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The mid-1990's were an awkward time for death metal. Many bands began to slow down their sounds, incorporating more elements of hardcore and groove metal (Sepultura, Obituary, Entombed, Massacre, Napalm Death, Desultory, etc.), with other bands seeking out more technical or progressive territory (Morbid Angel, Death, Cannibal Corpse, etc.), or simply breaking up (Autopsy, Disincarnate, Convulse, Demigod, etc.). In addition, album covers stopped being the hand-drawn pieces of gory, abstract occultism that they originally were, and began to become more computerized and "mechanical"-looking (we can thank Machine Head for that! Fuck you, Robb Flynn!!). Of course, there were also a number of bands that stayed true to themselves and passed through this awkward time without batting an eyelash (Bolt Thrower, Deicide, Vader, Unleashed, Dismember, etc.). Whether or not Benediction are one of these bands, is up for debate.
In 1995, Benediction released "The Dreams You Dread", an album that slowed things down for the band, and capitalized on the hardcore-influence that was always an obvious (if not totally underplayed) influence on the band's music. That said, this is hardly much of a "departure" for the band, it still sounds like Benediction. However, when you listen to the insipid two-note chugging that serves as the opening "riff" for "Saneless Theory", it becomes clear that there is some hardcore influence at play. That said, the increased focus on breakdowns and chugging in that song does not keep the band from delivering a simple-yet-melodic lead that would make Schuldiner applaud, and certainly sets the band far apart from the world of hardcore. The solos are the first thing I would like to point out: they are fucking awesome. I have never before really payed a whole lot of attention to Benediction's solo-work, but the solos on this album really grab your attention (and your balls).
See, some songs on this album do sound like they could have been played by a hardcore band ("Saneless Theory" & "Answer to Me"), whereas others are more-or-less just mid-paced death metal not unlike the band's earlier work, or something like Bolt Thrower or Asphyx ("Denial", "Where Flies are Born", "Path of the Serpent"), and a couple even jump back to the band's classic sound and completely do away with mid-tempos and groove in favor of speed and a pure death metal approach in the only songs that actually have any true speed to them on the entire album ("Certified?" & "The Dreams You Dread"). It's really hard to pin down exactly what the band were trying to do with this album, as each song seems to go into a different direction. You might notice some Death-like melodies and solos on "Where Flies are Born", but then be floored by the simplicity of the groove-based "Answer to Me". You might be revelling in the omni-present hardcore influence of "Down on Whores (Leave them all for Dead", and then be knocked off your feet by the pure speed and thrashiness of "Certified?". In an extreme example, the song "Negative Growth" has the listener listening to some sub-par Celtic Frost worship for over half the song before a random "Individual Thought Patterns"-era Death riff pops up.
In a way, this is good. There is something for everyone, and the album offers something new with each listen. Even as someone who does not like hardcore or groove metal music, I can appreciate that even for these genres, the songs are good and listenable. However, the album is lop-sided. It's still obvious where the band's strengths lie: pure death fucking metal. The best songs are the more death metal-oriented ones: the extremely catchy grooves of "Denial" that comes across as an unearthly marriage of Celtic Frost and Asphyx, or the melodic and extremely memorable "Where Flies are Born", etc. The more experimental songs are okay, but they are generally kind of boring and rather monotonous, relying too much on groove and not enough on genuine substance. Let's point back to the fucking stupid opening riff to "Saneless Theory" as an example...totally, utterly pathetic bullshit, right there! Or how about the stupid riffs and ideas that plague "Greifgiver"? Or the repetitive "Soulstream", which taunts the listener with a cool riff, before repeating basically the same damn thing for the entire song, before an awful Machine Head-esque riff takes a massive shit on everything?
Dave Ingram also sounds terrible on this album. His once-powerful death grunts are weak and lifeless. There is no power at all on this album, just a bodiless shout that does not even come close to his past work. I heard that he excuses this as a problem with "the mix", but I'm not so sure if that's the whole story, just listen to the album and you'll see what I mean.
