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Global Domination | Class 6(66) | Benediction: Subconscious terror

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Class 6(66)

Benediction: Subconscious terror

09/09/11  ||  Habakuk

Introduction

“Nothing is shittier for an album than an intro like this!” – so says my girlfriend. I do not concur. Cheesy as fuck, yes, but awesome. That’s how Benediction, British death metallers of the early days, chose to kick off their career. Chains rattling, voices hissing, Barney grunting: “Yes… reach out to the mirror/Observe the unison of flesh and glass sucking you in…” Speaking of which (minus the glass), let’s hear what – amateurishly – metal-inclined Ms Habakuk has to say about all the Class666 elements in a sentence or two.

Songwriting

“guess i like it…?” – What do you mean, you guess you like it? Ah, girls. Of course she likes it. Why? She does not know. Oh man, … okay, well, despite the band’s various connections to Napalm Death, on “Subconscious terror” they play stripped down, Celtic-Frostish proto-death metal where it’s all about intertwining relatively basic riffs with 100% workhorse drumming in a fashion that both profit of each other. The song structures are best described as straightforward, and what could be considered “thrashy” is in fact nothing like that, but basically just the absence of blasts, technical finesse and any fancy surroundings that modern death metal came to incorporate. This is basic, knuckle-dragging metal that left off where Bolt Thrower started except for the bad attempts at blasting, keeping things a little crustier instead. Too riff-focused and slow to be punk, yet hardly matured into straightforward death metal, this album will undoubtedly put some off, but I consider it one of the more interesting bastard children of early European death metal. 8

Production

I spared Lady H this paragraph. Anyway, whatever qualified him after “Scum” and “FETO”, a certain Mick Harris was responsible for the studio knobbery on “Subconscious terror”, and it’s actually quite abysmal. At least the sound is consistently filthy, and with mudscrapingly dirty guitars, it actually gains a bit of appeal after the initial shock. Also, apart from Carcass’ “Ruptured in Purulence”, you probably won’t find a clunkier drum intro than that of “Artefacted Irreligion”, and that’s not Ian Treacy’s fault. His over the top “punchy” drum sound, the loud hi-hat and ultra-deep, wooly guitars make the album sound like it’s recorded by cavemen – but all simplicity aside, it somehow works because it all manages to keep balance with the vocals. With a bit of good will, you can have a lot of fun with how this album came out, but it’s probably impossible to recreate soundwise. 6

Guitars

“I like it cause it’s fast.” What? The guitars? That’s like saying I like you because you have two X-chromosomes. No, not even that, too accurate. The guitars sound like the low-fi version of dragging a shovel over a gravel road, but fast? Hardly. The guitar play is stringy, open root note chugging and not necessarily classified by quick plectrum wastage. In fact, the way it all flows forward comes across as pretty “relaxed” to me. It’s darkly atmospheric and there are some pretty grand moments like the riffing in “Experimental stage”, but at the end of the day, no guitar prizes will be won here. 7

Vocals

“nice. i can understand what he’s singing. ho.ho.ho.” That’s right, young, long-haired Barney Greenway of latter-day Napalm Death fame was in pretty good shape already, except for his ugly haircut. He brings forth comprehensible, but guttural and nasty enough bellowing to round off this generally dirty affair. And yeah, he paid some good attention to Tom G. Warrior, why else would he kick off his performance with a super-evil Yeeeeehh ho ho ho ho! …-_Slooooooow!_ ?, or spit in the occasional intermittent THRASH! ? Well spotted, my dear. 8

Bass

“Can’t hear it.” – Yeah, I’ll give you that. Apart from the first song’s intro where it gives away it’s trebly hollowness, there really is not much bass to hear, since (as headphones reveal) Paul Adams unsurprisingly just follows two decidedly downtuned guitars. Given the fact that there isn’t much string magic happening with those either, bass will have to content itself with a 5.

Drums

“no idea how pros call it, but i like the low drumming. and the fast parts.”
Fast parts again, eh? Yeah, this time around there is at least something that warrants this description, as Ian Treacy bashes his kit in pretty primal fashion, though from a 2011 perspective, “fast” this is not. What I meant by “workhorse drumming” earlier was that the drums follow the riff patterns very closely, and hence support them in the most one-dimensional, but effective way. Note that this was recorded aeons before death metal turned into a hugely drum-focused genre, but when the memory of Celtic Frost was obviously still fresh. 7

Lyrics

“blood, pain, death, exodus, blah…nice.” – it’s not that simple, though! Except for “Divine Ultimatum” where a bit of a late Cold War nuclear overkill theme comes into play, Barney definitely hadn’t found his social commentary style yet, but focused on more abstract, and one can say escapistic motifs such as insanity, fear, self-mutilation or graphic novel-like topics like man made monsters or zombies wiping earth the fuck out. The lyrics are pretty damn enjoyable though, unharmed by some admittedly inane content. Spit fooorth the deeeaaad, ho ho ho ho! 8

Cover art

“wtf?” Yeah, well, I guess you can call it a bit trippy. It’s pretty well-painted though, and I especially like the idea of the island head. 7

Logo

“pretty lame for a metal band.” You forgot that it’s super-ugly, has a nun and a witch at the sides and blood dripping down from the yellow, clumsily-drawn letters. And that I don’t dig logos with figures or graphic representations, though some are saved by awesomeness alone (Morbid Angel). 4

Booklet

“I need a magnifying glass to read the lyrics.” – Hey, check out what I had already put down about the booklet: Should come with a magnifying glass (note recurrence), but unfortunately mine does not feature any sort of giveaways. I’ll just read the thank yous and lyrics, then. Except for “Confess all goodness”, whose lyrics are missing. 5

Overall and ending rant

I’m not gonna lie, this is not a mandatory listen for every single death metal enthusiast, and it’s far from the genre’s holy grail. It is however a fun listen for those old schoolers that can appreciate a unique-sounding album over a “better”, but more generic one. In a way, the album’s (undoubtedly existing) amateurish shortcomings elevate this over other discs: It’s got a vibe of its own, a distinct atmosphere and a primeval groove to it that just clicks with me, and makes me come back time and time again.

7,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1990
  • Label: Nuclear Blast records
  • Website: Benediction MySpace
  • Band
  • Mark “Barney” Greenway: vocals
  • Peter Rewinski: guitars
  • Darren Brookes: guitars
  • Paul Adams: bass
  • Ian Treacy: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Intro – Portal to your phobias
  • 02. Subconscious terror
  • 03. Artefacted irreligion
  • 04. Grizzled finale
  • 05. Eternal eclipse
  • 06. Experimental stage
  • 07. Suspended animation
  • 08. Divine ultimatum
  • 09. Spit forth the dead
  • 10. Confess all goodness