France. A country known for its romantic backdrops and bountiful pastries, it has also exported some of the most shocking and disturbing art in recent memory. Horror films such as Inside and Martyrs, to name but a few, came from the twisted minds of native Frenchmen and explore dark and demented themes that aren't for the faint of heart. It should come as no surprise, then, that this mentality carries over into some of France's metal bands. Yes, we've all heard Gojira, but there's a darker, more maniacal side to France's metal underground, and perhaps no band represents it better than Benighted.
Benighted has been around since 2000 and plays a violent and vicious brand of deathgrind that's highly reminiscent of fellow Europeans Aborted. Though they've never quite reached the same status as their Belgian counterparts, they've released some truly sickening and brutal records throughout their career that grind like a dull buzzsaw and groove like a motherf***er. Coming off the heels of two totally killer albums, Asylum Cave and Carnivore Sublime, Benighted have returned with their eighth studio effort, Necrobreed, a gore-riddled deathgrind assault that's among some of the most extreme and feral the genre has ever seen.
In typical fashion, the album opens with "Hush Little Baby," a seemingly innocent sample of a mother singing a lullaby to her child, but of course, it's not hard to guess what comes next. Gravity blasts and an onslaught of destructive riffs burst forth from the chest of "Reptilian," and it's a primer of what to expect over the next 38 minutes. Guitarists Oliver Gabriel and Emmanuel Dalle churn out riff after riff after riff while vocalist Julien Truchan reinvents the meaning of "pig squeal" with his deranged shriek. Following the departure of longtime drummer Kevin Foley, the band enlisted Romain Goulon of Necrophagist fame to beat – no, demolish – the skins on Necrobreed, and the result is just as you'd expect. The band strikes a great balance between overt technicality and neck-snapping grooves.
Guest spots on death metal records have become more commonplace as bands tour together and become friends over the years, and coming off of a tour with Benighted last year, Trevor Strnad of The Black Dahlia Murder lends his throat to "Forgive Me Father," one of the highlights of Necrobreed. While it seems unfair to continually compare Benighted to Aborted, it's hard not to think of last year's Retrogore while listening to Necrobreed. Ultimately, Necrobreed doesn't live up to the bar set by Aborted's masterpiece from last year; rather, it is simply a record cut from the same, blood-soaked cloth that still reeks of quality but lacks variation. Benighted almost relies too much on extremity and shock value and doesn't pay enough attention to song composition; a band can blast and recycle the same grooves so much before they're found out. A picky criticism, but one that still matters, even in a genre as lucid as deathgrind.
That said, Benighted aren't going to alienate any fans of this particular genre with Necrobreed. If insanity and nonstop sonic annihilation are your forte, Necrobreed delivers, and then some. This album is a blast (no pun intended) from start to finish, and is full of choice cuts that are sure to get the pits riled up on their tour with fellow brutal metallers Wormed and Unfathomable Ruination this Spring. However, those looking for a little more substance in their death metal may want to look elsewhere.
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