|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: David Benson & Bob Moore|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1997/2012||Artist Website: David Benson|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 40:20|
As many an Elvis impersonator can attest, an entire career can be made out of a likeness to someone famous. Consider the music industry, where it is not uncommon for a band to copy the sound of a popular counterpart with the goal of widening its fan base. This is most often the recipe of success for “cover bands”, but occasionally said act will branch out and write and record its own material while staying true to the signature sound of its better known equivalent.
This is best exemplified in the Christian metal scene, which has produced more than its share of groups to invite comparison - intentional or otherwise - to a mainstream artist of a similar style. It started in the eighties with Whitecross, featuring a vocalist in Scott Wenzel that proved a mirror image to Stephen Pearcy (Ratt), and Trytan, fronted by a Geddy Lee (Rush) sound alike in Larry Dean, but also includes X-Sinner and its duo of vocalists in Dave Robbins and Rex Scott that bring to mind Bon Scott and Brian Johnson, respectively.
The trend continued into the nineties with David Benson, whose main calling card was a “Christian alternative to Ozzy”. True to form, Benson’s trademark vocal style closely mirrors that of Ozzy Osbourne. The artist independently released three albums: Holy Psychotherapy (1994), Purpose Of The Cross (1996) and Premonition Of Doom (1997). I passed on the three back in the day due to not being an Ozzy fan, but there are those who swear by Benson’s abilities and maintain that he nails the Ozzy vocal style to perfection.
Premonition Of Doom, the best of the three, was re-mastered and re-issued on Retroactive Records in the spring of 2012. The album presents with an amalgamating of traditional metal and doom metal certain to appease fans of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest and Alice Cooper. It also features some of the strongest material ever from the artist.
It starts with the albums plodding title track but also encompasses the doom-ish groove of “The Struggle” and straightforward metal characterizing the hulking “Sin” and non-stop hooks of “Fool”. “Warfare” maintains the quality with its technical milieu as does “Commissioned” and its acoustic based and melodic flavorings.
Ranking in the good to very good category are “Warpath”, as fiery a three minutes of up-tempo metal as you will find, and “Hellfire”, a slogging mauler with a guttural low end. The only song here not to make it is “Fight” and that is due to the weakness of its chorus (backing vocals are way heavy handed and overdone).
What helps set Premonition Of Doom apart from its predecessors is how Benson brought in some top of the line musical talent to accompany him. Charles “JR” Moore, for instance, represents the best bassist you will hear this side of Jim LaVerde (Barren Cross). The guy lays down some monster bass lines, as can be found on “Sin” (trading off with the rhythm guitar) and “The Struggle” (funky bass guitar solo opening).
One of the complaints voiced in my review of Purpose Of The Cross (re-issued on Intense Millennium in 2011) was the lack of quality lead guitar work. This, however, is a thing of the past due to the contributions of shredders Dale Geer and Chris Grey. The two, best showcasing their abilities on the albums title track (which features a jazzy fusion instrumental interlude) and “Fool” (fiery soloing throughout), help lend a more identifiable personality to Premonition Of Doom. The point being that there is nothing like a good guitar solo to help put a song over the top- and such is the case here!
The only other constructive comment revolves around production. Keeping in mind this is a self-financed release from the late nineties, you will find some slight thinness and murkiness throughout. No, nothing that proves a significant detraction but it is noticeable nonetheless. As far as the re-mastering (courtesy of Steinhaus), I cannot comment on specifics in that I do not own an original copy, but of the past track record of Steinhaus is any indicator then things have been improved upon significantly.
Packaging features highly upgraded album artwork but the 4 panel digi-pak lacks lyrics. Why not make it a 6 panel and include lyrics? Otherwise lyrics are a strong point. “Fight” admonishes the listener to “Guard your heart in this age of disarray” and to be “Faithful to the end with all prayer and supplication”, while “The Struggle” talks about “The yoke of self bound around my neck (and) the great struggle with my humanity” but ultimately comes across in the form of a plea: “Holy Spirit come and rescue me in my struggle to be free”.
“Warfare” deals with spiritual warfare themes: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but they’re mighty through our God. Pulling down strongholds…”. “Commissioned” is aptly entitled: “What He did on the cross. That He died for you and me. I’ve accepted Christ now I’m living the life of a blood bought man”.
Track By Track
Downcast, mournful and caustic, the instrumental opening to the albums title track has all the charm of a funeral procession. When initiative picks up after a couple minutes, the song turns into an unflinching slab of doom metal with a slogging chorus and staunch momentum that has no-nonsense written all over it.
“Fool” stands out with its upbeat proclivity. What we have here is a song taking the more traditional heading, maintaining some swarthy underpinnings but also playing up a hook driven chorus and spirited fury that is its instrumental moments. Alice Cooper comes to mind here.
“Fight” maintains the straightforward metal leanings. Churning its distance to an avalanche of mid-paced riffs, the song reinforces its share of angst and low-key muscle but falls somewhat flat from a chorus standpoint (the shouted vocals melodies are belted out way too heavy handed). This is the only “off” moment in what is otherwise a solid album.
Premonition Of Doom hits its stride with “Sin”. The cool bass guitar (punchy and full of presence) and rhythm guitar (hulking and forward in the mix) interplay defines the song front to back, aligning what amounts a caustic chorus and brilliant instrumental passage that decelerates to some jazzy-bluesy-fusion based moments.
The same quality can be found in “The Struggle”. The song opens to a funky bass guitar solo and maintains a groove flavored aspect throughout, with massive guitar walls playing a prevalent role along with what amounts a doom-like romp of a chorus. Lead guitar is appropriately biting.
“Hellfire” reflects a straightforward metal vibe. Playing up a mid-paced heading, the song proves a serious plodder with its churning riff action and unyielding mentality to the low end. Standing out equally is the understated catchiness to its chorus.
“Warfare” brings a technical aspect. The song drifts between some spirited riff action that borders on speed metal and chugging verses and biting chorus that have trenchant written all over them. The instrumental portion closing out the final minute and a half highlights a bluesy touch.
“Commissioned” takes a semi-ballad heading. A majestic seven minutes, the song is put over the top by a standout melody in drifting its length to acoustic passages (calm, serene and giving rise to the softer touch) and those in which the rhythm guitar plays a prominent role (staunch but not to the point of overriding the serene setting).
What we have in “Warpath” is an up-tempo three minutes. Non-stop energy its length, the song stops and mauls with sledgehammer-like riffs dominating along with some intricate drum action and staunchly done bass lines.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Premonition Of Doom” (5:32), “Fool” (4:04), “Fight” (4:36), “Sin” (3:44), “The Struggle” (4:33), “Hellfire” (4:31), “Warfare” (3:44), “Commissioned” (7:03), ‘Warpath” (3:05)
David Benson - Vocals
Dale Greer - Guitars
Chris Grey - Guitars
Charles “JR” Moore - Bass
Trevor Van Etten - Drums