REVIEW: BENEDICTION – “Scriptures”
There are some bands that transition beyond good and evil, beyond the barriers of criticism, and manage to be accepted and celebrated by all because of their extreme quality and impeccable discography. Benediction is one of the few that fit this mold in the death metal genre, having released immortal classics like ‘The Grand Leveller’ (1991) and ‘Transcend the Rubicon’ (1993) – the latter one being one of my favorite death albums of all time. The Brits have been dormant for 12 years but are back with ‘Scriptures’, rescuing that marvelous old school vibe that only the greats can achieve.
With the return of Dave Ingram (Down Among the Deadmen, ex-Bolt Thrower) to the helm and the addition of Dan Bate (bass) and Giovanni Durst (drums), dynamic duo Peter Rew and Darren Brookes gathered a semi-perfect lineup to crush everything in their path and deliver once again a brutal slab of pure and classic Benediction death metal.
As countrymates Cancer, Bolt Thrower, and others, Benediction offers a little less speed and a little more heaviness in their sound since their inception, and this album follows the same approach. Tracks like “Progenitors of a New Paradigm” and “In Our Hands, the Scars” bring out the best of this UK-style death, with plenty of mid-tempo passages and killer riffs.
The occasional speed does come up, though, especially in more hybrid songs like “Embrace the Kill”. Ingram steals the show in this particular song, ranging from a lower growl to an extremely angered vocal line, which adds even more chaos and destruction to an already brutal experience.
As I said above, ‘Scriptures’ drinks from the same fountain as Benediction’s great albums of the ’90s, which means no-frills, raw death metal with glimpses of that extreme doom-ish flavor characteristic of Bolt Thrower, Asphyx, and such bands. Perhaps the best example of this would be “We Are Legion”, a track full of nuances and different tempos. From headbanging riffs to full-on ferocious moments, it’s a perfect way to close a return to the form of a once genre leader.
The production and mixing are great, something you would expect from a good professional like Scott Atkins (Cradle of Filth, Gama Bomb, etc.). Every instrument is easily heard, Ingram’s voice is crystal clear and the atmosphere makes the album sound at the same time layered, full and modern, and analogic and organic.
Perhaps the most satisfying thing when listening to the record is the amount of respect for the heydays of the death metal genre as a whole, but especially the European counterpart. ‘Scriptures’ will easily take you back to the early ’90s when things were less bureaucratic and more organic, and the passion to play outmatched the need to sell or be accepted in a niche.
All in all, ‘Scriptures’ is not only a near-flawless display of what Benediction means to the death metal culture, but a statement that even when signed to a huge label and trying to stay relevant after 30+ years, you can stick to your roots and destroy every artificially created music out there; and the result may as well be this, one of the (if not the) best death albums of 2020 so far. A legend never dies, and Benediction is proof of that.