huge collection of smaller certain stuff. I’m a big Lady Death fan. Evil Ernie too. Spawn. I was really into Spawn a lot. I have like all the first issues of all that stuff which is kind of cool because now that stuff is bigger and probably worth something. I have all the first issues of the Elric comics. Which was like 20 years ago? Now it’s being redone by some French artists which I really like his version a lot too. That one is really cool. Stuff like Lady Mechanika and a bunch of stuff like that is kind of cool.
So it sounds like you’re buying a lot in the ’90s, the titles you’re describing are sort of 1991 through to 1998-ish.
Peterson: Yeah. well, not the newer stuff like Lady Mechanika. I think that’s kind of more recent. That’s pretty cool. Lady Death is one of my favorites and especially Elric. I like the old stuff – I remember when I first saw it, it was almost too colorful and kind of weird but there’s a new one. I think that the artist really hits it. He almost did his own version of the story, changing some of the storylines of it. He changed it a lot by using his own description of what it’s about. So I really like how he did that he did a good job with picking an Elric story and putting it in his own words. So it came out pretty cool, I think.
Do you have an earliest memory of comic books that you might be able to recall? Do you remember when you first got into them?
Peterson: Probably like Batman and in The Dark Knight Returns stuff like that. Probably you know just like The Hulk. And the whole of the DC and Marvel stuff. Later I started getting into more darker weird stuff by Charles Vess. A lot of Elf comics. I can’t remember the actual names of some of them but some like or elf kind of things. The KISS comic was one of my first ones as a young metal head. I wasn’t even a metal head back then. I think I discovered KISS in like the seventh or eighth grade.
It was a big deal they were in comic books. It was like crossing over somehow. They (KISS) were accepted, you know what I mean? And they sort of went into that medium and a lot of people really dug that. Sooo, I don’t know if you’re allowed to do this or not, but can you give sort of an overview breakdown of the storyline in The Burner? Do you have an idea of where you want it to go?
Peterson: Well he is from… they’ve discovered in I think outside of our galaxy (the Milky Way galaxy) this planet coming around every two thousand years, or I’m not sure of the actual time period, but it’s either called The Planet X or the Red Dragon. It kind of was weird when I heard that. On my new cover to Dominion, we have a planet where the dragon is awakening and coming out of the planet. That’s where The Burner is from. We’re kind of taking the ideology of the whole, you know, astronaut theory of aliens coming in here and influencing us and whatnot. The Burner has come here. He’s a time traveler who came here on different occasions being summoned and called through more pagan gods of Norse Viking kind of stuff helping out with the crusade of Christianity but more towards the pagan side. Basically finding a wolf in sheep’s clothing and in this first preview he kind of does a little skipping around on that but he ends up being drawn to me in this time period, and I’m writing all this new type of music, Dragonlord music, black metal influenced. And just visions that I think are mine, but they’re his.
So he’s drawn to wondering “who is seeing my life,” you know? Or things that I’ve done in the past. He has two companions instead of wolves I picked two bears as more of a Northern California thing. Named them after kind of my heritage I’m Mexican and Swedish, so the bears are called Osso which means Bear and Bjorn in Swedish. So they are Osso and Bjorn. So just to, you know, kind of slowly making my way towards a bigger storyline which we’re working on right now. But the first one introduces where he’s from, you know, from the void and showing his world which is fiery and has dragons and some of his tools to get around, like wormholes. Short little pieces like clips in time that show where he’s been and him finding me. And then runs into another like Cthulhu type of demon who is plotting to get both of us. So it kind of leaves it open to where it’s going to go, but it’s been pretty fun reading it. It’s an enjoyable read, I think.
Check out part one of the “Making of Dominion” web series here.
Let’s step back to Dominion for a bit. How long did it take you to record that album and over how many sessions, the actual physical recording of it.
Peterson: You know it’s probably pretty much like a normal record, maybe a little bit longer towards the mixing. Mixing took longer because when we would come back to it several months later or maybe even like some years later, we were just catching up. The guy that I was mixing that had gotten new equipment, new microphone trees, and different working theories. After working with Testament and Machine Head and working with Ted Nugent and all the different artists that he works with and applying some new sounds and whatnot to the mix. We tweaked out one song, and then we realized that we actually had a better mix of how to fit everything in because there is a lot of different instruments on the Dragonlord record. Not only your typical fast drums and guitar often screaming and singing and whatnot, but there are also string orchestrations and flutes and French horns and trumpets and try to mix all that in at the same time was a burden. But I think we got it right. So that’s one thing about taking our time… I think a lot of bands often imagine being able to go back and tweak their material a little bit. I actually got to do that, and it was pretty cool.
