After scaling back the blackened and melodic tendencies that marked their 2000 self-titled debut, French loonies Benighted rapidly morphed into the finely-tuned deathgrind butchering machine they are today, releasing a consistent string of high-quality albums drenched in blood-spattered brutality, while keeping the fun and creepy factors cranked. Their sound may be set in stone, but the beauty of Benighted is the distinctive quirks and curve balls they splice into their brutal and musically dynamic brand of pig-squealing lunacy. Although a solid album in its own right, 2014’s Carnivore Sublime smacked of a veteran band in safety mode, marred by its bland, overproduced sonic palette and songwriting missing the band’s usual zing. Line-up reshuffling has since resulted in a change of their powerhouse rhythm section, with longtime members Eric Lombard and Kevin Foley parting ways, replaced by bassist Pierre Arnoux and one-time Necrophagist drummer Romain Goulan.
Following a typically unsettling scene setter, Necrobreed hacks into the bone with a signature ripper in the form of the explosive “Reptilian,” and it’s immediately clear all is good in the Benighted camp. Remaining as cutthroat and unrelentingly nasty as expected, there’s definitely more steel and guts this time around, with the new blood seemingly invigorating the band. Necrobreed sounds faster, angrier and leaner than Carnivore Sublime, while featuring more bloodied hooks than an abattoir. “Forgive me Father” pairs frontman Julien Truchan’s delightfully diverse vocal extremities with an inspired guest appearance from The Black Dahlia Murder‘s Trevor Strnad, further solidified by top-notch riffs, catchy songwriting and pummeling drum battery. Compacted into a shade under 40 minutes, Necrobreed fosters great replay value as Benighted butcher their way through a series of tightly wound cuts and get the fuck out, leaving a trail of bloodied entrails in their wake.
Several songs stand out more than others but there’s nary a weak moment to be found and as per usual Benighted shoehorn in plenty of bizarro twists and killer samples. Opening with an Arnie quote from over-the-top action classic Commando, “Leatherface” cuts loose with speedball riffing, a muscular groove and insane deathgrind that devolves into madness as white knuckle blasts and eerie soundscapes interject before a devastating groove section takes hold, complete with utterly sick, swamp water gurgling vocals and further blasting to slam things home. The grindy, hook-laden “Monsters Make Monsters,” which can be amusingly misheard as “Moustache! Fake Moustache!” (wanna comb it?) during the chorus, groovy, bass-heavy crunch of the blasty “Cum with Disgust,” and sinister melodies of the blistering “Der Doppelgaenger” are also noteworthy gems. Closer “Mass Grave” starts out typically enough across its punishing first two-thirds, before getting really interesting during its climax as Benighted unleash some super tight melodic death riffing before reaching a crescendo of blackened, double kick backed intensity, featuring anguished howls and a disturbingly emotive tone. It’s a powerful and unexpected turn from the band, ending the album on a rousing note.
Performances are excellent across the board. Despite missing some of the unique character of his predecessor, Goulon otherwise slays behind the kit, bringing high-velocity speed, technical prowess and tons of energy into the Benighted fold. Meanwhile, Truchan remains one of extreme metal’s most deranged and versatile vocalists, spewing all manner of filth from his pipes, from guttural growls, gurgles of varying pitch and depravity to grindy shrieks, screams, and hardcore-ish grunts. I can even stand behind the widely detested pig squeal vocal style he liberally deploys to great effect. Not to be outdone, Olivier Gabriel and Emmanuel Dalle proficiently hammer home their signature deathgrind riffing and skilfully explore outside the boundaries of Benighted‘s core sound. The duo keeps things groovy and technical while incorporating wisps of melody and the occasional shredding solo to go with the prominent punk and hardcore influences. Necrobreed’s production is typically polished, heavy and loud, though fortunately not as overproduced and sickly slick as Carnivore Sublime.
Necrobreed finds Benighted returning to form and firing on all cylinders, showcasing all their key attributes in a package that reminds me why I love this band and rank them in a similar class as Anaal Nathrakh and Cattle Decapitation when it comes to genre splicing extremity. There’s nothing here to change the minds of prior detractors, but for the rest of us, along with the uninitiated with a penchant for wildly entertaining, slammy deathgrind, Necrobreed delivers the goods tenfold.