Kuwait based Benevolent were the regional surprise of 2010 and what a pleasant surprise that was: their “Divided” EP appeared on LebMetal’s Top Metal Releases of 2010, was given “The best Middle Eastern Metal band of the year” title on Jorzine and was featured on the Metality Compilation. The album was also well received by local and international metal fans, further encouraging the band to tour in support of the release and to carefully plan their major label full length debut album (following what Lebanon’s Kimaera did with Stygian Crypt (Russia), Dubai’s Nervecell with LifeForce Records (Germany), Lebanon’s Kaoteon with Osmose Productions (France), Tunisia’s Myrath with Brennus-Music (France) and many more!).
Regarding Benevolent’s style, I can only describe it as progressive death metal but I have found some online references describing the release as ‘djent’. This tag isn’t another sub-genre in metal music today, but actually refers to a particular sound best described by many to be similar to Meshuggah and Periphery’s sound and as Periphery’s vocalist Misha ‘Bulb’ Mansoor describes it: ‘… heavily palm muted distorted guitar chord which is usually played as but not limited to a 4 string double octave powerchord”.
Before I get to the actual songs, I have to mention the awesome artwork of the EP. Not so many EP’s are crafted with both the external appeal as well as the production quality of the material inside. Therefore kudos to Bader Nana for the outstanding artwork that visually attracted myself and several other music fans towards the material with great anticipation.
The lyrical themes revolve around topics such as existence, fear, pain, and out of body experiences. The total running time is 36 minutes (5 songs) which shows high composing abilities of an EP that outruns renowned full-length albums (Atheist’s Jupiter at 33 minutes). Indeed, both The Tyrant and The Quantum Paradox (two 10 minute songs) are the essentials here.
Clairvoyant Transmission seems to go unnoticeable in the album: other songs top it chorus wise and “Purgatory” tops it aggressiveness wise. I would call it a ‘straightforward metal song’ since it doesn’t leave any lasting impression, perhaps because of the straightforward structure used here (riff – chorus- riff – solo – chorus) instead of other variations and acoustic passages. This will take several listens to get into! Rating: 7/10
Purgatory shows aggression as well as a memorable chorus (which is repeated 3 times!), and several ‘djent’ riffs (I got familiar with the term by now). Still, after this second song on the EP, Benevolent aren’t reaching their full potential yet, especially structure wise, which will become the main attraction in this next song, The Tyrant. Nevertheless, Purgatory will certainly please any metalheads with the sheer energy and riffing. Rating: 8/10
The Tyrant, my personal favorite song on this EP, kicks off with an energetic riff (with great accompanying bass and drums) and has a very Opeth meets early Arch Enemy feel. The chorus is pure death metal here with a double pedal attack and a background haunting guitar melody that’s taken straight from the Opeth handbook. The song has progressive written all over it, and the clean vocals on this one fit the general song atmosphere / mood more than on other songs. The real seller parts here are the lengthy progressive variations and solos after 5:32; after hearing those, it was obvious that Benevolent is a band to praise. The Tyrant is one of the best metal songs of 2010. Rating: 10/10
After the huge impression of The Tyrant, Haunting Shores finds itself laying between two 10 minute songs on the EP. The lyrics on this one are ‘death’ oriented and I was surprised when struck with a ‘soft’ chorus instead of a ‘haunting’ one. The growl parts and the opening / ending riffs suit the title and lyrics of the song more than the misplaced chorus in my opinion. Perhaps something similar to Opeth’s “Under The Weeping Moon” would have been more appropriate here. After a couple more listens, this song has grown on me and it has found its spot amongst the best of Benevolent. Rating: 8/10
The Quantum Paradox is full of haunting atmospheres (background keys), acoustic passages, both Meshuggah-like and death metal riffing, clean vocals as well as growls. The structure is remarkable, with smart variations from the main motif but still sustaining the song’s mood from beginning till end. A noticeable killer shift at the 7th minute mark with great wah-wah pedal solo followed by a fast and poly-rhythmic riff. The only ‘dull’ part in this song might be the chorus, with a straightforward palm muted progression that could have been backed up by a melodic guitar lick or better keyboard outlining. Rating: 9/10
Benevolent have certainly set a landmark in the Middle Eastern Metal scene, and have raised the bar for unsigned bands to reach. What’s really important now is that they continue with this spirit and motivation and connect to the worldwide scene, they absolutely deserve it! Don’t forget to give the band a listen, I’ve added the appropriate links below.
P.S: Our own staff member Rami Rouhana contacted Benevolent and distributed 50 copies of the “Divided” EP at a recent metal event at Nova pub, Sin el Fil, in an effort to further support the band and their free of charge EP.