Label: Nuclear Blast
Format: CD, LP
Time: 45 min.
Style: Death Metal
Benediction, as the underdogs of the British death fucking metal scene, reached what I consider to be the apex of their career with this album. At first glace, it looks like standard issue brutal death metal. The beautiful cover art by Dan Seagrave, the classic-looking logo, the cool yet seemingly meaningless album title...but when one pops this monster into the CD player and hits "PLAY", a wild ride ensues. You see, folks, the problem with both of the band's previous albums were that while the music was decent (in some cases, brilliant!) the production was never able to suit their sound. Okay, okay...the god-awful production did grant an unsettling atmosphere to the "The Grand Leveller" CD, but with this album we really get to see Benediction's true power for the first time - with a production that genuinely sounds "good", because I always felt that some of the reason Benediction are rarely mentioned in death metal circles today, is because the poor production values of their early albums kept them from reaching the cult status of their peers.
Anyway, what we get here is a pretty decent mixture of old and new. Benediction's slightly punk-influenced (mostly in the drumming) style of death metal remains fully intact, but with some notable changes, some of which forewarn the listener about the direction the band would go with their next album (the majority of "Painted Skulls" and the breakdown in "Violation Domain" have hardcore written all over them), and others hint at a surprising degree of technicality and musicianship that brings to mind what Death was up to at the time, on the "Individual Thought Patterns" album. While Benediction were never a solo-based band...and that remains on this album for the most part, with only four of the album's nine songs containing a guitar solo...the solos really take on a life of their own here. I get a very sharp Chuck Schuldiner vibe from the melodic shreddings of Darren Brookes and Peter Rew, and considering Death is my all-time favorite band, that is a compliment!
Dave Ingram grunts on this album, and I believe his voice on here was his crowning achievement. His voice on the next album totally sucked, and let's be honest, "Honor-Valor-Pride", while a masterpiece, is not a very good representation of Ingram's style either. Here he delivers a very powerful vocal performance that fits Benediction's musical style like a hand fits a banana, comparable to the likes of Karl Willets or Barney Greenway (both of whom he has replaced at some point in his career), but with his own spin on things (very important to add that!).