Well, there’s nothing like a revitalising break eh? We really have no excuses this time…except for the fact that not much new music has come out until the end of this month…well…any worth listening to. That being said this next record holds an extremely special place in my heart, well, it would if I had a heart (which I don’t because feelings are yucky).
It’s time to show Middle-Eastern metal a bit more love and review a record that I’ve been hearing about since the summer of 2011. Ladies and Germs, the hour is nigh, and as I sit hear desperately trying to find analogies to compare this album to, I can assure you, that if there’s one iconic record coming out of the Middle-East this year, it’s Benevolent’s “The Covenant.”
To be honest, I’ve been chomping at the bit to hear things off this record, like a crazed chimpanzee discovering bananas for the first time. Lead six string wielder Hadi Sarieddine first showed me some early demos back in July of 2011 and ever since then I, like many Middle Eastern metal monsters have been eagerly awaiting the record’s release. In fact, here’s a picture of that exact moment:
The record opens with the ambient “Void” before the band grab us by the scruff of the neck throw us out a window into the swirling fury that is “Asphyxia.” Frontman Fadi Sarieddine’s vocals have clearly come a long way since 2010’s “Divided EP” displaying a matured snarl, almost like post-pubescent wolves. Another shining star…well…already shining star that manages to shine brighter on this track is former Chimaira stickman Andols Herrick! Just to point out, I’ve been obessessed with Herrick’s drumming since I first hear “Power Trip” back when I was a tiny straight haired obnoxious little bastard (as opposed to being a big, curly haired obnoxious bastard) and “Asphyxia” lets him right out of the gate to assault our ears with what I can only describe as the vengeful hands of God.
Lead single “The Seeker” and “Radiate” continue the key balance between ambience and heaviness that Benevolent so aptly achieve. On tracks like this though, the vocal spotlight shines on brother Hadi, showing off his refined and calming clean vox. So calming in fact that I would gladly let the man sing lullabies to me. “Illusion” clearly displays the band’s early influence from progressive titans Dream Theater, once again featuring a focus on chugging riffs and a superbly placed ambient solo, whilst “Heathen” depicts a slight middle-eastern influence before churning back into the band’s ever more inventive “riff machine” (seriously, it’s like Sarieddine the younger can’t stop writing great riffs!).
“The Collector” is easily my favourite track on the record, and not just because it’s the shortest one. People know that I’m not the biggest prog metal fan, but there’s something about Benevolent’s style that makes them easier to listen to than most, mainly because every song isn’t 20 minutes long, but more because they feature shifts that flow better than a dead crab in a bucket. “The Collector” is easily the most familiar to anyone who’s listened to “Divided EP” (and if you haven’t go listen to it!). Solos that could melt the faces off a golem and a drum line that probably reads at about an “Over 9000!” on the richter scale, this track acts as a great summary of the whole record, heavy, heavy ambient and heavy! (did I mention HEAVYYY!)
On the whole, I’m a happier sand boy because I’ve waited as long as I have for this record, as Benevolent have refined their sound into something that could easily carry them through into the arena of Middle Eastern metal giants.
I’m giving “The Covenant” a:
“The Covenant” – 4/5
“The Covenant” is out March 18th via the Benevolent bandcamp page.