By Greg Maki
See the corpse-painted nuns of Dogma—taking their names from mythological female demons Nixe, Lamia, Abrahel and Lilith—and you might expect to hear a barrage of inhuman shrieks and wails, impenetrable walls of guitars and relentless blast beats, all brought to life through lo-fi production and probably recorded somewhere in the frozen wilderness of Norway. But like Ghost, the image of Dogma is far more sinister than the music the quartet creates. In this case, the sound is pure classic heavy metal with topnotch modern production, augmented by strings, piano, organ and keyboards—creating an atmosphere spooky enough that this could be a collection of lost ‘80s horror movie themes.
Thematically, one might expect a band such as this to concern itself with topics of death, the devil and the like. But the women of Dogma have more on their minds, spreading a message of complete personal liberation (as long as you don’t harm others). There’s even a reason for the image beyond “Hey, look, sexy nuns!” According to a statement on the band’s website, “Nuns follow a god. They live without enjoyment and claim to abstain from sexual encounters. We subvert the iconography of nuns because they represent the exact opposite of what we preach. They are not free. Like many characters in the human race, they deprive themselves of the richness of a full life. We believe in complete freedom, unbound by a belief in any ‘god.’ Each person is their own god.” (The band further elaborates on its philosophy with a set of “principles and commands,” which you can explore here.)
Dogma’s self-titled debut album works best as a whole, with a logical flow from song to song musically and lyrically, building and surging as it progresses to end with its three strongest tracks. The easy choice for the best of the bunch is the menacing “Pleasure from Pain,” which has a strong gothic feel courtesy of a choir, strings, an evil guitar riff and a wicked keyboard solo. “Father I Have Sinned” was the world’s first exposure to Dogma in March 2022, and it’s easy to understand why with its earnest devotion to classic ‘80s metal and earworm of a hook. “The Dark Messiah,” with echoes of a melody from the opening “Forbidden Zone” (which also pops up in “Bare to the Bones” during an instrumental break bordering on progressive territory), slows the tempo a bit for a dynamic, dramatic ending.
Maybe I’m a sucker for a good gimmick—or maybe just a sucker for a band that can pull off a catchy, melodic metal tune with a seductive jazz interlude (“Free Yourself”). Either way, I kind of love everything about this record. It’s rare for a band to emerge as fully formed as Dogma, which has given us one of the best debut albums in recent memory.
MNRK Heavy – November 17, 2023