Domine has received a fair amount of attention for their 1997 debut Champion Eternal and their subsequent albums, many of which also cover the subject of Elric of Melnibone. Elric is the subject of Michael Moorcock’s epic fantasy saga which began in the 1960s and became an exceptionally popular subject for 80s metal, likely due to the character’s pale skin, self reflectiveness, and, nihilism- qualities to which many metal fans could relate. Moorcock’s own love of rock music, which went as far as to actively work with bands like Deep Purple and Hawkwind, probably made his works even more accessible to those desiring to make metal music. While Domine was far from the first metal band to utilize his works as a source of inspiration, it was one of the first not from the UK or the US, and thus something of a novelty, to an extent at least.
Taking little inspiration from other Italian heavy/power metal acts like Dark Quarterer or Adramelch, Bearer of the Sword does, however, bear a fair amount of similarity to some US heavy/power metal bands who had more of an epic bent, such as Omen and Manowar. The use of galloping, midpaced riffs to create a larger, battle-esque soundscape would certainly be emulated by many later on in the Italian/Greek epic metal scenes, popularized by modern bands like Battleroar, Wotan, and Ironsword (yes, I know they’re not Italian, but they bear enough of a musical similarity to warrant inclusion).
Certainly other bands of the 80s and early 90s were experimenting with similar styles, but again Domine seemed to be pioneers of it outside of the US and UK, and did take it in a significantly different direction from what most NWOBHM and USPM bands were doing. While, being somewhat experimental, some parts are a bit rough, all in all the demo showcases a level of ambition that pays off, with occasional softer, mystical sections that create a strong counterpoint to the rest of the songs, very much in the vein of something like Manowar’s “Battle Hymn” (the “To the battle we ride / We crossed a starlit sky” section), and their use of neoclassical flourishes, while not as major a part of their sound as with someone like Helstar, is incorporated very well and is another distinguishing feature.
Vocalist Stefano Mazzella also sounds quite good, particularly since the 1989 demo, where his performance seemed a bit flat and uncharismatic, compared to this demo where he gives a commanding performance that, if not on the level of greats like JD Kimball and Eric Adams, is still more than up to par with the compositions found here and complements them quite effectively. Aside from one relatively weaker track, “Midnight Meat Train,” which doesn’t fit with the rest of the demo in musical or lyrical theme (referring, assumedly, to the Clive Barker short story of the same name, rather than to the works of Moorcock as the other songs do), the only real problem here is a moderately rough production, which may be offputting to those who are used to the band’s debut full-length Champion Eternal or with the modern Italian epic metal scene. However, in comparison to 80s demos in general, it comes off somewhat favorably, with a sound that is far from unlistenable and has a decent amount of crunch, and is on par with something such as Enchanter’s demos, to name a band in a similar style and time period. Overall, this is a strong precursor to the band’s more well-known later discography, and despite not employing the talents of the iconic future singer Morby, is still well worth a listen to fans of the style and this simply interested in the history/evolution of the overall sound, as long as you can get past a moderately unpolished production.
Highlights: “The Ship of the Lost Souls,” “Uriel, the Flame of God”