Review Summary: The brutal sound of perseverance
Benighted have been arguably one of the most iconic bands in the European extreme metal scene for the past twenty years. The band have reached the peak of its creative relevance in the overwhelming trilogy Identisick
and Asylum Cave
that catapulted them into the pole position of European brutal deathgrind, alongside their Belgian neighbours Aborted. Their well-known distinctive sound blends brutal death metal's heaviness with grindcore schizophrenia, wrapped in an oddly catchy package much due to the often hard-core gang vocals that usually stick in the mind. This contagious handover is the responsibility of the one and only Julien Truchan, the chameleonic screamer whose hallucinogenic performances are among the very best the genre has to offer. With Olivier Gabriel's departure after Necrobreed's recording, Julien is also the only remaining member of the band's original line-up. Without Olivier, it would remain to be seen if Obscene Repressed
would undergo any kind of metamorphosis, as he was the creative force throughout the band's past repertoire. As we dive into the self-titled opener we soon realize Julien & Co will stick to the same formula that has carried them since Insane Cephalic Production
, and honestly, I would be surprised if they didn't. I have long felt Benighted have somewhere in their rehearsal room a frame with the saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Although this motto is rather common in the music business, I think it suits them. Benighted have been digging a niche of their own for a long time now and any drastic change to that formula could permanently disfigure the band, thus alienating the loyal fanbase they've conquered throughout their journey.
Julien Truchan is a nurse at a mental hospital, with Obscene Repressed
being a concept album that revolves around the disturbing story of a former Julien patient named Michael, an eight-year-old boy with a cleft palate that his parents refused to treat. Michael, who always wore bandages on his face to hide his severe anomaly, began developing a paranoid delirium with his mother due to oedipal issues. The album portrays the disturbing scenarios experienced by Michael growing up in that house, specifically the disturbing relationship with his parents and a very peculiar Hannibal Lecter-esque meal. I think we can all agree that this story fits like a glove into the band's thematic universe.
As I've previously uncovered, Obscene Repressed
keeps the band's DNA intact by unleashing twelve devastating tracks that frenetically explore the album's disturbing concept. Julien keeps his brutal and dynamic trademark, whirling between deep gutturals and delusional screams. With Olivier gone, he's the heart and soul of the band now, the gravitational force through which everything orbits. Emmanuel Dalle, who is now the main man behind songwriting, is also co-responsible for keeping this French flame alive, songs like 'Obscene Repressed', 'Brutus', 'Implore the Negative' and 'Casual Piece of Meat' meet the high standards the band has accustomed us to. Emmanuel's riffs swinging between typical deathgrind signatures and more groovy progressions, as in 'Implore the Negative', are definitely among the album's highlights. As you would expect, the gang vocals are everywhere, as well as the voracious blast beats that have always accompanied the band. The album is cohesive, without displaying great contrasts, as usual. The brief jazz section in 'Muzzle' and the groovy moments in 'The Starving Beast', 'Implore the Negative' and 'Scarecrow' are possibly the most contrasting details to point out. Nevertheless, and despite the positive aspects I've just mentioned, the album lacks greater memorability, that is, a handful of songs that go directly into the band's best-of. Obviously this is a subjective observation, but, honestly, I felt myself on autopilot for the most part, traveling through territories that I already know all too well, without too much enthusiasm. It may seem a contradiction with the motto "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" I quoted earlier, but it's possible to keep a strong identity while giving more unpredictability to songwriting. Obviously I wasn't expecting that at this stage of their career Benighted would start experimenting new textures or taking more progressive paths, but I did miss some element of surprise, something that would connect me more deeply with the album.
Twenty years have passed and Benighted are still standing and purging their inner demons, while remaining faithful to their legacy. Obscene Repressed
may well not be seen as the band's best album to date, but it's certainly a strong addition to their discography and an irrefutable testimony to their perseverance.