With trepidation the third album from US band Benedictum was allowed an audience with the speakers that would share their sounds. Reason for the less than enthused urge was though an unknown band plenty of research had brought references to the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Dio-era Black Sabbath and tags of classic rock and traditional metal to their sound, all destined to send shivers down every blue spine, so anticipation and enthusiasm was low. Not that judgement was being made just a fall into the trap of assuming all you read and hear is how you will see things too. What emerged was one of the most satisfying, enterprising, and surprising albums so far this year, the surprise was born out of an assumption, leading to a lesson learnt.
Dominion is a joy, fifteen tracks that start up a metal party in the ear and never slow down or relinquish their hold until the last note is squeezed out of the release, even the Rush cover of ‘Overture/Temple Of The Syrinx’ works grudgingly for these ears. From the opening chords to the last the release is exciting, inviting, and bristling with rock/metal power from many sources.
The title track lights the fuse and starts proceedings with a pulse that saunters in confidently before erupting into a rock/metal/electro mix, an Armoured Saint/Spineshank/The Browning type thing. It ripples with urgent riffs, scorching guitars and a rhythm that pummels from the inside. The track also reveals to those not acquainted with the band that musically they stand on high with the best. The guitars of Pete Wells engage, entice, and tease in equal measure and skill, whilst the bass and drums of Chris Shrum and Mike Pannone respectively, trigger and grab onto those instinctive rhythms deep inside and drive each track accordingly. Already a great combination, but then add the smouldering and stirring keyboards of Tony Diaz with the amazing and irrepressible voice of Veronica Freeman and you have a recipe for greatness as the album shows.
A mighty start soon eclipsed by the quintet from Phoenix, Arizona with ‘At The Gates’ immediately after, a deep groan from the bass, rampant drums striking up and scorching guitars sending the song flying directly into the ear. Once Freeman’s voice lays its claim to the heart with its beauty there is glory unfolding before the senses. Though the band are classed as traditional metal and certainly the guitar solos and creativity is based in that and classic rock bands over the decades there is such a strong modern metal flavouring, power, and drive fuelling the ride that they sit firmly in the front cab of the now, and this track the proof alone.
Across Dominion and each track the quality is vast and consistent, every song a contender for the one to be remembered, but a few did stand out more than others starting with the immense and crushing ‘Grind It’. A metal onslaught reminding of early Mary Beats Jane with its stalking riffs and taunting beats sees Freeman giving full force through her vocals, though that she does everywhere to be fair. Growling, shouting, delivering scorching melodies or singing with an enchanting softness as in ‘Loud Silence,’ her power and range is controlled with equal skill and quality. Take a magical mix of Otep Shamaya, Brody Dalle, Masha Scream, and Lita Ford and you get an idea of her power and wonderful range.
Other notable tracks that should be investigated are the pneumatic rhythm powered ‘Prodigal Son’, with its atmospheric start and White Noise era Anthrax feel ‘The Shadowlands’, and ‘Bang’ a track simple and direct with all the obvious hooks and lures to make any rock song addictive, anthemic, and great fun. The middle of the three is probably the track that grabbed the most on the release but there are no fillers even including the bonus tracks of which one is the aforementioned cover, ouch that hurt!
This review could go on and on, track by track but all that is needed to be known is Dominion is excellent and should be checked out by anyone and everyone. Benedictum stir up the emotions, what all music should do, they just do it better than most.