Overall, this album could be viewed as an album that pays tribute to the band's beginnings. You will hear death metal that brings to mind classic bands like Celtic Frost, Death, and Asphyx, but also elements of hardcore that remind you that this album was released in 1995. If you have not listened to any Benediction, don't get this album - go get "The Grand Leveller" or "Transcend the Rubicon". If you do know this band, I would recommend getting this album. Don't expect it to blast you off your feet, but it's a neat little listen with some cool moments, and some not-so-cool moments. Certainly better than what Massacre, Sepultura, Napalm Death, Entombed, Desultory, and possibly Obituary were doing during this time.
This album, 'The Dreams You Dread', is not Benediction's demo reissued, but the band's 4th studio album from over a decade ago. When it was released, it was by and large bashed. Some of you might remember the video for 'Down on Whores (Leave Them All for Dead)' spinning on MTV's Headbanger's Ball, being almost the sole death metal clip doing rounds at time.
'The Dreams You Dread' is very mid-tempo cenotaph of chugging death metal. Basically, this is very old school, basic death metal with nice toppings. Generally, riffs are good and are colored with acoustic and non-distorted playing. And talking about atmosphere, horror melodies (think of Entombed's two first albums) are abound here. Bass guitar is used more than just as the usual "backbeat" instrument. Drumming of new boy Neil Hutton is embellished with little tricks. At times the band accelerate into faster speeds, which is vitally important for this album, but still can't save it from some a tad boring moments on the way. Anyways, most of the songs are very memorable.
Groove is another positive segment, making this "gotta-headbang-to-this-
fucker" kind of album. The production is very clean and nicely balanced, but still heavy and above all, organic. Despite the medium speed, the energy flows well in the music. At least between instrumentalists. I simply do not like too much about Dave Ingram's vocals, which are raw, but simply quite annoying and not diverse. He sounds like less brutal Barney Greenaway (of Napalm Death, also on the first Benediction album). Lyrics include some rather interesting topics. One of them is 'Down on Whores (Leave Them All for Dead)', which text is a collage of quotes from James Maybrick's (probably a.k.a. Jack The Ripper) diary. The other ones are the usual madness, war and death (just what do you expect from a death metal album, eh???).
Death's Chuck Schuldiner took the band on tour, saying that there was no better band to tour with than Benediction, and was his only possible choice for the support act. 'The Dreams You Dread' isn't that good an album, but it has aged more than well and if you opt for groovy, bulldozing death metal, you could do much, much worse than pick this fucker up.
(originally reviewed for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2006)
Ill be honest and frank, Benediction are a band I got into just recently, I am talking only about a month to three weeks so not long but long enough to get two of there albums, those be "Killing Music" and this masterpiece of mid-paced DM "The Dreams You Dread".
Around 1995 the death metal scene was going stagnant and many bands around this time disbanding and breaking up (Carcass comes to mind along with Pestilence), but some braved the waters (Deicide, Death, Cannibal Corpse to name a few) but those releases were not the best they could have been, and I admit is a horrible time for any fan of metal, but lo and behold this hidden masterpiece comes to show me that it was not and that sound and feeling was still there. The band is competent in itself and it shows very well, the bass is audible and can be heard clanking along at higher volumes, the guitars are nice, crunchy and clean sounding, the drums are some of the best sounding I've heard. The vocals are a bit of a problem, Dave Ingram is probally known from being the vocalist of Bolt Thrower from 1998 to 2004, and listening to "Honor Valour Pride" he can get low but on this he seems to sound like a guy with a sore throat and not trying at all, but yet the vocals in themselves are cool, its unknown why but they are.
Onto the songs the album starts with "Down on Whores (Leave Them All for Dead)" the album opener and a sign of things to come, beginning with clean guitars then then a good riff coming in this lasts till 42 seconds in, we get a change in the riffs and the bass pulling a little solo between chords on the guitars, the song proper begins at 2:05 and here we get the full assault of a band so with the music its fucking mind blowing. While the album its mostly mid-paced death metal theres two speedy tracks in being track two "Certified...?" and the title song "The Dreams You Dread", but going in for the music all the tracks stand on there own and hold and draw you in. This is definitely in every sense of the word metal, its no holds barred and doesn't give a shit what you think, it is what it is and doesn't fucking disappoint.
I whole-heartedly recommend this for any lover of death metal you wont regret it.
Stand Out Tracks: Down on Whores, Soulstream, Where Flies are Born, Path of the Serpent.