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I am a lucky man, because I possess a vinyl copy of "Dark Is the Season". Isn't it fantastic to see the birds flying out off the eye sockets? In my humble opinion, the EP is graced with a really brilliant artwork. It's surreal, ominous, highly atmospheric and it does not glorify violence. That's the way it should be. However, the 12" shares the problem of so many comparable outputs. It suffers from a slightly insubstantial structure. Only two new tracks are put together with two recycled songs and a cover version. It is thus good to know that the quartet of Benediction makes the best of a bad job.
In 1992, Nuclear Blast was a totally different company than it is today. Markus Staiger did not yet have the financial might to sign each and every band which was hanging around somewhere in the universe. Bands like Pungent Stench, Incubus or Benediction, that were slowly rising from the underground, represented the target group of the company. And the British formation left no doubt that it was among the newcomers with a great potential. The hellish adaption of Anvil's "Forged in Fire" made it obvious: Benediction were on a mission of terror. They ennobled the good song fundament with low tuned guitars and the demonic growling of Dave Ingram, who delivered some of the deepest tones that metal from the United Kingdom has ever brought forth. Slowness met brutality in order to generate a sonic apocalypse. The result was and still is absolutely amazing. Hard to imagine that it still can get heavier.
The two new songs reflected a very uncompromising approach as well. The riffs of "Foetus Noose" cut with surgical precision while the double bass revealed its full force. The fast-paced opener came over the listener like an earthquake or a meteorite impact. Unbelievably heavy, absolutely radical and equipped with the power to fill the waiting room of the local neurologist. The ironclad and diabolic sound made clear that Benediction did not intend to tell jokes. The somewhat clumsy title track, the second new song of the 12", confirmed this statement. It did not reach the high velocity or the brilliance of "Foetus Noose", but it deepened the profound heaviness of the EP and its lethal aggression.
The new recordings of two tracks - one from "The Grand Leveller" and one from the debut - filled the B side, and yes, it was a very typical, unspectacular B side. Decent songs, no doubt, but nobody needed these new versions. Nevertheless, for those who had not come in contact with these pieces so far, Benediction presented a strong product with two killer tracks and three solid numbers. All in all, the EP cemented the reputation of the hungry and currish band and it illustrated their further opportunities. Despite the rather useless re-recordings of the B side, "Dark Is the Season" deserves a good rating.
Benediction's "Dark is the Season" EP is the band's second album to feature the vocal talents of Dave Ingram, and the first to feature relatively "clean" production (compared to the raw sound of the band's first two albums). On this release, you will find two exclusive tracks ("Foetus Noose" & "Dark is the Season"), a cover song ("Forged in Fire" - originally recorded by Anvil), a re-recording of a track from "Subconscious Terror" with a new singer and better production values, and then a re-release of "Jumping at Shadows" which appears to be the exact same version that was already on "The Grand Leveller" in 1991.
The overall quality of the material here is very high. The two exclusive tracks are both incredible, with "Foetus Noose" foreshadowing the slightly thrashier and more riff-oriented approach the band would go on to take the following year with their magnum opus, "Transcend the Rubicon", and "Dark is the Season" reaching back to the slow, brooding, and extremely dark sound found on many songs on 1991's "The Grand Leveller". The track's title is very apt...the opening riff and accompanying lead has a very unsettling vibe to it, and don't even get me started on the acoustic guitars that close out the track. Pure horror, right there!! Especially after the killer Mercyful Fate-esque riff that is right before it. Both of these tracks are worth a purchase of this EP alone (along with the incredible album artwork), but sadly seem to have been lost in Benediction's discography.
The band's cover of Anvil's "Forged in Fire" is actually very well done as well. I have actually never heard that Anvil song, but this cover is very slow, extremely dark, and (though I'm sure it's no surprise) HEAVY AS FUCK. For some reason, all the vocals on this song were growled by none other than the man himself - Barney Greenway (who growled on the band's debut album, "Subconscious Terror") and the result is very cool, considering Greenway had already abandoned this style of growling by 1992, so it's cool to see him dig it back up for this recording. Of course, I wonder why they wouldn't have just got Ingram to growl on this track? The re-recording of "Experimental Stage" was very well done as well. It's very interesting to hear a song from that album performed with "decent" production values, as well as with Ingram. Some of the drums were changed a bit, and the listener will probably get an overall better feel of how truly massive this track is from this recording.
On the downside, I don't see why the band chose to include "Jumping at Shadows", as it is literally the exact same recording as the one on "The Grand Leveller". This is a fine track, kind of a half-and-half between slow and fast stuff, and brooding and with a very dark atmosphere (exclusing the cheesy "MOST FUFILLING!!" line!!!) and an absolutely incredible Autopsy-esque riff towards the end (about 4:30). It's a rather useless addition to this EP though, as it's the same recording as the album. That would be understandable if this were called the "Jumping at Shadows" EP (similar to Amorphis and the "Black Winter Day" EP), but otherwise it's just pointless.
Anyway, this is a fine release and something that all death metalheads should try to track down, mostly for the two originals and awesome album cover (it reminds me of Halloween for some reason). Obviously, the un-initiated Benediction fan should check out "Transcend the Rubicon" first, and then "the Grand Leveller", before listening to this one.