Returning to the olden creeds.
Perhaps best known for its pioneering work in the grindcore field, the British extreme metal scene nevertheless fielded a small yet highly potent death metal scene. Discounting the parallel road that Napalm Death would naturally run with said sub-genre during the early 90s, there was a curious trifecta that emerged by 1990, with the slightly doom-tinged work of Bolt Thrower being the most auspicious, while the early entries of Telford-born Cancer offered a solid English response to the pioneering death/thrash that was raging out of Brazil courtesy of Sepultura. Often lost in the mix yet equally as consequential was the Birmingham quintet Benediction, whom often paralleled the colossal character of Bolt Thrower, but leaned a bit more towards the classic sound of Florida and Sweden, with the grooving gloom of Obituary and the brutality of Grave being the more obvious points of comparison.
In contrast to their pioneering counterparts, this outfit never totally folded their flesh-skin tent for any period of time, though the past decade or so has seen a noticeable lack of studio output. With their longtime vocalist and Anaal Nathrakh front man Dave Hunt now occupied with his studies and his other aforementioned project, to speak nothing for the recent craze in death metal circles for a return to the old ways, the time was ripe for a bold step into the past, which commenced with the return of their classic era vocalist Dave Ingram. Having vacated the fold to join their similarly styled compatriots Bolt Thrower, his was the voice that breathed that vintage old school magic into this band’s seminal offerings, with “The Grand Leveller” and “Transcend The Rubicon” being the most fondly remembered. It is to that same rugged, early 90s approach of reigning auditory horror upon the masses that their comeback LP “Scriptures” takes its decrepit cues.
As with a number of return-to-form efforts by iconic bands from both sides of the Atlantic, Benediction explores the past while also making some key revisions to keep things interesting. The usual assortment of riff-happy, quasi-thrashing offerings that recall the primordial character of Death’s “Leprosy” and Dismember’s “Like An Everflowing Stream” are naturally heavily present, but also accompanied by some groovier and moderate paced numbers that hint at the more recent exploits of Entombed. Likewise, the presentation is a bit on the stripped down side, perhaps entertaining a bit of a Jungle Rot character, particularly on fast yet simplified pummel sessions like “Tear Of These Wings” and “Stormcrow”. One can’t help but also notice the forbidding, haunting riff set after the mode of “The IVth Crusade” that kicks off “Progenitors Of A New Paradigm”, which ushers in an epic festival of rage that is a bit more kinetic and in line with the old Florida sound.
Where this harrowing ride into the fiery abyss tends to shine is on the more thrashing offerings, though it proves a very consistent display of raw energy even when lunging at a grave tempo. Busy crushers like the opening kill fest “Iterations Of I”, along with shorter and more concise soul shredders like “Rabid Carnality” and “Embrace The Kill” hit with the same intensity as a typical Cannibal Corpse bludgeoning, but reach back a bit further to that somewhat more stylized and theatrical brand of death metal that was prevalent in the late 80s. The technical skill on display in the guitar work is particularly enthralling, as each of these offerings contain a litany of contrasting segments and some lead gymnastics comparable to Chuck Schuldiner and Rick Rozz’s early shred sessions. Yet even more forbidding is the deep, dank growl of Ingram’s vocal work, which loses none of the youthful vigor that it originally displayed back in 1993.
Those whom like their death metal right out of the flaming pit, with all of the peripheral gimmicks and sampled horror movie bits mercifully absent, this is made to order. It’s a solid rendition of a style that has been on a popular upswing of late after a period of stagnation in the later 90s with the rise of its technical and more brutal offshoots, but it comes off as a bit more hi-fi and nasty than a lot of the younger revivalists that seem keen on trying to perfectly recreate the old 1991 sound. Per the band’s own testimony in recent press releases, this isn’t necessarily intended as a comeback album, but it feels like one all the same given the perfect chemistry between this band and a singer that has been out of the fold for over 20 years. Whether one misses the good old days when this band was raising the ire of parents, teachers and even Mayhem’s Euronymous (for different reasons, naturally), or one is just anxious for another intense auditory assault, the “Scriptures” await.
Released by: Nuclear Blast Records
Released Date: October 16th, 2020
Genre: Death Metal
- Darren Brookes / Guitar
- Peter Rew / Guitar
- Dave Ingram / Vocals
- Dan Bate / Bass
- Giovanni Durst / Drums
- Iterations Of I
- Scriptures In Scarlet
- The Crooked Man
- Progenitors Of A New Paradigm
- Rabid Carnality
- In Our Hands, The Scars
- Tear Off These Wings
- Embrace The Kill
- The Blight At The End
- We Are Legion
One of the prime movers in the old school British death metal scene returns with a vengeance after twelve years of studio silence, with a voice from their classic past no less, and rock the pillars of the underworld with 12 brilliant displays of primordial brutality