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Do you guys recall Phantom Blue? If not, they were a ladies band who could stand face to face with most heavy metal guys bands back in the 80’s. The debut was produced by none less than Marty Friedman, exactly when Rust in Peace came out. So, that tells you a little bit of the kind of release we had. Phantom Blue does not exist per se anymore, but their two albums were kick ass, and yes, the entire band was girls.
Nowadays there are two waves of female bands: the overwhelming soprano-orchestral based bands such as Nightwish, Midnattsol, Epica, After Forever, etc. and the more guttural voice styled bands such as Arch Enemy. So, where does Benedictum fall into? Veronica’s sharp vocals seem very much to Gigi Hangach from Phantom Blue.
They are quite a band. This is modern heavy metal, not symphonic, not melodic death metal, just pure delight of heavy metal with modern influences. Now, when I say modern influences I mean down-tuned distortion, half rhythm guitar solos and half slashing but equally as good. ‘Uncreation’ guitar solo will kill you either way.
The majority of the songs fall in the mid tempo pace, but it does not mean they lack power. They definitely know how to use the crunch in the distortion so you don’t get Stratovarious’ speed or any other kind. This is so well performed that you don’t need speed actually. This is simply very cool groove metal feast. They also innovate in regards to the choruses, they are simple phrases and very catchy and in some instances ala Sabbaton, very operatic with very low voices. Double bass drums are ever present and it also sounds cool, because it increases the heaviness without being necessary too fast. The keyboards, for my pleasure, are in the very background and absolutely not overused. So the atmosphere they add is on its precise tone. Again, they do not sin like modern heavy metal bands which bury the guitars due to overuse of keyboards.
Veronica’s high pitched screams are definitely the highest point to mention. Her screams on ‘’#4’’ will hyper ventilate you. This is a girl who can rock your balls out!!! She screams a lot and damn she does it very well. She also uses very low tons and actually, some growling here and there, yes my friends, growling. The good thing about her is, despise the lack of wide range vocal skills, she uses her abilities amazingly. She knows what she can and cannot do.
Lastly, in regards to the production, this album is very well produced. Nowadays you get walls of sound and instrumentation and the overproductions tends, sometimes, to take off the enjoyment of distinguish the instruments. In exchange, you get walls of sound but it lacks what heavy metal slashing instrumentation was all about. This is not the case with Benedictum, Jeff Pilson knew exactly what to do, oh, and the executive producer was Veronica’s herself. This is a girl who knows where she stands.
Being this a debut, I’d say this is great heavy metal to get your hands on. You will not be disappointed at all and you will fall in love with the band. Although some of the songs (Misogyny) could be a little, just a little boring (this, by the way, only when you compare it to the second album) there is plenty of room to enjoy the entire album I will not detail in the comparisons to Dio, since they were already pointed out and perfectly explained. This is quite refreshing since we are attacked with power metal, symphonic power metal, Hollywood metal, melodic progressive metal, etc. and all the fusions you can think of. This is simply kicking ass heavy metal with some modern spicy influences but pure enjoyment, very much in the vein of Halford’s act when he returned with Resurrection and Crucible. This is, in the end, straight-to-the-point-pumping metal with a female vocalist that will rip your guts out.
Great heavy metal. Almost nothing more and certainly nothing less. It delivers everything one might except from the art of fast and smiting music. Performed in the rather old-fashioned, classical, yet timeless and "I'm never getting tired of this stuff" way this album has nothing especially new to say to the world. Well, I don't really give a damn about that, because, what the hell, it tells some old stories with an energy oozing burning sweat out of every armpit. This may be old-fashioned, but it is memorable and full of still individual music. Individual as far as you can go while staying inside the boundaries of the genre.
What Benedictum is essentially offering us here, are nine strong original songs and two equally well-executed cover versions from Black Sabbath's Dio era. Moreso than their own material, these covers (no suprise there) give away the band's influences quite clearly. Dio, in my opinion comes closest in being a blueprint for Benedictum from which on they developed their sound. In its own way epic, but not overly cheesy and just straight-forward rocking heavy metal infused with a little power metal here and there.
Apart from the two covers presented, there is a version of "Rainbow In The Dark" in circulation, which, as far as I know, was recorded during their work on this very album, yet it didn't make it on their debut. A damn shame if you ask me, as the song is an amazing reinterpretation of this classic, faithfully conveying its energy without sounding stale, an achievement not to a small part owed to the highly original voice of Veronica Freeman. Frankly, her vivid vocals are the instrument that make this album stand out (although, truth be told, guitarist Pete Wells does a comparably great job).
