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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"