Review: Various Artists ‘Döminance And Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult’

Tribute albums are often hit-and-miss affairs and usually at their best when there’s some real heart involved. That’s certainly the case with Döminance And Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult. The brainchild of former Poison Idea drummer and long-time Blue Öyster Cult fan Steve Hanford, the album was originally conceived to raise funds for his studio. After struggles with addiction and a series of spells in prison, Hanford decided to make a new start for himself, joining other bands including The Skull and Ape Machine, and getting to work as a respected producer.

Döminance And Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult

Tragically, he died of a heart attack on May 21, 2020, and never lived to see the album through to its release. Luckily, most of it had been completed, so collaborator and Ape Machine guitarist Ian Watts stepped in to mix the record and let Hanford‘s vision loose on the world. Now, it serves, as not only a tribute to one of rock’s most creative and multifaceted bands but to Hanford‘s dedication and determination too.

BÖC‘s third album Secret Treaties is regarded by many fans, (myself included) as their best, so it’s no surprise that almost a quarter of the tracks on the album are taken from it, including opener ME 262. Mondo Machine deliver a faithful yet thoroughly energised rendition, and it serves as the perfect way to kickstart the album. This comp’s namesake title track Dominance And Submission is another of these, and another particular highlight by the intriguingly-named Cosmo-Daemonic Telegraph Company. Featuring Hanford himself (AKA Thee Slayer Hippy) along with Queens of the Stone Age luminaries Nick Oliveri and Mark Lanegan to boot, it’s a slick and accomplished version, very faithful to the original but with a definitive swagger that’s all its own.

Godzilla is one of two tracks originally on Spectres – another of the band’s best-known albums and songs. It’s a well-stomped furrow already ploughed by Fu Manchu, and here, Howling Giant enlist that band’s guitarist Bob Balch and manage to make it even more stoner-heavy than the perineal Californians did, and it really works. Fireworks is Spectres‘ most introspective track, and Year Of The Cobra (with the help of Hanford) manage to make it a more engaging track than the original here, with some thoughtful arrangements, moody keys and haunting vocals – an unexpected standout.

a satisfying and diverse tribute album which is sure to be of interest to fans but also serves as an effective introduction to the greatest of thinking man’s rock band…

One of the notable things for me about BÖC is that four of them were vocalists. It was more important for them to find the right voice for a track – or let its composer sing it – than have a consistent ‘frontman presence’ for the purposes of image, and I always respected them for that. On Wings Wetted Down, it’s good to hear some female vocals from Andrea Vidal (guesting here with a brooding IT) which offer a captivating interpretation of BÖC bassist Joe Bouchard‘s lesser-heard pipes.

Veteran Of The Psychic Wars is an unnerving, synth-laden stand out from what was for many a comeback album for BOCFire Of Unknown Origin. Main vocalist Eric Bloom made numerous lyrical forays into the works of science fiction and fantasy guru Michael Moorcock throughout the band’s career but went one better here by getting the man himself to co-write the lyrics. On this album, it’s paid tribute to in powerful fashion by Ape Machine, who deliver a faithful cover equally brimming with tension and atmosphere.

Perennial BÖC live favourite from back in the day, Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll is everything its name suggests, a straight-ahead rock number taken from the band’s self-titled debut. So, who better to give it the tribute it deserves than hardcore veterans Zeke, who deliver a suitably dirty and energised version, with an angry punk edge that really drives the track along.

Rounding things off with the inevitable (Don’t Fear) The Reaper are psychedelic rockers Spindrift, who deliver a thankfully alternative version of BÖC‘s best-known number. It’s a brilliant rock song make no mistake, but it’s the only track by the band that anybody who is not a fan knows and is very much BÖC‘s Stairway To Heaven in that regard. Spindrift however, manage to focus on the track’s melancholic edge, and in a brave move, even alter that most iconic of intro riffs. It’s definitely what’s needed when tackling such an iconic number though, and it’s refreshing to see a completely different interpretation here.

All in all, this is a satisfying and diverse tribute album which is sure to be of interest to fans but also serves as an effective introduction to the greatest of thinking man’s rock bands as well.

Label: Ripple Music

Scribed by: Simon Brotherton