Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Benighted - Asylum Cave (2011)

I haven't been exposed to much of the Benighted backlog, with the exception of the past two albums Identisick (2006) and Icon (2007). I found neither to be all that impressive. Nonetheless, the band's technical execution, raw ability and incessant extremity seem to have won them a lot of high praise, and certainly their sound is not all that common among the French hordes. I'd most compare their output to Napalm Death's recent streak, incorporating elements of grindcore and death metal, but this mayhem factory is not above incorporating downright hardcore riffs, slam death, melodic guitar solos and other nuances into the killing spree for an invigorating, diverse effect that helps the attention span from teetering into unconsciousness among the monotonous blasting.

In other words, Benighted whips up a carnival of controlled chaos here that couldn't be tighter if it wore a chastity belt. I can't claim that all of the individual riffs the band conjures up are that interesting, but there's enough of them that several are bound to stick. Take something like "Let the Blood Spill Between My Broken Teeth", with its rampant, cavorting rhythms, brutal bite and bark vocals, melodic breakdown and walls of chords, all powered by a whirling human furnace of energy in drummer Kevin Foley. The further into the core of the Asylum Cave, the more crass and punishing, yet intriguing the content becomes, like the maddening grinder "Prey", the curious samples and storming mosh breakdowns of "Fritzl", the driving pig squeal saturated death of "Unborn Infected Children", or the hurricane bottoming of "A Quiet Day" with its timely spurts of melody. When you consider that the French are essentially battering you stupid for 45 minutes, you come out of the experience surprisingly lighter, as if they've clipped a great weight from your shoulders: nothing that happens to you today will be this brutal, so try and relax...

There are not many areas in which I found the material here lacking. Perhaps the vocals are a little too obvious and typical of the style, unable to evoke much distinct character, just the latest in a long strain of Carcass and Napalm Death worshipers. But there's no question that they function within the milieu, punctuated with enough percussion that they won't distract you. And perhaps a good percentage of the guitar riffs feel rather bland on close scrutiny, but they do compensate with some scorchers. The production of the album is intense, fully exposing you to the sore and twisted, swelling joints of its composer. There are a couple of guest vocalists, too, including members of Devourment, Aborted and the bizarre act Pin-Up Went Down. I'm not going to say that I loved this record as if it were my newborn child, but the compositions are beyond competent, and I've had more fun here than their other full-lengths I've experienced.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]


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