Some bands just don't get the love they deserve from metal fans around the world. One of those bands is Benedictum. In a large way, I put them in the same bucket as an artist like Jorn Lande. Musically, they are continually stronger than most of the trendy dreck that's out there, but they are constantly overlooked for reasons that are just not fair to them. With Lande, he's got the stigma of sounding like Dio (which, to be fair to the metal fans out there he helped to perpetuate) which has led people to not take him as seriously as an individual artist as his music demands. With Benedictum, I'm quick to believe that the imagery of the beautiful and voluptuous Veronica Freeman does more harm than good, as the dumb metal stereotype of "chicks don't rock" will cause some to not give Benedictum a fair shake. For those metalheads, I can only say, "your loss, dumbass". As a band that simply gets better with each and every effort, Benedictum has created their best release yet with OBEY. Full of speed, heaviness and frenetic energy that is far above their previous releases, OBEY has high jumped the bar the band previously set with DOMINION, and cleared it by a mile.
While most focus on vocalist Veronica Freeman when talking about Benedictum (with cause, she's not only the leader of the band but also amazingly talented in her own right), the focal point of OBEY is guitarist Pete Wells. While playing without the false benefit of downtuning to make him sound heavy, Wells is a behemoth on guitar throughout OBEY. His riffs on the title track are blasting. On "Fighting For Your Life", Wells' riff drives the song as it interweaves old school thrash with a bit of more modern metal changes in the bridges of the song. It's subtle in the way he does it, but it's one of the most recognizable signatures of not only this song, but of Wells' overall style. It's clear the guy grew up listening to the greats, but unlike so many, he didn't stop growing as a player in 1990. His work on OBEY is amazing.
The band plays an equally impressive part supporting Wells. Bassist Aric Avina and drummer Rikard Stjernquist are the basement of this band; a rock solid foundation that does far more than just drive each song forward for Wells and Freeman. They sound great on OBEY; specifically Stjernquist who takes songs like "Scream" and showcases both a soft, subtle beat at time and a titanic sized thump when the song gets cranked back up. He and Avina team throughout and play brilliantly off each other.
This leads us to Freeman. Knowing that she was working on a solo album at the same time she was crafting OBEY, it's not surprising that she comes to the table this time with some new vocal ideas. Songs like "Fighting For Your Life" and "Fractured" find Freeman trying sounds other than her fiery deep vocals and patented screams. There are times when Freeman is a bit softer in her delivery throughout OBEY, although I would not say there's a moment where you'd mistake her vocal sound as "going soft" or overly feminine. To be blunt, you won't be mistaking anything here on OBEY for music by Kesha or Lady Gaga any time soon. She's still all metal, and songs like the biting "Evil That We Do" or the interesting duet with ex-Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin called "Cry" will convince you of that.
More than any other release in this band's career to date, OBEY is not as much about the parts as it is about the collective sum of the individuals in the band. In short, they simply wrote better songs than in the past. "Retrograde" is, without question, the very best song Benedictum has crafted to date. I'll compare it to a song that only you hardcores will even know and only about half of you will appreciate, but this song reminds me of "The Raging Storm" by WASP from their NEON GOD, PART 1 release. It does so not so much in the overall sound (ultimately they don't sound the same), but in the way it builds up and explodes with emotion and pain. "Retrograde" has this same characteristic. With most of the other material on OBEY, the impact is more direct and fast, but with "Retrograde", you get the biggest example of their growth as songwriters as a band.
PITRIFF RATING - 94/100 - Definitely a contender for the top spot on my Top 20 list their year, OBEY continues to improve on the winning formula that has made them one of the best, and yet completely unheralded, bands out there today. Benedictum is a band that many have yet to discover. All I can offer to you if you are one of them is, "stop waiting and get it." There;s too few great bands out today to miss the really good ones.