That element of symphony and orchestration is on the majority of the songs on Dominion. I take it that was intended on your end? You wanted to pursue that and explore it?
Peterson: Yes definitely. Juan Urteaga was more leaning towards you know making the guitars more in the front. And then the other stuff more abstract in the background but there were too many details of things that I had done, and Lyle Livingston and I had done to the orchestrated parts of the choirs and the harmonies and whatnot and a lot of what we’re missing. When I went but gave instructions on what I wanted, and I had it actually go on there, and we had to just sit down together and just really fine tune everything so that probably took the longest, I think. I think I finally pulled the plug on it and said: “That’s as good as it’s going to get.”
Did you find it easier or harder to control all aspects of guitars on this album. You mentioned that you did everything you did the bass and all leads, you’ve done it all. Did you find that aspect challenging?
Peterson: Yeah, but I knew exactly what I wanted so I didn’t bother trying to find somebody to do it. I’m kind of a closet bass player myself. I’ve been playing bass for a long time, so I knew what licks needed to be where and rather than trying to describe to somebody I’d just spend a couple days working on it; what was going to be like a demo of what I wanted. After we recorded it we were listening to what I did, and Juan said “Shit, why look around for somebody else to do this? You’ve already got it!”
Here’s the just-released official video for the new track “Northlanders!”
Now you mentioned that you have done shows in the past. Is that something that you would consider doing again if you’re your schedule will allow for it? Touring this album?
Peterson: Oh totally. Yeah I would love to, especially do some of the older stuff mixed with the stuff I would love to portray that live. It would be cool.
What would that look like for you? You’d obviously need to get a touring guitarist and touring bassist. Have you thought through what that might look like and who you might go to?
Peterson: No, that bridge hasn’t been crossed yet. I think first that the main goal is just to utilize the whole platform of having the comic and the storyboard that works really well with getting the point across. That’s a whole different platform that I thought could be something cool. Doing those stories and even, you know, doing some animated clips. I mean my main goal would be to have like a short mini-series animation. Not like Dethklok but more you know if you did something… I’m a real big fan of Berserker. I don’t know if you’ve seen some of the newer Berserker stuff. You know, rather than being like a goofy comedy comic with music where it’s kind of a pun towards it. I would I would want it to be more like a future Braveheart, and make it a comic or an animation. But yeah, that idea, I do have has some players picked out if I was going to do something like that, tour it.
I think it could be cool to see this on the road and certainly what I hear on the new album is pretty intricate. Side note: I would definitely call that song you did with Leah a duet. You guys play off each other throughout the song. It’s a duet.
Peterson: Yeah I mean it’s just my problem is, and this is another reason the record took so long, my budget for this record was good enough to just get in there and do it. But I’m so friggin’ picky, and you know, I mean I wanted a real orchestra. It was just pulling favors. Getting Leah to come out. And you know she was going to come out and do like one or two songs of the crazier ones. And after she had done them I realized (and I think she’d even realized) that we pretty much need to do this all now because the difference between the keyboards and then putting her in there was so natural and real feeling – the keyboard versions were cool, but it almost sounded like a demo now.
So for me to do it live I would definitely need to get some kind of live orchestration. I definitely wouldn’t want to go out there like a new band (which Dragonlord almost is but then again it’s not) if I can’t make it somehow special and get some kind of backing to make it look how I really want it to look, you know what I mean? I don’t want to go on stage in the middle of the day with no production and start over like that at all. It just wouldn’t come across, and I wouldn’t do that. I don’t have the time to spend years building it up. But, I know there’s a way, and I’m kind of working on it to where maybe it would be possible to do a handful of shows and get that kind of production. You know, having some real props onstage and really good lighting and sound and whatnot. The right players and maybe me even not playing guitar on a couple songs and just focusing on getting the vocals right live. Then maybe having a guitar thrown to me and I do the solo? I don’t know. Those are just some ideas. Just to do it right so people could see that the true vision of it rather than starting over… but that’s just thinking out loud.
