BENEDICTUM – Fall To Your Knees And Repent If You Please!

By Carl Begai

It’s hard to believe the cartoon that is MySpace was once the first stop in cutting edge social media. As of 2005 is was a place for musicians big and small to get the word out about their music and assorted projects, and it was around that time bassist/producer Jeff Pilson (Foreigner, ex-Dokken) first drew attention to a new band he was working with called Benedictum. He compared vocalist Veronica Freeman to a female Ronnie James Dio, and the release of the band’s debut, Uncreation (2006), proved that Pilson wasn’t blowing smoke. Almost 10 years later Benedictum have hammered out their fourth album, Obey, and although it’s reminiscent of their early work the creative team behind the music has changed considerably. Only Freeman and guitarist Pete Wells remain of the original line-up and Pilson turns up only as a collaborator, with John Herrera now in the producer’s chair, but the fans aren’t complaining judging by the Obey reviews making the rounds.

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“We had asked Jeff to produce the last album (Dominion – 2011) but it didn’t work out with his schedule,” Freeman reveals, adding that Herrera did a fantastic job on Obey. “We had a couple conversations with Jeff and he promised he wouldn’t let us down next time around, because we really are like family, but he was getting these musical opportunities that he couldn’t turn down. I know Jeff well enough to know that in his heart he really wanted to do this album, but this is business as well as friendship and I simply didn’t have the money to pay him. I can’t compete against these other people. I really wanted Jeff involved in some way, though. Once we started putting these songs together and they took on their own little lives, we went out to his place for two days for pre-production and rearranging things. The intensity of Jeff Pilson when you’re working with him is insane, and he really brought some of these songs to life, like ‘Retrograde’. He was involved on the last album on only one song, ‘Epsilon’, but you can kind of tell when it’s a Jeff thing.”

Production of Obey fell into the capable hands of John Herrera, and the results are in-your-face impressive. Loud, obnoxious, not too polished and not too dark.

“We needed someone local, and Rikard (Stjernquist/drums) worked with John before. I had to get some stuff done with guest vocals on another album, so we tried it out with John just to make we were going to get along. It worked out well. You’re right on the money with the production, and Rikard kept telling me I should be more excited bout it because of the production alone. He spent a lot of his time listening to the first two albums to really grasp Jeff’s mindset when he produced them, and then he put his own spin on it. He did an amazing job.”

In spite of the repeated line-up changes, which have been in full swing since the Seasons Of Tragedy album (2008), Benedictum’s sound has remained traditional old school metal thanks to the long time Freeman-Wells writing team.

“Yeah, Pete and I did most of the songwriting for Obey and it’s always kind of been that way,” says Freeman. “He’s that musical hamster in the spinning wheel (laughs); Pete is always churning out new stuff. He’ll send me little snippets of things, then we’ll get together and jam at rehearsal. And he’ll always try to sneak stuff in and waits for my reaction. That’s how we usually work. Even when we went to Jeff doing Obey, the basic parts were already there. We’ve been working together for over 15 years, so it’s hard for me to imagine working with someone else. When it comes to songwriting we roll in a certain way.” Continue reading BENEDICTUM – Fall To Your Knees And Repent If You Please!

T&N – Attack Formation: Life After DOKKEN

By Carl Begai

Chemistry – good and bad – is everything.

In the case of ‘80s bashers Dokken it was the mix of frontman Don Dokken, guitarist George Lynch, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer “Wild” Mick Brown that yielded four cult favourite albums – Breaking The Chains (’81), Tooth And Nail (’84), Under Lock And Key (’85) and Back For The Attack (’87) – that are still cited as some of the best from that era. It was also the cause of legendary in-fighting between Don Dokken and Lynch, resulting in several break-ups and make-ups right up to 2010. And while the pair may never see eye-to-eye, the trio of Lynch / Pilson / Brown still have a strong working relationship that has resulted in a Dokken reunion of sorts through new band T&N.

Originally dubbed Tooth And Nail but forced to change their name for legal reasons, the band – also featuring S.U.N. / ex-Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy – have released Slave To The Empire, a record that recalls the classic Dokken vibe. Something many fans will agree the current incarnation of Don’s long-suffering band is unable to do at this stage of the game.

Lynch has stated in several interviews that the music written for the T&N debut was originally intended for a new Lynch Mob record. Pilson was invited to come in and help with the songwriting, which slowly but surely drove the music in a direction other than what Lynch had envisioned. Rather than scrap the songs or tell Pilson to take a hike, the duo opted to launch T&N. So, love it or hate it, folks can blame Slave To The Empire on the Pilson Factor.

“(Laughs) Maybe I bring in an element that’s a little too progressive for Lynch Mob; it’s hard to say. Once we knew it wasn’t going to be a Lynch Mob record we kind of let the music go in a direction that felt good to us. It was a little more organic to start with, but given my vices I like to go a little crazy (laughs). I like to explore, I like to experiment with things. I love the Lynch Mob so I have no problems with what they do, but when George and I get together I think we want to push the boundaries a little bit.”

Conceivably, Lynch could have limited Pilson’s input on the original song ideas rather than collaborating like they did in the Dokken days or for the lone Lynch/Pilson album, Wicked Underground, from 2003.

“Then there would have been no point in getting me to come in and write songs,” Pilson laughs. “We know what we’re in for when we work together. Many times we’ve written songs and intended to do something specific, and it worked, but a lot of time the music takes on a life of its own after that and that’s when some of our coolest stuff had come around. We’ve very, very reluctant to stop that part of the process no matter who we’re writing for.” Continue reading T&N – Attack Formation: Life After DOKKEN