Benedictum – Dominion (Frontiers Records)

Friday, 22nd March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Veronica Freeman is woman and hear her roar. And this just isn’t any banshee wail – Freeman has a serious pair of balls (of the hypothetical nature, of course) on her, and it’s enough to make most regular metal singers tremble behind their auto-tune setups. Dominion is the third full-length from the San Diego-based traditional metallers, staying in line with the band’s penchant for easy-to-latch-onto songs, but done with a surprisingly effective modern metal twist.

We’re totally aware that when “modern” is uttered, there’s cause for concern since the prevailing notion is that when most traditional metal bands try to adapt, they usually shoot themselves in the foot. To their credit Benedictum finds the narrow passage between power metal with bravado and simple, but catchy riffs. The band isn’t in the mood to dazzle with technical precision, which is probably why songs like “At the Gates,” and the Grave Digger-like “Grinder” are winners.

Freeman of course, is at the center of the whole thing. Hard to pin her vocals to one particular vocalist, but she has the sneer of classic Dio, which is on full display on “Prodigal Son.” She can also soar above her band’s brutish riff choices, as heard on “The Shadowlands” and would-be crowd pleaser “Bang,” asong about not conforming, something we can understand…unless you really are a conformist, which is okay. Rounding the set out is the 8-minute plus “Epilson,” acoustic “Sanctuary” (featuring Jeff Pilson of Dokken/Dio fame) and a cover of Rush’s “Overture/Temples of Synrinx.”

With the fiery Freeman out front, there’s a lot Benedictum is capable of, andDominion provides a glimpse into the band’s versatility. Easily one of the better female-fronted metal bands in North America, there’s this lasting appeal to Benedictum that makes it easy to understand why they’re so well-liked across the pond. The same thing should eventually happen here.

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