Lucky Californians… For ages; besides the obvious pros of the land, such as the great weather and the beautiful beaches (no pun intended), this area has been giving birth to a myriad legendary bands. I must say I’ve never been too much aware of this, but after listening the new Benedictum album, Obey, I can understand a little bit more why our beloved senior editor aka lonestar has decided to spent the rest of his life there. Having had some approach to Benedictum with their previous albums, I can say that Obey is their best work to date and it allows the band to finally leave their signature in the big book of Californian metal.
For those who are unfamiliar the band, here’s a brief introduction. Based in San Diego, the band was originally named Regime, and then changed to Bound, and finally to Benedictum. They were ‘discovered’ by Dio guitarist Craig Goldy, he introduced them to his friend and producer Jeff Pilson, who produced their first album Uncreation in 2005. Long story short, Benedictum was alive and progressively won a fan base, after playing in several festivals, some lineup changes and recording another two albums they bring Obey, their fourth work, as a sort of consummation, with Veronica Freeman on vocals, Pete Wells on guitar , Rikard Stjernquist on drums and Aric Avina on Bass.
To be truth, Benedictum has been outstanding since their very first work, but this time I think they might be able to reach a jaw-dropping level. There’s an obvious evolution on each member of the band that is noticeable from the first moment. You can feel the violent fierce of their sharpened guitar riffs right on the bone, the thrashy bass lines and powerful drumbeats that channels all this fury and turns it into a heavier, more solid sound. The opening track Dream of the Banshee is a short, instrumental intro that instantly reveals that metal spirit of the whole album, the strings lead to a perfect (yes, perfect) glass-shattering scream, breaking in so violently that you can’t help to think “Damn, this is going to kick some serious arses.” Then, on the top of the expectation, the song Fractured keeps that same scream and releases once for all this heavy sound for which I’m a sucker. A guitar couldn’t sound more devilish than this, and the drums work is beastly. Right after this fury the title track Obey appears with a groovy bass line, sharpened guitar riffs and an infectiously catchy chorus. Right then, Fighting for My Life, Scream and Evil That We Do keep the same line, and even when these tracks are not as outstanding as the rest of the album, they keep on having nice melodies, and being strong and solid as a rock.
Crossing Over has excited me again. The band has slowed down the tempo just a bit, just enough to make this song darker than the previous ones and to give Veronica the chance of totally displaying her wonderful range and powerfully torn vocal style. The things turn to be more emotional here, even the guitar solo realizes this. And right there when I was still recovering from the last track, Cry starts to work its magic and I say to myself ,”Myself, here’s the power ballad you’ve been waiting for.”) Featuring Toni Martin (Ex-Black Sabbath) the songs it’s not merely abandoned to emotion, but rather it still preserves that dark metal strings and it shows its clean polished sound within it. I felt like things were growing epic in this part of the album, as I’ve noticed that in the next song, Thornz, Veronica proved once again that she can sound melodic and emotional without losing her I-am-badass-so-what attitude. We keep moving forward and it is time for a little confession, I actually had a dirty feeling listening to Die To Love You. This track reflects very accurately the sensuality of the singer, bringing that tasteful raspy and passionate sound in her voice and while the music turns out to sound pretty simple, great dynamics are going on behind the veil of Veronica’s voice.
Something that stands out is that Mr. Wells has not fallen into the widely used ease of downtuning his instrument, and that heavy sound is completely a merit of his interpretation and outstanding talent. When I listened the motorcycles on Apex Nation I automatically thought that a rockstar would enter the room, kicking the door and bringing with him a big bunch of groupies that’d scream: “Make me a son!”, or some of that typical things. The vivid 80’s vibe of the song is undeniable, even for me, who wasn’t even alive on those times. The guitars on Retrograde are tasty as hell, and the songs would provoke some serious headbanging on anyone who calls himself a metalhead. The last song of the album, it burns like a shot of wood grain, hot and lethal.
Now, I know it is physically impossible, but I’ll tell you. If a woman could have balls, that would definitely be Veronica Freeman. It is not just her versatile and powerful voice, is all her, which exudes heavy metal and brutality in a level that I can’t even start to explain. A mixture between Doro and Leather Leone, adding a bit of that sexy raspy Magali Luyten’s low notes on the softer songs, there, something like that, but much more rawer.
If there’s music that is actually capable of blowing your mind, it is Benedictum’s. Tons of headbanging and moshing encapsulated in 12 songs, a quintessential heavy metal album that includes cleverly some shades of modernity, highly recommended for fans of traditional heavy metal and raspy powerful female vocals that can easily make most of the masculine singers out there ask for mercy.