Benevolent - The Covenant
Reviewer: Rak Hiasat - 2015-05-04
Highlights: Asphyxia, The Seeker, Heathen
Variety is wonderful, particularly in a genre where things can become overly familiar. Death Metal often suffers from this affliction, and it’s the innovators that push things along, slowly but surely in a new direction. Before going into the band’s intro, I really appreciate this gift from the band’s members to one of my big inspiration here: I am talking about David Gold. Yes, the band states that this album is dedicated to the memory of David Gold. BENEVOLENT is a Kuwaiti band originally, which moved to the UAE and was founded by two Lebanese brothers, Hadi Sarieddine and Fadi Sarieddine.
"The Covenant" is indeed a masterpiece of 2000s Metal. Well, I reckon that we're talking about an age in the history of Metal (the so-called New Wave of Heavy Metal) that is not generally approved by most extreme music enthusiasts. However, this truly is one of its greatest triumphs. BENEVOLENT's first album, is the evolution of the sound that they've been working on since their beginning, and it can be arguably described as the peak of their artistic career. Do not be fooled by this band's (undeserved) reputation of Experimental / Djent - the sound of this album has more in common with Deathly bands. Of course the band still continues in their Dark Groove / Experimental style, but with more melodies.
“Void” is the first track on this release, and here I want to mention the guest member of this outfit, the ex-drummer of the North American Metal band CHIMAIRA Andols Herrick, and how he managed himself with the group perfectly, just hits as the verse riff kicks in and the way it grooves and flows throughout. Or, of course, the bass drop breakdown insanity of “Asphyxia”, to date the best BENEVOLENT song ever. Now, some may uphold the merits of a more organic, live production and letting the songwriting speak for itself. That philosophy is indeed legit and has its place sometimes, but here, I cannot possibly complain considering the band's incredible knack for squeezing every last drop of oomph out of the songs with the tools they possess outside of writing and instrumental powers.
On the other hand, “The Seeker”, “Radiate”, “Illusion” and “Heathen” are completely different. In a good way. They are darker, more disturbing, more interesting, better structured, more complex and everything. It is also more metallic, in every way. There are actual proper guitar solos here, in virtually every song - something that was hardly there at all on the first two albums. Granted, there was some soloing on some songs on "Divided", but in comparison, the solos on these songs are far less complex and much more generic. Here, on the other hand, there are complex and good solos in nearly every song - which also contributes to making this album a far more proper Metal album than the previous EP “Divided”. Basically, the Experimental / Djent influences are left only in some of the lyrical themes and the vocal style, while the Groove Metal influences are pushed to the forefront - making this a proper Metal album. Not Core Metal. This is real what I can call Extreme Experimental Metal, and it has to be one of the best done, heaviest, most brutal, most interesting, and best structured Modern Groove / Extreme Metal albums ever in the Middle East.
To be contrast, when I first listened to “The Covenant”, it hooked me instantly. It was so different in such a good way, it was hard to believe. This was real Metal, this was aggressive Progressive / Extreme Metal! The riffs are heavy, headbangable and brutal, the solos are well done and complex and the music is just far better. It kept my attention up through the brilliant "The Collector", and the slower but still excellent "Metamorphosis". I didn't lose even a bit of interest until the overly melodic slow down track that is "Ascension" - and even this track is better than, say, "Rebirth" from the group. So, in conclusion, a great Modern Extreme Progressive Metal album. Heavy, crushing, brutal, dark, long, and very well structured. Easily THE BEST METAL MIDDLE EASTERN ALBUM IN 2014 IN MY OPINION.