Benedictum – Obey
Release Date: December 3, 2013
Phoenix based traditional metal warriors, Benedictum are set to release their fourth studio effort; the band’s second for Italian label, Frontiers. “Obey” returns the band to the sound of its first two records, “Uncreation” and “Seasons of Tragedy“. The band revamped the line-up following 2011’s under-appreciated “Dominion” album, stripping back to a quartet and dropping the full-time keyboardist.
Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio, Foreigner) did not produce this time around but he did do some pre-production with the band. Once again vocalist Veronica Freeman and guitarist Pete Wells penned the material, which is some of the duo’s most inspired work to date. New producer John Herrera (Age of Evil, Jag Panzer) does a stellar job.
After the seemingly required tone setting intro, “Dream of the Banshee”, Freeman’s wail opens up the military cadenced riffage of “Fractured”. Then like a beast on the warpath, the new rhythm section of bassist Aric Avina (Tynator) and drummer Rikard Stjernquist (Jag Panzer) lay down a bone triturating backdrop for Wells’ muscular fretwork. Combined with Freeman’s gritty growls, it makes for a tempestuous opening.
Freeman breaks out her dark mistress persona for the album’s title cut, which has a thick riff that recalls Wolf Hoffman. Wells lays down a spiraling and inspired solo. “Fighting for My Life” continues the relentless pace of the album as it chugs forward like an out-of-control freight train.
“Scream” changes the pace up a bit with more of a playful, get-in-the-ring and dance feel. This has headbanging anthemic feel to it, and would make a powerful single. Meanwhile, “The Evil That We Do” is a balls heavy skull-cracker with gang vocals.
Throughout “Obey” there are undercurrents of an Arabian feel. This comes to the surface on the dramatic mid-tempo crusher, “Crossing Over”, with its weighty, undulating groove.
Last year Freeman guested on the title track of A Sound of Thunder‘s “Queen of Hell” EP with vocalist Nina Osegueda. Quid pro quo; Osegueda returned the favor, flying cross-country to duet on one of the album’s best cuts, “Thornz”. The combo of Freeman and Osegueda is like a sonic wrecking ball. The fact that they recorded together in the studio rather than Osegueda just sending in her part really has an impact. The two play perfectly off each other.
Benedictum was founded in San Diego 2005 by Freeman and Wells from the aftermath of their former band, Malady. Dio guitarist Craig Goldy was so impressed he connected them with Pilson who has had a finger in each album in some form. Goldy too has played a recurring role as well. This time around he contributes the track “Die To Love You”, which has that epic Dio vibe to it.
“Apex Nation” recalls the early sound of Benedictum, and the album closer, “Retrograde” is a writhing juggernaut. The latter continues the Arabian feel brought to life on “Crossing Over”. There is a very cinematic vibe here, and this marks one of the band’s best songs to date.
With “Obey“, Benedictum continues to lay down a classic, old school metal onslaught in the vein of Accept, Dio, Rainbow, Sabbath and their ilk. Pete Wells once again proves he is one of the most overlooked riff-masters out there. The band may need to add a second guitarist to bring his fret mastery to life on tour, and Freeman hints that this may just happen. It is too soon to tell if “Obey” is Benedictum‘s best album so far, but it is certainly every bit as strong as anything they have recorded, and it is bound to make many a year end “best of” list.