Benedictum – Seasons Of Tragedy (2008, Locomotive)
- Dawn Of Seasons (instrumental)
- Shell Shock
- Burn It Out
- Bare Bones
- Within The Solace
- Beast In The Field
- Nobodies Victim
- Balls To The Wall
- Steel Rain
- Seasons Of Tragedy
Veronica Freeman – Vocals
Pete Wells – Guitars
Jesse Wright – Bass
Paul Courtois – Drums
*** There are a lot of special guests on this album including Jeff Pilson, George Lynch and Craig Goldy. There are many musicians credited in the liner notes for different instruments on different songs, in some cases just a guitar solo. Please refer to the Benedictum website or the liner notes for the extensive credits.
Producer: Jeff Pilson
Total Time = 59:04
SEASONS OF TRAGEDY is the sophomore effort from California metallers Benedictum and it is a U.S. Power Metal feast! The band’s 2006 debut, UNCREATION, laid the groundwork of blazing Power Metal/Thrash riffs and a pummelling rhythm section combined with the powerful shriek of lead singer Veronica Freeman. This formula solidified Benedictum as a solid force on the U.S. Metal scene and the new album continues the assault.
The opening track is a minute and a half instrumental called ‘Dawn Of Seasons’ that has a very Euro-Metal feel to it but it’s deceiving in it’s calm approach because ‘Shell Shock’ starts out with a drum barrage that signals the Thrashy main riff from Pete Wells. Veronica Freeman is yelling her guts out with a serious power that separates her from her counterparts in bands like Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, and After Forever. There is nothing but pure aggression in Veronica’s vocals. The assault continues with the heavy ‘Burn It Out’, a song full of solid guitar and pounding drums. Freeman’s vocals are still aggressive with a bit of a harmonized backing track around the chorus while Wells duels it out with Grave Digger’s Manni Schmidt for guitar solo supremacy. Benedictum gives us a small break from the pounding with the groove laden ‘Bare Bones’, a track that is much more melodic than the straight forward approach of the first two songs. ‘Bare Bones’ is still a heavy song but the keyboards from producer Jeff Pilson (ex-Dokken) add that melodic touch that takes the song to another level. The song is still heavy on guitar with the keys enhancing the sound, another ex-Dokken bandmate George Lynch trades off solos with Pete Wells while Freeman lays down her best melodic vocal. Even though she tones down her power for more range, she still sounds very powerful. The unsung part of the song is Jesse Wright’s groove heavy bass line.
The band gave us our break and they come back heavy on ‘Within The Solace’. The main guitar sounds very Sabbath like but there is that double bass drumming keeping the song fast while maintaining that Doom Metal crunch. Add the keyboards in for the eerie effect and Freeman has enough room to show off a few different styles from soaring high and bottom dwelling lows to snarling growl. ‘Beast In the Field’ sounds like DEFENDERS era Judas Priest (with more effective drumming) and melodic European Metal. The song goes along well with it’s Power Metal surge but the band changes pace at the halfway mark, slowing it down to give Veronica more room to sing rather than shriek. Even though the song is more melodic, it’s still very heavy and sits alongside the first two barnburners very nicely in terms of overall power. ‘Legacy’ would fit into the same framework as ‘Beast In The Field’ with more of an emphasis on melodic parts and keys enhancing the overall power. The pace is pretty much the same as the rest of the songs, as are the solos, so the overall song sounds a bit predictable. The piano sequence that ends the long though me off, I didn’t expect it. Unfortunately, ‘Nobodies Victim’ falls into the “I’ve heard this before” category as ‘Legacy’ did. There is a little more groove to the song than straight out speed but the song does get fuelled by the rhythm section and the vocals. The song slows for the keyboard laden chorus but the power is still there with Freeman’s high screams.
Nothing like a cover song to break the continuity of a solid album of original material but I’m going to go against my personal rules and give Benedictum a pass with their performance of Accept’s ‘Balls to The Wall’. This song fits the band’s heavy style and Veronica gets to stretch out a bit vocally. Former Dokken bandmates Pilson and Lynch guest on this track on bass and guitar and they help do the song proud. The backing vocals sound strikingly similar to the original, giving the song the added power. ‘Steel Rain’ is a slow moody song that is the album’s ballad. Veronica sings in a more melodic voice that follows the Lacuna Coil, Nightwish, and After Forever formulas this time, although not as operatic. The song has a Dio influence to it with the heavy guitar, swirling keyboards, and choral background vocals. I was impressed that the band could change gears and slow it down to ballad form, they can obviously do more than put on a speed showcase. The almost 12 minute title track ends the album in epic fashion with a ton of riffs pushed around through time changes and soaring vocals. Definitely a combination of Power and Progressive Metal without the overbearing keyboards in the same style as a heavier Royal Hunt, After Forever or Kamelot. The song ends the album with a look into what could be the future as Benedictum expands on their style.
I’ve had this album since it came out in March and I have been listening to it regularly, Benedictum has become one of my favorite newer bands. SEASONS OF TRAGEDY is an album full of really good fast Metal songs but the album gets better as the band adds different layers to their overall sound. Benedictum strikes hard with their straight forward power delivery but some of the songs start to sound the same toward the middle of the record. If you want to hear some really good U.S. Metal with an aggressive female singer then Benedictum is the band to check out. This is one of my favorite releases of the year.
Favorite Songs: ‘Seasons Of Tragedy’, ‘Steel Rain’, ‘Shell Shock’, ‘Burn It Out’, ‘Within The Solace’, ‘Bare Bones’