Every time up until now, when I played this album to someone I got a puzzled reaction when mentioning that the voice dragging the songs from one echoing refrain to another is actually a woman. Although understandable, I, personally, don't think it's that similar to a male vocalist just because Veronica doesn't manage to shatter safety glass, or for that matter just doesn't sound very feminine at all. Her voicing rings ruff and elegant in your ear at the same time and indeed has a certain burly "manliness" to it, yet the sum of all this parts is a unique and powerful tone. There is nothing wrong with a comparison to other female classic metal vocalists like Doro Pesch or Jutta Weinhold, though, to say it once more, Benedictum's valkyrie is generally rougher. A good analogy, silly or not, would be Tina Turner singing heavy metal (actually a friend of mine got that notion after we saw them live, very fitting actually I think)
Now, all this praise seems to put down the rest of the band a bit and, I have to admit, overall, their efforts kind of pale in comparison (keep in mind that I'm not talking technical prowess here, I'm just expressing my subjective view concerning the "freshness-factor" of this music). Nevertheless, the vocals aside, there is really nothing to criticise here. As brought up before, I was particularily impressed with Pete Wells' technically and musically impressive, precise playing. His guitar work, riffing or otherwise rhythmic dealings are pretty much pure heavy metal, containing a good mixture of menacing motives, pinch harmonics, palm mutes and general pumping pace, while his solos, though not that catchy or melodic, are well-executed and fitting. Oh yeah, and occasionally lightning fast of course, can't go without that.
Summed up, this album for the most part profits greatly from the diverting song structures, the thick and crunchy presence of each track combined with an omnipresent wall of sound and, you might have guessed, the engraving performance of Veronica Freeman. Finally, considering this is a debut, it emphasises its relative quality even more.
Recommended tracks: "Uncreation", "Benedictum", "Ashes To Ashes", "Wicca"
That's the main thought going through your head on hearing this, at least if you've heard much of the man. This is a band that wears it's influences on it's sleeves, and in this case it's no bad thing. It doesn't feel like a simple rip-off or tribute band, rather a band with clear classic metal influence and their own distinct brand of it. And that brand is pure ballsy metal.
First off, Veronica is a top-rate vocalist, and one that really takes you by surprise. I actually thought it was a male vocalist at first, doing a slightly whiney voice (in a good way) ala AC/DC or Tempo of the Damned. This isn't to say she sounds ridiculously gruff, far from it, but she certainly doesn't sound like 99% of female metal vocalists out there, and it's a refreshing change. She has a good pair of lungs and rather than trying to be serene and operatic she just lets rip in good old classic metal style, the influence of bands like Dio or Priest plain even beyond the cover of Rainbow in the Dark (not actually on the album, but it was recorded and I was lucky enough to find it online). It has a deep, roaring quality, conveying epic power and anger at the same time, and should go down well with anyone who doesn't demand extremes like death grunts or opera voices. Veronica has more of a baritone-type voice going on here which carries both soaring power and deep growls.
The guitar and drum work is just as up to scratch, it's clear these guys have had plenty of practice and know what they're doing, the riffs crunch very distinctly, the drums pound along with Veronica's voice to lend it further strength, and the solos that burst out are top quality. Although it's the production that truly stands out, everything is perfectly audible and yet no one aspect is drowned out by any other, giving it big, bold quality because there's so much going through your ears at once. It often feels like quite a "live" album in that sense, having qualities of an auditorium throughout, and that only adds to it's power.
As for overall sound, it's a blending of old-school classic metal and influences from some power metal (especially in some of the solos) and even thrash riffs at times. What this album really shows you is classic metal is by no means dead, and anyone who loves old greats like Priest, Maiden, or Dio will find exactly what they're looking for here: Valkyrie Rising is pure Maiden to my ears, while Uncreation itself is very Painkiller-era Priest. It also goes very nicely alongside Beyond Fear's debut, the two are very similar. If you liked that, you -will- enjoy Benedictum, and vice versa. Rage is another band that springs to mind, it has that same blend of classic style, in-your-face aggression, and some good sing-along choruses.
Uncreation's strength is undeniable, it really calls to mind nothing but pure "heavy metal", emphasis on the heavy. It doesn't rely on insanely fast playing, or symphonies, or operatic vocals, or death grunts, none of that. It just hits you in the face with sheer power. It's great fun and very refreshing to hear Veronica growl out "They tell me I can't 'cos I'm a chick, I tell them, kneel down and suck my dick!", and you really know she means it. She doesn't give a fuck what most female singers might do or what extremes some bands might go to, Benedictum just play the kind of music they love and pay tribute to their own personal metal gods.
I don't see how anyone can truly dislike this album, it's got a bit of something for everyone without going very far in any one direction. It's quite hard to classify for that reason: it's too gritty to be power, not fast enough to be thrash, etc...just really represents no-frills heavy fuckin' metal, with traits from all over. This would be considered an excellent offering from any band, but coming as a debut from one that's just starting out? I really do feel this band is going to go places, they have the passion and the talent, and I'll be proud to say I was here at the start. Particular favourites would be Valkyrie Rising, with an aptly rising closing section that carries the listener up high, Them for it's fantastic lyrics, and Ashes to Ashes. All are great though, there's not a dud among them.
I highly recommend this to anyone who loves their metal, even if it doesn't grab you there's really nothing lacking and nothing to criticise about it. Everything is so damn loud, so in your face, and will have you singing along, head-banging and air-guitaring in equal amounts, as any metal album should aspire to do.