French death metal masters Benighted have been at this for a while. Being formed in 1998, Necrobreed is their 8th album, and it shows that the band can change and get with the times. Their early work was borderline black metal, then switching to deathgrind, and today, they’ve arrived at modern death metal. They’ve always had a unique touch to their sound, something that made them immediately identifiable. And while Necrobreed is ferocious, tight, and overall a showcase of their current choice of genre, it’s also the least Benighted they’ve ever been. If that’s not a problem, then you’ll be in for a ride.
To be fair, the unique Benighted touch is still here. Their sound has always had a hardcore touch to it, be it two-step breakdowns, d-beat influenced sections or the occasional yelled vocals. 2007’s Icon was the height of that style for the band, blending death metal with it seamlessly. Ever since then, they’ve been further and further emphasizing a modern death metal sound, along with pretty much every other big deathgrind band (Dying Fetus, Cattle Decapitation and Aborted, to name a few). While this has lead to more mainstream attention to the genre (because truthfully, polished death metal is a more largely appealing sound than grindcore), it has also lead to more homogenization. In fact, one couldn’t be faulted for mistaking parts of this record for Aborted’s latest, Retrogore. While the band retain their unique voice, they’ve focused more on speed and non-stop riffing here. As a result, their more erratic style of switching into slower, more rhythmic sections or oddball riffs suffers. Even vocalist Julien Truchan, who has one of the most unique voices in the genre, seemingly puts on a Sven impression at times. Even though increased polish and “mainstream” (in air quotes, because, really, how mainstream is death metal?) appeal is mostly a good thing, homogenization leads to bands losing a part of their identity. Gone are the incredibly memorable moments like titular moments of “Let Blood Spill Between My Broken Teeth” or “Saw It All” from prior releases. Not completely, but enough to raise an eyebrow.
That’s not to say it’s all bad. Necrobreed is a full on assault on the senses. What the band forfeit in antics, they gain in sheer ferocity. Having recruited genre veteran Romain Goulon (ex-Necrophagist, among a lot more) on the drums, they can go faster than ever. At times, like Aborted (yes, this comparison can get tired but it really is warranted) they can get overwhelming and fatiguing, which wasn’t as big an issue before when they had more variety in their song writing. But in smaller bursts, Benighted surpass many of their peers. What they retain from their identity helps give their playing a uniquely dark twist, perhaps a remnant of their black metal days. And when they do deliver on the more hardcore-influenced sections, it really enhances the faster sound they’ve gone for here. The name of the game is contrast, and when they strike that balance, Necrobreed is fantastic. Other times, it’s at worst a regular modern death metal record. Which, to be fair, is still a great thing. Despite the occasional comparison to Sven, vocalist Julien carries the band as he usually does, with his varied vocal stylings ranging from yelling, brees and everything in between keeping things fresh at all times.
In the end, it’s all a matter of expectations. If one is a die-hard Benighted fan, they can either be pleased with the band further refining their sound towards a more polished direction, or they can be upset that the band keeps losing their unique voice. If one isn’t a huge fan, they’ll probably be pleased any way, given that Necrobreed is a killer death metal album. Maybe it’s not the band’s most memorable release, due to them becoming less differentiable from their peers, but considering they’re in great company, that’s not that bad. Regardless, this is an absolute blast (heh) of an album, and worth listening to.