|Musical Style: Doom Metal||Produced By: Bob Moore|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 7||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 30:48|
Evil Killer, the fall of 2013 fourth solo release from vocalist David Benson is proof the artist is learning from the mistakes and missteps of his previous albums and - even better - not repeating them. Most identify with Benson for his Ozzy influenced vocal abilities, which he unveiled on his 1994 debut Holy Psychotherapy and continued to showcase on follow up efforts Purpose Of The Cross and Premonition Of Doom from 1996 and 1997, respectively. Critics, as a result, labeled Benson a ‘Christian alternative to Ozzy”, and not just in terms of vocal style but also musical direction from merging aspects of traditional heavy metal with strong doom-like Black Sabbath and early eighties Ozzy overtones.
As a reviewer, and unlike some, I never had a problem with the fact Benson’s vocals are reminiscent to those of Ozzy’s. Rather, my main concern always came down to whether or not his songs are any good. While the artist displayed marked improvement over his first three albums, and some good material stood out therein, musical inconsistency reared its ugly head in that I would hit the occasional skip button. Hence, note the scores I accorded Purpose Of The Cross (70%) and Premonition Of Doom (75%).
What has also prevented me from fully embracing Benson is how he lacked the single selling appeal that allowed other Christian metal artists with a sound resembling that of a mainstream counterpart to stand out. Whitecross, for instance, might have had a vocalist in Scott Wenzel that was a dead ringer for Stephen Pearcy (Ratt) but also featured one of the better guitarists of its generation in Rex Carroll. Likewise, Trytan has been compared to Rush due to the similarities between vocalist Larry Dean and Geddy Lee but were also one of the first Christian bands to experiment with a sound heavily rooted in progressive metal.
In my opinion the missing ingredient as it pertains to Benson comes down to guitar playing in that when thinking of Ozzy, one of the first things that comes to mind - outside of bad reality TV programming and occasional boorish behavior - are the great guitarists he has worked with: Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde and others. Benson, on the other hand, has for the most part employed guitarists that, while otherwise serviceable and technically sound, failed to bring the over the top abilities that might garner your immediate and full attention.
That, however, all changes with Evil Killer in that Benson has finally allied himself with the ‘name’ player that might take his music to that much needed next level: Victor Griffin. Griffin, obviously, needs no introduction as one of the leading guitarists within the doom genre. Yes, he gained renown for his initial work in Death Row and Pentagram but later hit his stride with more recent groups Place Of Skulls and In-Graved. Former came together following the turn of the century and put out four full-length albums and one EP, while latter released its self-titled debut full length in 2013. The common denominator tying both acts together are lyrics reflecting the artist’s faith and spiritual beliefs.
Musically, the impact of Griffin’s extensive doom background cannot be understated. It starts with how his trademark plodding and brooding riff emphasis lends to the low-end heaviness and gloomy aesthetics associated with the doom genre. Fans of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Trouble and Candlemass (not to mention the already noted Place Of Skulls and In-Graved) will find a lot to like here accordingly. The overall feel is how Evil Killer represents by far the heaviest work from Benson - and not just in terms of guitar sound in that bass presence is literally off the charts - with Griffin playing no small role in this capacity.
If interested in a caustically trudging doom metal slab then look no further than “Diviners Tale”, weighty and somber in upheld by eerie keyboards and distorted underpinnings, and “Dear Aleister”, even more plodding and trenchant with hints of low-end groove and bluesy guitar flavorings. “Demons Call” comes across haunting with its guttural chorus and portent riff mentality, while “Little Horn” weaves acoustic guitars and hulking rhythm guitars with an extended instrumental section allowing Griffin to display his accomplished lead guitar work (in past reviews I have described his playing as ‘bluesy but sophisticated’).
A contrastingly up-tempo leaning can be found in the energetic hooks to “Wicked This Way Comes” (the malevolent backing vocals in its chorus remind this is still doom) and spirited momentum sustaining the catchy “Evil Killer” (with the genres ominous sensibilities still making their presence felt). “Crushing The Dark Cathedral” maintains the forthright intent in playing up a mournful demeanor and underpinnings on the accessible side of things.
Those previous references to how the artist has learned from past mistakes and missteps manifest themselves in not just the quality to the Evil Killer material but also consistency in that each song successfully passes the test of repeat play. It also stands out in the professional production, which emphasizes full on and weighty guitars but also the type of pronounced low-end characteristic to the doom genre. I cannot help but think bringing in a musician of Griffin’s caliber proved crucial either way.
Main complaint revolves around how the album is a bit short in featuring just seven songs- and walks a fine line between EP and full-length territory as a result. Why not come up with 2 to 3 more songs and turn it into a full-length project instead? This is the lone particular preventing me from rating Evil Killer in the 85% to 90% range.
More of an observation, but two of the albums songs were re-recorded from previous projects: “Crushing The Dark Cathedral” made its initial appearance on Purpose Of The Cross, while the artist recorded “Dear Aleister” in 2000 for his David & Goliath demo (the song was also done by Mick Rowe on the 2001 Goliath debut The Gate). There are two ways to look at things here. First, while the covers come across in the more highly upgraded format, the quality of the new Evil Killer material is such there deserves to be more of it. Second, if you do not have enough new songs, then why not do a couple more covers to (again) turn the album into a full-length effort- and give the music buying public more of their money’s worth in the process.
I went the download route with Evil Killer and all I got was that- just the downloaded music files and no lyrics, artwork or liner notes that might mention the additional musicians performing on the album. There is also no press material from the artist to include this information, while the David Benson and ‘Benson Griffin’ Facebook pages also fail to offer further detail. Later, it was brought to my attention that Dan Lively (HypnoGog & Sweet Cicada) handled bass and Russell Lee drums- and quite capably either way I might add.
Please note that when Evil Killer first came out it went under the heading ‘Benson Griffin’ (with a limited edition CD run of 300 copies including the original ‘Benson Griffin’ artwork) but was later changed to a David Benson solo release.
The lesson learned from Evil Killer is not to pre-judge it based upon Benson’s past work. I made the same mistake in that on first listen my impression was ‘same-old-same-old’ but subsequent spins found the albums true quality to stand out. It starts with how David Benson and Victor Griffin complement one another and, as previously noted, take the material here to the next level in the process. Doom fans would be well serves by checking Evil Killer out.
Track Listing: “Diviners Tale” (5:14), “Demons Call” (3:49), “Evil Killer” (2:54), “Dear Aleister” (5:34), “Little Horn” (4:31), “Wicked This Way Comes” (4:26), “Crushing The Dark Cathedral” (4:20)
David Benson - Lead Vocals
Victor Griffin - Guitars
Dan Lively – Bass
Russell Lee - Drums