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First I must say that I'm very content with my decision to give Benediction's sophomore effort a chance after listening to the highly mediocre "Subconscious Terror." After hearing all the talk of how these guys were similar to Bolt Thrower (My favorite death metal band), I was extremely disappointed with my first impression of these guys, but luckily "The Grand Leveller" is light years ahead of Benediction's previous effort. Everything about this record is better: the songwriting, riffs, vocals, solos, drumming and everything else.
On "Subconscious Terror" everything seemed so bland and predictable. I don't recall any moment where my head was banging or I was intrigued by a single solo or riff. On this record, however, Benediction decided to change things up structure wise. Not every song is written in the same fashion, and there is plenty of variety to be found here, riff-wise anyway. The undeniable Bolt Thrower influence is present once those doomy melodies on "Jumping At Shadows" enter the fray, while "Opulence of the Absolute" features some great tremolo sections that would make the American masters proud, as well as some midpaced riffs that are absolutely crushing. "The Grand Leveller" is most reminiscent of the band's fellow countrymen (and woman) in it's creeping, midpaced mayhem but the title track here shows off the band's ability to go at much faster tempos and it sounds awesome.
Even though the debut full-length of Benediction featured the legendary Barney Greenway of Napalm Death fame, the vocals on "The Grand Leveller" fit the music much better. Dave Ingram's vocal performance here adds a darker atmosphere to the sound, whereas Barney didn't really add anything to the music, he was just growling in front of the already mediocre music. The drumming on here isn't much to brag about, but it did it's job just fine so no complaints here. The bass is pretty good throughout, thumping along audibly while also providing some nice fills on the intros to "Born in a Fever" and "Jumping At Shadows."
Some might complain about the overall comparison of Benediction to the more well known Bolt Thrower because it makes them seem like a subordinate, but it's definitely a compliment. "The Grand Leveller" is a fantastic death metal record and one of the best to come from the UK, so if you haven't heard these guys then you now have some homework to do.
"Jumping At Shadows"
"Opulence of the Absolute"
Originally written for Nightmare Reality Webzine.