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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.