There are brutal death metal bands, and then there’s Benighted. The French five-piece do everything they possibly can to shit all over the subgenre’s rule book by crafting catchy songs that you can actually tell apart, utilizing highly eclectic vocals and injecting their music with a classiness that other bands just flat-out lack, and yet somehow they come out the other end sounding even more devastating because of it. What’s more brutal, a beating that you can recall nearly every bone-snapping minute of, or one that goes by in an unmemorable blur?
Let’s not beat around the bush here; what I like most about Benighted is that they’re a thoroughly modern death metal band. I have had it up to here with all the “ye olde murky metal ov death” bands, and Benighted are the antidote to that tired shit. Sure, the quintet owes plenty to their brutal death forbears, but they infuse their music with elements borrowed from slam, hardcore punk, melo-death, industrial and wherever else they see fit without ever coming off as anything remotely “core.” Their seventh album, the appropriately titled Carnivore Sublime, is a brutal death metal album through and through, but it isn’t the monotonous, overly technical and over/under(depending on the band)-produced mess that descriptor typically entails.
To put it bluntly, the songwriting on Carnivore Sublime is top-fucking-notch. I don’t recall ever hearing an album this unrelentingly punishing where every song has its own unique character, but Benighted make music that’s remarkably varied. This style is filled with one-trick pony bands, but Benighted write songs like a brutal death metal band that doesn’t know they’re a brutal death metal band. What I mean is, their songs don’t follow the typical “blast blast blast, slow part, blast blast blast, repeat” formula that’s become its hallmark and are instead laden with hooks, melodies and refrains, making tracks such as “Experience Your Flesh” “Collection of Dead Portraits” and the title track tightly wound yet wickedly infectious sonic beatdowns.
Benighted benefit from a two-pronged six-string assault, and Olivier Gabriel and Adrian Guerin pile on the riffs, aided and abetted by a production scheme that keeps the guitars set to liquefy for the album’s thirty-seven minute duration. Indeed, the guitar tone on Carnivore Sublime is among the heaviest things I’ve heard so far in 2014. The riffage serves as the prime focus of Benighted’s onslaught, while the rhythm section of bassist Eric Lombard and drummer Kevin Foley are its ultra-violent core, the musical equivalent of being repeatedly curb-stomped, thanks to Kristian Kohlmannslehner’s aforementioned enormous-sounding production. Carnivore Sublime is probably the best-sounding album I’ve heard so far this year and even though it’s only February it’s hard to imagine anything else coming close in terms of crushing clarity.
Special mention must be made of Julien Truchan’s vocal approach. He incorporates elements of just about every style of extreme music from the pig squeals typical to BDM, to blackened rasps, hardcore shouts and just about every point in-between, bending them to his will to perfectly serve the ample demands of each track. This schizophrenic attack may be off-putting to some (especially those not down with the BREE), but Truchan keeps each song fresh by continually mixing things up; his throat-shredding is downright revelatory for a subgenre where the vocals are typically the weak link.
With Carnivore Sublime, Benighted have thrown down the gauntlet, putting out what is undoubtedly this year’s brutal death metal album to beat. Sure, they’ve been around for a decade-and-a-half, but they have evolved with the times in order to remain one of the genre’s apex predators, as this album proves beyond a shadow of a doubt. Old schoolers will most likely hate it due to the vocals, pristine production and overt catchiness, but those looking to experience what modern death metal is truly capable of in 2014 and beyond need look no further.