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Benedictum - Obey

Benedictum - CD Review

Benedictum Obey

Label: Frontiers Records
Genre: Power metal
Tracks: 12
Total time: 51:04
Rating: 9 of 10

Influenced by bands such as Savatage and Psychotic Waltz, infused with the hugely powerful voice of Veronica Freeman, San Diego-based Benedictum has all the ingredients for one hell of a metal band. Three of the original bandmembers first met as part of a Ronnie James Dio tribute band; if that says anything about the members of Benedictum or the kind of metal sensibility they come from! With former Dokken/Dio bassist Jeff Pilson by their side as producer, Benedictum has unleashed an onslaught of metal bad-assery on the masses, and their fourth album, Obey, is certainly no exception.

The opening track, “Dream of the Banshee”, is little more than an intro track that ends on Veronica’s glass-shattering voice, which rocks straight into the second song, “Fractured”; full of blistering guitar riffs and vocals that kick your ass. To me, Veronica’s voice is an interesting mix of Ronnie James Dio and perhaps Tom Araya of Slayer (or maybe Phil Anselmo of Pantera?).

“Obey” (the title track) and “Fighting for my Life” are a couple of fist-pumping metal anthems straight from the get-go; definitely some good stuff to headbang to. “Scream” keeps the super-heaviness going, with some impressive “screams” from Veronica and some awesome guitar work as well. There’s also a touch of symphonic influence, which makes the song a personal favorite for me.

“Evil That we Do” is another ball-busting heavy tune, complete with Veronica’s melodic vocalizations as well as belting it out in that aggressive way that she does so well. The chants of “evil!” in the middle would make for some great sing-alongs at live shows, and the smoking-hot guitar solo is also a perfect time to whip your head in a frenzy.

“Crossing Over” starts off a little slower than the others, but it’s by no means a ballad and it certainly doesn’t lack at all in the trademark Benedictum heaviness. There are melodic, soaring guitars, and Veronica’s high notes complement this perfectly. This song is another favorite for me; it’s a bit on the “mid-tempo” side (or what could be considered “mid-tempo” for Benedictum!), but it still has those tasty guitar riffs and Veronica switches from clean to aggressive vocals with complete ease.

The next two songs both feature guest vocalists: “Cry”, featuring former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin, and “Thornz”, featuring A Sound of Thunder front woman Nina Osegueda. “Cry” is obviously the ballad of the album, with a mournful guitar intro and Veronica’s plaintive vocals. Tony’s voice comes in on the next verse, and he is a perfect accompaniment to Veronica; the two voices wrapping around the lyrics of loss and sounding so pained and emotional. Where their vocal collaboration is a moving ballad; “Thornz” is another duet between two vocal powerhouses. Nina and Veronica sound so awesome together; both of them have such ferocity to their voices that everything they sing sounds bad-ass. For all you sexist metalheads out there who still somehow think that a woman cannot rock a metal band, let these ladies sing together and proceed to kick you right in the nuts with steel-toed boots.

“Die to Love You” is one of those songs with the slow yet heavy guitar riffs that pound out repetitively before kicking into some orchestral elements that give it some of that symphonic/power metal goodness.

“Apex Nation” starts off with the revving up of a motorcycle, and then proceeds to kick ass all over the place with frenetic guitars, fast drumming, and delightfully wicked vocals from Veronica. This is another song that would make a perfect headbanging sing-along at live shows. The final track, “Retrograde”, is a 7-minute epic that incorporates orchestral influences and slow, heavy riffing; as Veronica’s assertive vocals pull us along. This is a stellar album closer that both traditional metal fans and fans of more progressive/symphonic metal will be sure to enjoy.

Overall opinion: From start to finish, this album is one killer track after another. Benedictum knows how to deliver the goods with no frills and no bullshit. Veronica’s voice can go from rough and almost guttural, to switching on a dime to these eardrum-shattering high notes that would make Halford or Dickinson stop and take notice. While Veronica’s voice is certainly intimidating to the listener, she also knows how to share the stage with equally formidable vocalists; which shows on “Thornz”, where she shares the stage with Nina, whose voice is just as powerful and just as aggressive. Veronica shows she can also hold her own with well-established singers like Tony Martin, and they sound fantastic together as well. The songs are for the most part in the fast/heavy vein, but there are slower pieces like “Cry”, or mid-tempo tunes like “Die to Love You”, but even Benedictum’s “ballads” have that “true metal” feel to them that could never be called watered-down or soft. Benedictum is one of the bands to come out of the U.S. in the past several years that are decidedly spearheading a new movement that is rooted in the traditional sounds of heavy metal, but is markedly different from the femme-metal scene in Europe. Choosing instead to turn away from the clean vocals and glamorous stage presence of their European counterparts, bands like Benedictum are wearing the denim, leather, and silver studs with pride, yet not trying to hide their femininity behind it either. As a vocalist, Veronica Freeman shows she can be both tough and vulnerable at the same time, whichever mood the song calls for. If you are one like myself and have not heard much of Benedictum’s music before this album, Obey is not a bad place to start. If you are a metalhead who misses the “old-school” sound and feels that not nearly enough of the femme-metal bands are embracing it, then perhaps Benedictum is just the band for you!