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This is an album that has been quite hard to fully enjoy for myself. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was entirely mediocre and I’m amazed that I gave the sophomore a chance. Still, a few listens later and it didn’t really grow on me, but I did start notice subtle little parts of the music that made the whole better. “Subconscious Terror” is not my new favorite death metal album, nor is it anywhere close, but I do appreciate it more. Benediction’s approach to death metal on this record isn’t entirely groundbreaking as they resemble a good deal of the Swedish bands, though without the chainsaw tone, but they do have bits and pieces of other notable acts like Autopsy and Bolt Thrower present in their music.
Benediction’s formula for writing songs on this record didn’t provide much variation as a majority of the riffage throughout “Subconscious Terror” consists of plodding to midpaced chord progressions, mixed with your typical tremolo passages. The title track, “Divine Ultimatum” and “Spit Forth the Dead” all follow the same precedent well enough to get the listener’s head banging, but there isn’t much accomplished as far as creating some memorable music. “Eternal Eclipse” is one of the better tracks of the bunch, simply because it reeks of Autopsy influence. The riffs and atmosphere may not be as brooding, but they definitely sound similar in structure, and the incredible drumming performance reminds one of the phenomenal Chris Reifert.
Barney’s vocals aren’t entirely impressive on this album (he definitely would shine with his later band, though), they were just there, really. His low growls fronted the riff-driven music well enough, but he didn’t take the overall sound over the top like other vocalists of the times. The rhythm section on this album was very significant in the sound. The bass added some heaviness to the music and had a couple fills here and there, while Ian Treacy’s drumming performance was stellar to say the least. He had plenty of terrific moments (intro to “Eternal Eclipse” especially), but it was just a solid performance displayed throughout that made his drumming that good. The fills, d-beats, double-bass sections and everything else was spot on. Benediction definitely would go on to create some vastly improved death metal, but “Subconscious Terror” isn’t a terrible way to start off your career, as it has its moments. It just may take a while for it to click…
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine.
It was the Anno Domini 1990, and Barney Greenway was still in Benediction, Napalm Death were still playing 1st class Grindcore (although I prefer 'Harmony Corruption'), and England was the home of the old school riff attacks and pounding, dark and creepy Death Metal, and Bolt thrower, hehe. It just happened that Benediction released their first Full Lenght in 1990, with Barney Greenway, who later on moved to his full time position in Napalm Death. It happened to be Benediction's groundbreaking release, lead by the due of Darren Brookes and Peter Rewinski. That was the good ol' time of Death Metal,...times change.
Today this release doesn't seem that much groundbreaking, but back then, most people did go off to this one, and heads were banged and mosh pits were fought in. And the intros still sounded spookey, and not perverse, like nowadays. From the intro, over the title and second track, which actually don't catch my total attention, to the song which makes you fucking grind - "Grizzled Finale"; some people might know this song from the 'Death Is Just the Beginning" sampler, released by Nuclear Blast 8if I'm correct). The song simply kicks ass. Dark, groovey and low-tuned riffs are making this song a real goer. Especially Barney's vocals, being a trademark for bear-like growls (fucking maniac).
If you take a good listening to this record, you will feel a certain spirit in the music. It's the spirit of bands who played this stuff from their guts! There is no brutal technic behund the songs, and no harmonized vocals, and no drummer who eats skins and sticks for breakfast. Just good old school Death Metal. Unfortunately, this kind of Death Metal has almost no fans today, except for the people that grew up with this kind of music, who are today family guys, warking people, and they are dying out, just like the spirit of this music. Only a few new bands keep up the spirit of this kind of bands, and it's due to those bands, that Death Metal hasn't ceased to be a totally forgotten genre in Metal music. Fuck Blekk Metal, listen to this and get yourself some of the ol' ultra violence!
Spooky introductions are crap. Unfortunately, lots of metal bands have tried them over the years, like Benediction did here. It seems like back–masked vocals over atmospheric noises are supposed to be scary. The noises weren't very effective, even in 1990.
Luckily, things improve. Kicking off the title track with a rumbling bass drone, Benediction prove very quickly they do things a little differently to the average Death Metal band. For one thing, they show an excellent understanding of dynamics. While most bands were trying to go faster/heavier/more brutal, Benediction were one of the first to reign in the speed and add thunderous mid–paced passages to songs. Slowing down the tempo ups the effectiveness of the drumming on this album in particular. Ian Treacy is of the Mike Sus school of "who gives a shit if it's out of time, as long as it's heavy" drumming, but he really grabs your attention here, with the drums well up in the mix. The bass drum is particularly solid, like dropping bricks on your head.
There's a kind of famous guy doing vocals on this album. Barney Greenway growls his way through the album, in a–typical Death Metal style. It is easy to see why Napalm Death grabbed him permanently after this album. His Hardcore approach to Death Metal vocals made the lyrics easily decipherable, where most death grunts would have rendered them unlistenable. Barney's political awareness surfaced on the track "Divine Ultimatum", making a refreshing break from the satanic and/or gore riddled fare most bands peddled. Elsewhere on the album, there are good doses of blood and guts and Beelzebub, but there are also tales of psychosis and nightmare induced insanity.
To be brutally honest, this album does sound dated, but as a period piece, it is an excellent example of a band already looking to the future of Death Metal while it was still on the rise. This is also on blood and gore splattered vinyl, which is a nice visual touch.