This Mob Rules

(Warning, the following review contains many heavy metal clichés)

"I'm not listening to that, it's sounds dreadful!" says your son/daughter as you try to convince them that metal was much better in the 1980s. Not only are the albums on scratchy vinyl that hasn't kept as well as you'd hoped, but also your memory of them has become tainted with age, and when pitted against contemporary production many albums even fail to compare. For the older metal generation who long for a return to a more traditional sound, San Diego/California's quintet Benedictum have produced, not only an album that captures the spirit and energy of the NWOBHM, but also has a sound that you've always wanted from those 12" black discs currently gathering dust in the attic. In a scene that is getting drowned in messy sub-genres, many bands have resorted to making mindless screaming rackets just to make themselves heard, as a consequence Benedictum's take on the traditional, tried and tested ingredients of good honest metal, sounds as fresh now as the new wave of British heavy metal did over twenty five years ago.

'Uncreation' has everything you want from a heavy metal album, its guitars are massive without being down-tuned, a booming bass that constantly drives the riffs into the back of your brain, drums that pound and pound and then pound some more, and vocals that are melodic, yet contain so much power and intensity that they have to heard to be believed. This isn't just some nostalgia trip, it's a reminder why metal became a worldwide phenomenon. 'Uncreation' contains a collection of no holds barred pulsating metal anthems, and unlike power metal and prog rock, is bereft of pretentiousness and self-indulgence. The album is a mix of a little Armoured Saint, Savatage, and Dio, unsurprising when you consider the producer is the one time Dio bass player Jeff Pilson. Not only that but as guests they have the one time Dio guitarist Craig Goldy, and also ex Dio henchman Jimmy Bain. It is little wonder then that this album has captured the excitement of an era since past.

Star of the hour is undoubtedly singer Veronica Freeman. Her vocals are literally fire and brimstone, every note she sings oozes power and passion. Her inflections occasionally remind me of John Bush and even the great Ronnie James Dio himself. This isn't a vocal performance by the likes of Tarja Turunen or Cristina Scabbia; this is sheer unadulterated attitude, which oozes from every sonic pore. If you think I'm going over the top then I suggest you get a copy of 'Uncreation' and hear for yourself. The last time I heard a female vocal performance like this was on the early Skunk Anansie singles, when Skin was out to prove a point. It is obvious from the lyrics that Veronica has had her run ins with naysayers, lyrics such as "They don't even know what I'm about, They will never ever figure out, They tell me I can't cuz I'm a chick I tell them kneel down and suck my dick." Perhaps not the most subtlest of lyrics but it reeks of that underdog, fuck you mentality that heavy metal is all about.

Veronica's voice would be nothing without some great tunes to back it up. There's little in the way of filler on 'Uncreation.' Songs such as 'Benedictum', 'Ashes to Ashes' and '#4' are all quality songs, with drive, melody and that foot stomping fist punching x-factor, that no one knows what it is but you know when you've heard it. The cover of Black Sabbath's 'Heaven and Hell' is a competent version, with the band adding a few extra parts to add their signature to the song. 'Wicca' and 'Them' hit home like a satisfying thump to the head, where as the more subtle 'Misogyny' allows Veronica to take the razors from her throat and sing with a little more mettle. Unfortunately there's also a cover of 'Mob Rules' tagged onto the end, and although it sounds great, it's a cover too far and is an un-necessary add on to an already complete album.

This is a must for ALL true metal fans, the ingredients are there, big vocals, solos, loud guitars, pace etc... all aspects are produced to perfection. If all your dusty records of Saxon and Judas Priest don't influence your off-spring, then try 'Uncreation' in their stead, and if it helps, try stirring those classic memories by copying it onto a C60 tape for that authentic 80s feel. If there was any justice in this world, Benedictum would be playing to the Manchester Apollo's of this world, but with the metal scene being what it is, I fear Benedictum will have to make do with a support slot at the Academy 3. Buy it or die! (Cliché count = 42)