Can you talk a bit about the inspirations you drew from creating this album. That can be books, movies, music, history, anything that you think came into it.
Peterson: Well, first of all, it was the whole Red Dragon planet which gave me the whole idea of the intro “The Entrance.” Have you heard the whole record?
Now before you go, see part two of the “Making of Dominion” web series here. Part three is coming soon.
I have been playing it pretty steadily for the past couple of days. I was given an advance digital stream.
Peterson: Ok, so the way it opens up to the gates opening and that’s the dragon coming out of what is almost like the halls of Valhalla, it’s like the gates are opening to the kingdom of the Planet X where The Burner is coming out. And he knows he’s got to go on this journey. And then the riff, which sounds backward, is almost him going through a worm or wormhole and seeing all these different things that have happened on Earth in time. Then landing in the dominion, which the album cover, you know and just visions of life. This is stuff seen on the cover. It’s got the death mask and the guy with the Newton balls he’s holding out. And there’s a lot of symbols of ‘three.’ It’s the third Dragonlord record. There’s a lot of different hidden threes here and there. It’s peculiar too. I did a photo shoot, and the three main photos that I have are a cavern shot, a cathedral shot and a catacomb shot. And it’s all the letter C, which is the third letter. That these three pictures that we all thought were the best ones? Strange. It’s just so many weird little things. I’m a little superstitious I guess, so I’m trying to go “what does it all mean?” (laughs) But um, there is a lot of stuff to do stuff to do with universal stuff going on in the world. You know, maybe describing abstractly Dominion is more talking about what’s going on in the genesis of the Bible today. Maybe a little bit? Not so word-for-word, but more of an outside view. And then you know a lot of songs in an abstract way talking about that similar stuff.
And then comes the fantasy stuff; like mythology like “Lamia” which is kind of like a Greek siren. That was one of my favourite songs. That one came out really cool. That was that that whole riff Lyle had at the beginning was influenced by a band called Misanthropic, this French quartet who are pretty cool. “Love of the Damned” being influenced by Dante’s Inferno. Where Beatrice gets taken as a hostage to the prince of darkness but she ends up falling in love with him. “The Discord of Melkor” about the first days of Lord Of The Rings. You know, where did Mordor come from, where did Sauron come from. You know, which goes back to “Into the Void” of Aulë and the Ainur which were angels creating the symphony to create life in the void which turned into Middle Earth being plagued by Melkor who was kind of like Lucifer.
I think Tolkien took the idea of the Genesis Bible and did his own painting of it and this is just kind of my interpretation, as a massive fan of Lord Of The Rings just kind of describing first age, I guess. And it worked out with the song. This is a song that took forever to write. I didn’t know what to do with it. There’s so much going on, and it’s so fast, I just didn’t want to scream bloody murder on it. It needed to be more profound. The song is very deep – especially the middle section with the whole orchestra. It fit in perfectly with how Aulë had through his mind gave his angels the Ainur the sounds and of course, Melkor distorting it, and it gets put back into place. And you know of course, when he comes to earth he becomes his own entity. It’s like Lucifer becomes Satan. Melkor becomes Morgoth, the creator of orcs and dragons and Mordor and all of that good stuff.
So I would finish up with this if there is something that you ideally hope that your listeners will take away from Dominion, what would that hope be?
Peterson: Just the true essence of Dragonlord of what my vision was, and to getting it right. As a guitar player, just the solos on it I think are some of the best work that I’ve done to get it getting a lot of the older school influences in like Pat Travers meets Randy Rhoads. And that it’s not just shredding… there’s a lot of themes and a lot of story in the solos I think. So that’s kind of cool. I’m pretty happy with the way it all came out, but basically, I think, especially with songs like “Love of the Damned” having a song like that has a lot of old-school influences like Sabbath but keeping the darker satanic visuals and you know making it not so bloody and gory. Getting the storylines right and just being a little bit more confident on everything – the mixes, the sounds, the guitars, you know getting Leah involved in it and Alex Bent on the drums? That was a big thing for me too, having a very very strong foundation all around. I got exactly what I wanted with Alex.