Review Summary: "While at times it manages to hit as hard as anything in their discography, Carnivore Sublime suffers from deadweight that was almost entirely absent from when the band was at their peak."
Benighted’s latest album is a difficult piece to fathom, but not for the reasons you might immediately be thinking. As opposed to being a batshi
t insane assault on your senses that defies comprehension, Carnivore Sublime
is a blend of the band’s own style of brutality as well as some poppy sensibilities. Though not drastically different to the band’s recent work, Carnivore Sublime
is nevertheless Benighted’s catchiest and most accessible work yet, laced with infectious hooks while retaining the ferocity that cemented their place among the forefront of France's extreme metal scene. On paper, this should be the band coming of age, so it is at least slightly puzzling that it makes only a moderate impression, failing to reach the heights of Identisick
despite appearing more animated than either of them.
The one and a half minute “X2Y” and the single “Noise” open the album on a strong note, brimming with aggressive, varied instrumentation as expected, but it’s Julien Truchen’s distinctive vocal gymnastics that once again steal the show. Julien’s vocals on Carnivore Sublime
are his most diverse yet, integrating high-register pseudo-cleans and false chord spoken word to his already impressive repertoire. As such it’s smooth sailing for the first two tracks, but once the second single “Experience Your Flesh” arrives, the album seems to hit a roadblock, becoming slightly confused and directionless. By-the-numbers in terms of writing and featuring little in the way of interesting riffs, the track saps the plentiful momentum that was built up by the first two. But the biggest issue is the chorus. Julien’s most irritating vocal quirk has forever been his pig squeals, which are more prominent on this album than any of the band’s previous work, not least of which their lead single. In conjunction with the aforementioned pseudo-cleans, the pig squeals create a memorable but annoying vocal hook, however impressive Julien’s vocal chops may be.
The hit-and-miss nature of the album will probably result in a fair amount of track skipping, but as much as there are annoyances, there are nearly twice as many highlights. The second half of the album regains much the momentum that was lost by the opening numbers. Tracks like “Spit”, “Defiled Purity”, “Les Morsures” and the title track are packed with riffs ranging from groovy to ominous to hair-raising. “Collection of Dead Portraits” is the strongest by a convincing margin, a mere 3 minutes and 15 seconds in length but containing more vibrant and infectious material than several of the lesser tracks combined. “Les Morsures” contains a fair amount of melodicism, contrasting nicely with the album’s usually brazen approach but managing to fit in without a hitch. But this is exactly the issue, no matter how good some individual tracks are, once you’ve filtered out the filler, you’re left with just over 20 minutes of properly entertaining stuff. Though nothing on here is offensively bad, it must be at least a little concerning for the band when they can barely sate a 37 minute album with engaging material for the most part.
It’s no secret that Benighted’s sound was slowly but surely driving itself into a wedge, and so their latest is a breath of fresh air that also happens to be contaminated. While at times it manages to hit as hard as anything in their discography, it suffers from deadweight that was almost entirely absent from when the band was at their peak. Carnivore Sublime
contained all the ingredients to become Benighted’s clear-cut magnum opus, but falls well short of its potential due to being – to put it frankly – a little half baked.