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Much to my surprise, the American black metal scene isn’t highly regarded amongst large sets of fans. In actual fact, many people appear to be sick of it and that’s no exaggeration. In the opinion of the majority of fans, the European scene is more able to adapt to the needs of the fans and produces a higher standard of material. Due to the North American scene, black metal has witnessed an influx of depressive bands to the genre. Many consider the depressive genre to be unwelcome and would much rather bands concentrated their acts on a different sub-genre of black metal, whether that be old school or raw black metal. Personally, I consider the North American scene to be one of the strongest. Alongside the French and German scenes, the Americans have some of the strongest acts in the business. My search for talent has brought me to Florida’s Benighted In Sodom. Yet another one man project with M.Thorn at the helm. Signed to the relatively unknown label Obscure Abhorrence Productions, Benighted In Sodom don’t seem to have a huge fan base, but in my estimation, that could be about to change. ‘Plague Overlord’ is not only the debut from the American act, but is also my first taste of this bands material and I must say, I did enjoy it. Whilst, in my eyes, the North American scene is flourishing with bands that both fit into the depressive sub-genre and otherwise, acts like Benighted In Sodom are merely starting out. Having said that, it would appear that this particular band has released a fair amount of material in the past few years since it’s creation in 2004. Most notably, Benighted In Sodom have released one full-length, this, and are set to release a follow-up in September entitled ‘In Hora Maledictus - Part I’. Considering the fact that this is my first taste of Benighted In Sodom, I’m limited to judging the performance based entirely on this record, as opposed to comparing with older or newer material.
The bands lyrical themes suggest that there is a high level of misery and pain flowing through the veins of this outfit. Although there are only a handful of lyrics to judge, one can quite easily come to the conclusion that the summarised lyrical themes are indeed quite apt.
“Washing my hands
Of the stench of surrender
The night arrives
I am in her womb
And I embrace with poisonous barbs
I am drowning
But I do not save
I am drowning
But I do not save
The lyrics, like the music itself, is emotive. The passionate nature of the M.Thorn’s lyrics is something that can only be seen in a positive light. On reflection, due to the indecipherable vocals, the lyrics are filled with such sweat sorrow. Due to the fact that Benighted In Sodom could be viewed as another depressive band, the lyrics are perfect for the type of music the band plays. Whilst they aren’t the best and I don’t connect to them as much as I do to other bands lyrics, they depict the emotions they try to depict. The connotations within the music (anguish, pain and suffering) are easily to pick up on through the vocals themselves, without even knowing the lyrics. Standard rasps are the order of the day and they fit into the mix nicely, without overshadowing the instrumental sections. Whilst the vocals may not be the most important part of the record, they do their job well without ever really excelling. Black metal vocals are not known for being outstanding, so that’s fine.
As for the instrumental parts, a lot of the music reminds me of bands like Trist, particularly the song ’Blood From The Sea’ and even Xasthur in a way. The distortion of the guitars in particular reminds me of Xasthur, but only in terms of the material placed on records like ‘To Violate The Oblivious’. The main riffs of the songs themselves remind me more of Trist, but with less emphasis of maintaining beautiful soundscapes through the pain induced style. The aforementioned song from this record contains a number of stunning riffs which will undoubtedly keep those fans of the depressive sub-genre content. Despite the worthy nature of the soundscapes to Benighted In Sodom’s music, there are a few let downs. First, the length of the record. Whilst the songs on the record average around five minutes, the album is too short on the whole, which is disappointing. With perhaps a bit more time, and a bit more care put into song writing, the album could have been more successful than it is. Second, the way in which songs seem to blend together without having any real defining purpose. Whilst the music is meant to depict the sorrowful nature of M.Thorn’s soul, which is does quite well, songs tend to mesh together as one and provide nothing that really sets them apart from similar acts. Only on tracks like ‘Blood From The Sea’ do we really seem to have a direction in sound. All the instruments know what they’re doing and where they’re going. However, that isn’t the same throughout the entire record. Finally, the bass. It’s disappointing. The bass is, to me, such a sad instrument. If harnessed properly, black metal acts could quite easily use the bass to depict the emotive aspects of the soundscapes more thoroughly and, in general, with more precision and prowess. Often an overshadowed instrument, the bass isn’t that affective. Neither is the double bass, for that matter. With the songs mostly playing at mid-pace, the strong willed bass section could have enhanced the qualities of the anger that lays deep within the soundscapes. Instead, that anger only shines through on the vocal performance, but the vocals aren’t as important as the instrumental side of things.
Whilst this record does lack originality and could even be looked down upon because of it’s association with the depressive sub-genre, it is mostly enjoyable. The upcoming second full-length will clearly show whether this act has enough in the tank to strive on to better things, or eventually dissipate into mediocrity.
Benighted in Sodom, hailing from Florida, is one of those gems of the ever-growing USBM. True, there are quite a few (too many, rather) 'bedroom kvlt-wannabe' USBM acts poping up all over the place (which aren't worth 10 seconds of ones' time), you can rest assured that this band isn't. They're one of those rarities which should be given a good listen. Though they are fairly unknown, Benighted in Sodom definately stand out; I would have little hesitation in grouping them among the other USBM bands who 'bring something to the table', so to speak. (i.e. Xasthur, Leviathan, Draugar, Sapthuran, WitTR, etc.).
The album opens up with 'Draining Putrefaction', and from then on begins the descent into the dark depths of the mind of sole member Thorn. Pure, unbridaled depression festers in you with each second that passes. The guitars and vocals do well in churning out sorrow and despair. The drums are subpar (I'm assuming a drum machine was used), but do not subtract at all from the music. The production is this album is raw, though not in the sense which it is completely unbearable to listen to. It is raw, yet completely audible. One can easily make out each instrument rather than desperately struggling to figure out which is the guitar and which is just static. Each song rarely strays from one particular sound which could be described as a more straight-forward Xasthur sans the lengthy songs, or a Leviathan/Burzum-esque style; though unlike many failures which try to emulate those bands' sounds and fail, Benighted in Sodom does not. Despite the similarity in sound with those bands, Thorn manages to retain a fairly good amount of originality.
Ah yes, the one song off this album which I feel must be addressed: the cover of Sargeist's 'Satanic Black Devotion.' I can honestly say, this version manages to top, if not rival, the original. The vocals sound even more tortured than Hoath's of Sargeist. Another aspect of this cover which I enjoyed were the placement of the lyrics. Rather than following the same slightly-rushed style of the original, the words are sung in a more .. 'fitting' way, for lack of better words.
All in all, this album wins. There are no considerable flaws to be found, though the only annoyance was the fact that each song started off the same, with the drums signalling the beginning of each song. Other than that, this album is excellent. One should make haste in finding some way to get their hands on this album.