I love women in heavy metal.
More importantly, I love women in heavy metal keeping it real.
I am also one of the most outspoken critics of those in the “female-fronted metal” category, because when I look to a heavy metal band featuring a woman on the mic, and the band comes out headbanging and windmilling and kicking ass, the last thing I want is to be surprised with a blast of warbling opera from a velvet-gowned damsel grabbing invisible pineapples.
No, thank you.
I want to be blown away by a singer whose vocal stylings are as epic and brutal as the music behind her.
Enter Veronica Freeman and Benedictum.
Freeman and company have spent the last 8 years cutting away the tangled vines of pop-phonica metal and clearing the path laid down nearly thirty years ago by such iconic vocalists as Doro Pesch (Warlock) and Ann Boleyn (Hellion).
The band recently underwent some lineup changes with the addition of drummer Rikard Stjernquist (Jag Panzer) and bassist Aric Avina (Tynator), and it seems they’ve gotten the formula right, because their fourth studio release, Obey, shows Benedictum forging ahead with no apologies.
Obey opens with the eerie “Dream Of The Banshee,” featuring a scream so high and raw that at first, I didn’t realize it was a human voice. The first six tracks, including the title track, are a pretty straightforward offering of modern, loud-as-hell metal.
However, shit gets real beginning with “Crossing Over,” a shining piece of vocal diversity, driving melody, and a dark and brooding song structure.
Following that is “Cry,” a wonderfully orchestrated duet featuring former Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin. This song is the closest thing you’ll find to a ballad here.
Their voices are perfectly suited for each other, and we get to hear Freeman scaling back her aggressive tone and signature grit to showcase a singing voice that is beautifully passionate while still remaining heavy.
Obey picks up the momentum again with “Thornz,” followed by “Die To Love You,” a kick-ass throwback to Sabbath-era Dio which I have now listened to about ten times in a row and is my favorite track on this album. It packs a solid, infectious groove and includes some symphonic orchestral arrangements reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s “Cashmere” alongside some superb guitar work by Pete Wells.
Obey closes with the powerfully melodic “Retrograde,” leaving nothing to be desired and faith in female-fronted metal restored.
The classic metal influences of Benedictum are more than apparent on this record (which is great news for anyone who misses the good old days) yet it remains a fresh, stylish, and well-produced offering from a band that deserves all the success in the world.
Veronica Freeman has absoultely solidified herself as the current ambassador of women in heavy metal.
Accept no substitutes.
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