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Whenever I read “Dave Ingram”, I immediately think of the Ingram MAC-10 submachine gun. Considering how beastly Dave Ingram’s vocals sound, I’m not too far off when it comes to ferocity. This man is a god damn adultery-committing, carefree sinning monster on the mic. They aren’t guttural like Chris Barnes at the time, but they do the job as good as Karl Willets ever could. Yes, the vocals would fit well with any Bolt Thrower album since I hear very little difference between them: mournful growling; demonic and mutilated as can be.
Now when it comes to riffs, you can bet the experience will be brutal, but also family friendly. I say this because the song titles can be misleading: “Painted Skulls” may sound like a typical death metal extravaganza, but it’s a pretty bouncy, death ‘n roll tune that’s easy on the ears. The entire album isn’t like this, but it can lead to some surprising moments when you’re not expecting it. Most of the time, yes, the pace charges forward to accomplish slaying the weak and throwing poseurs off of the bridge or torturing them within the city on the cover art (I’ll go into detail on that later on). The tone of the album isn’t really sinister or grotesque, but I would clump it with others as being a dark album. It isn’t really melodic, but most of the riffs do drench themselves in a gutless veil of thrashy catchiness.
Actually, the album comes off as very playful and innocent, rather than stern and evil, which is really hard to imagine. Every time I hear this I don’t really picture a band that strictly follows an ideology (like Benton from Deicide), but rather plays death metal very skillfully in a fun, thrashy manner. Drumming helps add on to this tone since it doesn’t just hammer away blast beats and joins the riffs in running around, be it through your head or in the ancient city on the cover (hold on a little longer, I’ll get to it). Bass support never goes beyond backing the guitars, which themselves are very thick and rich. I can’t really see the bass doing anything else to the same effect, since the songs are pretty short by my standards. Still, the album manages to stretch things out to nearly fifty minutes, which doesn’t sound right considering everything goes by pretty quickly.
So, the cover art… I remember seeing it years ago and, like many of you, I was captivated. Such detail, color, vigor, and skill – it could only be done by Dan Seagrave. Honestly, this cover art remains one of the best in death metal (I even have a poster of it on my wall) and there is so much to look at in it: the red, illuminated torture chamber, what looks like a miniature rendition of the Tower of Babel (or just some random ziggurat), a bottomless pit on the other side of the bridge, and much, much more. So awesome, and it gives you more to hold on for your buck when it comes down to it. All we need now is a Seagrave Open Air taking place in the artwork so that we can get a metal equivalent to the famous Along the River During the Qingming Festival paintings.
So anyway, this album is a unique experience but sounds fairly ordinary on the outside. It sort of lives up to its cover art, but does more justice on a personal level and holds a few inside jokes that I ended up finding (the family friendly deal). It easily stands out in Benediction’s catalog and that of death metal’s glory days, but you won’t know it unless you hear for yourself.