Review Summary: This is perhaps the one death metal album that has something for everyone, and blends it all seamlessly. A must-listen.
Much of death metal these days has become stagnant, with recycled riffs, repetitive song structure, incessant blast beating, and overall a lack of any kind of dynamics whatsoever. In addition, the incorporation of multiple breakdowns per song (that are all incredibly generic) in modern death metal makes the material all that less appealing. However, there are a few bands left that are somehow finding ways to push the boundaries of death metal, coming up with new ideas, new riffs, new sounds, and redefining the meaning of brutality. One of these bands is Benighted.
I was rather hesitant to check this band out; I figured for the longest time that I would get around to it eventually. Even after I obtained a copy of 2007's Icon
, I still didn't listen to it for a week. Predetermined notions of modern death metal had made me lazy. Needless to say, I was left kicking myself over and over again after finally listening to this brutal, yet amazingly rythmic and at times, melodic CD.
I was prepared for more of the same, bland death metal that I was used to...until the first song, "Slut", hit me like a freight train. With an an almost grindcore-style intro ("Complete Exanguination", the album's intro track), this song let me know very quickly that this band was a force to be reckoned with. What immediately stood out to me throughout the first 3 full songs ("Slut", "Grind Wit", and "Saw It") was Julien's extreme vocal range...and how well delivered it was. A major strength of this album is his versatility. From extreme growls to shrill shrieking, this man is one hell of a vocalist. A major benefit here is that he also doesn't overuse the "bree-ing" inhales so typical of modern death metal and deathcore bands today.
The second major strength of this album is the songwriting and song structure. There is a balance to be had between linear, boring, typical structuring and the math-metal structure that is so crazy it's impossible for the casual fan to headbang to. Icon
has the perfect balance, with extremely interesting structures that keep the listener interested, but not so all-over-the-place that it's impossible to follow.
Yet another strength of the album is evident on the entire album, but especially tracks such as "Grind Wit" and Saw It"...the absolute perfect blend of melody and brutality. How a band can create such an enjoyable collection of songs combining short, Cannibal Corpse-esque blasting sections with extremely rythmic, easy-to-follow Metallica-esque riffs and rythms is beyond me. This is one of the reasons why I believe this album surely has something for every fan on it. There are even well placed, short melodic breaks on the album, such as the intro to "Forsaken" (before it, of course, takes off into brutality afterwards). The only thing that raised my eyebrows was the short "rapping" section midway through "Grind Wit" (I'm still trying to figure that one out).
Honestly, I have tried very hard to find some sort of fault with this album, and I really can't. The only reason I don't think this will become a landmark album is the fact that the band still has a relatively small fanbase. (Well, plus, they're French.) Ultimately though, for those who do know about and enjoy this band, this will prove to be a highly influential and enjoyable album for years to come.