The V – Now or Never (Frontiers Records)

Thursday, 25th June 2015
Rating: 8/10

Trends come and go in heavy metal – and the cream always rises to the top in the long run. Veronica Freeman as vocalist for California’s Benedictum has been belting out melodies through the course of four full lengths from 2006-2013, planting the seeds for this special solo album Now or Never. Label president Serafino Perugino encourages his artists to assemble the best players, songwriters, and producers for the highest quality final product – making this 12 song record a diverse collection to stretch The V’s natural metal register.

Certain tracks sit right in Veronica’s traditional wheelhouse of Dio-oriented heaviness and charm – “Again” and “Spellbound” probably the two that resonate most due to those crunchy riffs, rock solid, in the pocket grooves and her soaring command of a four octave plus range. Beyond her 3 Benedictum bandmates appearing in spots, no less than 19 other singers and musicians add their flavors to the mix- as diverse as Dark Angel guitarist Jim Durkin to ex-Unearth/Kingdom of Sorrow drummer Derek Kerswill. Chastain’s Leather Leone trades off in a double barrel female showdown for “Kiss My Lips”, while Tony Martin lends his stellar pipes for the very-bluesy (and Sabbathy) closer “King for a day” – while Stryper’s Michael Sweet delivers on guitar and production skills for the swankier “Love Should Be to Blame”.

There’s a certain continuity that keeps The V into a firm swinging melodic metal record – the lead breaks fluid but never over the top, and many of the chord/riff choices igniting a positive, uplifting platform. Check out “L.O.V.E.” for instance – the chorus using layered vocal harmony techniques while the verses have a playful bass/drum hop as you take in lines about Romeo, Juliet, and marionettes. Honing in on the right word/music combination makes it easy for Veronica to lay down comfortable melodies, exploring a lot of current commercial terrain on the early Def Leppard-esque “Roller Coaster” and AOR-ish “Below Zero” (the latter conjuring images of Martha Davis from The Motels in her prime).

Too many side projects can emulate main acts these days – Now or Never is one that reaches back a little more into the California hard rock scene, while also reminding people of her natural Judas Priest/Dio traditional side. Hails to The V!

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