(We present DGR’s typically detailed review of Obscene Repressed, the new album by the French maulers in Benighted, which will be released by Season of Mist on April 10th.)
It probably doesn’t need to be stated that we’re fans of the French death metal crew Benighted and their brand of frantic mania, especially given that we’ve kept a pretty constant eye on the crew from release to release. Thus, we’ve been patiently waiting for the group’s newest album Obscene Repressed, a thematically twisted concept album that reads part horror story, part Pornhub top video statistics by State chart, and part gleeful exploration of insanity with the music stylings to back it up.
The group’s previous album Necrobreed was one that focused heavily on the brutality side of Benighted’s sound, happy to slam listeners around from part-to-part and then commit the usual bludgeoning via blastbeat that we expect from this genre. The guest appearances were fun — the Trevor Strnad contribution turned out to be one of his better guest spots among a massive collection of them — and the music was happy to hammer listeners to a fine pulp. The following EP, Dogs Always Bite Harder Than Their Master, continued with that trend with its two new songs and cover track. Like many discs though, artist moods seem to revolve in threes, and while Necrobreed might’ve leaned heavy on the death metal brutality side, its predecessor Carnivore Sublime was happier playing in a grind world, throwing song after song around in fits of psychosis and effectively being all over the map musically as the band experimented with lightspeed brutality.
Obscene Repressed, then, follows that musical arc by doing what third album releases often tend to do when the previous two releases have been hard swings between two different aspects of a band’s sound — it seeks to split the difference, hybridizing that hefty and violent death metal brutality with the frantic and fluttering nature of Benighted’s grind side, and comes out sounding like an album that would happily throw itself into a knock-down drag-out brawl with either of its siblings.
There’s a thought exercise in listening to Benighted releases that is interesting to perform with each new album: the simple act of putting it on shuffle and seeing what sort of oddball twists and turns might catch you now that you’ve removed every song from its contextual flow. It can be helpful sometimes, especially in the case of Obscene Repressed, as there’s no “intro” so to speak. It starts quietly and then goes zero-to-one-hundred as Benighted are prone to do, because Benighted write the sort of music that is meant to be a whole lot taken in at once, overwhelming in its ferocity and violence, so that its brutality becomes the normal mundanity that drives the album. When your base line is the musical equivalent of throwing vegetables into a hurricane fan and recording what splatters on the wall, divorcing those rapid twists and turns out into their own little pocket dimensions can be immensely helpful, and Obscene Repressed is no different.
With a loosely themed concept at its core, Obscene Repressed is meant to dash all over the place and contort at weird angles in between all the percussive hammering that comes with this sort of genre. That doesn’t mean Benighted don’t get plenty of mileage out of firing up “Ye olde blast machine” as they do on a song like late-appearing “Scarecrow”, whose own blastbeat assault takes on the percussive rhythm of rifle fire, the constant pulse triggering a primordial fight-or-flight response as the band throw themselves around on top of it and lyrically exhort all sorts of ‘fear’ out of you.
When the Benighted signal goes up — as has been the standard for the group’s last few releases now — a handful of guests usually answer and there are usually a couple interesting ones each time. It’s always fun, in part to hear people get whipped up in whatever mad storm of music Benighted have conjured, and also just to see what names get tied into this specific madness. If you’re going to answer the call, you’re going to put in work too, it’s not just one verse, Benighted absorb you into the whole song.
In Obscene Repressed‘s case, there’s three — two of whom are very fitting, and one who is semi-out-of-left-field, if only just because there is a brief moment of bemused indignance that some motherfucker absolutely dares to be coherent and intelligible on my Benighted album.
Grimo of Cytotoxin fame pops up early on during the song “The Starving Beast” and finds himself in a vocals arms race for a majority of the song. An already manic mess following early single “Brutus”, “The Starving Beast” spends a good chunk of its time with dueling lows and inhuman noise absolutely dominating the song. Another early single features one of the more famous names with Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed popping up during “Implore The Negative”, the slow groove allowing him plenty of room to shout rather clearly in the forefront of the song.
Finally, you have “Mom, I Love You The Wrong Way” dragging Karsten “Jagger” Jäger of Disbelief into the fray for another death metal vocal duel. “Mom, I Love You The Wrong Way” is a little punchier of a song, as it’s built around a sort of whirlwind chaos that always ties back into a stuttered hammer that hits just about every syllable of its title during each chorus.
Obscene Repressed feels like a natural combo of Benighted’s most recent releases. If you’ve been following them for a bit, then the group’s whirlwind chaos on the instrumental and vocal front should have a familiar sheen to it. The band stretch a bit by tying a demented story into the mix and then having each song build upon it, but musically they remain an ever-consistent bludgeoning force. There’s plenty of oddball one-off experimentation in these songs, as Benighted find a way to jam a billion sharp turns into every circle-pit riff, and if you enjoy random and out-of-the-blue guitar leads, then an early chunk of Obscene Repressed should more than keep you interested.
Benighted’s branch of mania-infused death and grind has proven to be a fantastic go-to in recent years and every release is always an incredibly packed brick of brutality. Obscene Repressed is no different on that front, but it does offer the group the opportunity to let loose more than usual, and in doing so Benighted manage to find another interesting spin to their sound that will fit in perfectly with their long-running discography.