BENEDICTUM - Creating A Better Bitchslap

January 5, 2008, 10 years ago

By Carl Begai

benedictum feature

Benedictum’s debut album from 2006, Uncreation, wasn’t a gazillion seller, but at the end of the day it was a rousing success for the band. The buzz began with producer/ex-Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, who touted vocalist Veronica Freeman in interviews as a female Dio while he was working on the album. It gained momentum, in Europe in particular, when people discovered Pilson wasn’t talking through his hat and that Freeman really did have the chops. A summer festival tour followed the release of Uncreation, and Benedictum closed out 2006 with a European tour supporting Doro. It was a dream scenario for a band making their professional debut on a cluttered power metal scene. Album #2, Seasons Of Tragedy, marks Benedictum’s return to the fray with a ballsy hook-laden record that will likely surprise fans expecting a simple follow-up to Uncreation. Fear not; the power and the metal are very much intact, but the baby fat has been trimmed away, resulting in an arsenal of songs loaded with attitude and dynamics, all delivered by a tougher, meaner Freeman. Quite an achievement considering she went all out on the debut.

“I was really stressing over that,” Freeman says, finally able to relax with regards to her vocal performance on Seasons Of Tragedy. “On the first album I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be. You do what you do and you hope for the best. The very first review I read for Uncreation was terrible, so I got to sit with that for about a month, and I began thinking ‘Jeez, eventually I’m going to have to do a second album…’ (laughs). I’m really excited to hear you say that about my voice because, it’s not like I’m not happy with it on the album, but I was worried about my performance.”

During BW&BK;’s first encounter with Freeman (issue #96), she was open in her hopes of securing a European tour for Uncreation, as most of the attention Benedictum was receiving at the time came from overseas. A month after that interview the first Benedictum festival dates were announced, and from there things picked up speed.

“It happened so fast that it wasn’t until after it was over that we realized what was happening,” Freeman admits. “Pete (Wells/guitars) actually pointed out to me that for a first album we had done something amazing. Our first show ever was in San Diego opening for Lynch Mob, and we couldn’t get a show to save our lives. Our second show was at the Gods Of Metal Festival in Italy. It was mindblowing, especially being a new band on the scene. I remember when I got the email saying we got the festival. I was beside myself because I’d never played in front of that many people before and neither had anyone else in the band. It was like, what do you do? How do you act? It was incredible to be able to do that. And to play the Wacken Open Air… I was joking around about that saying one day we would. All of a sudden it was like ‘Shit! What am I going to wear for Wacken?’ (laughs). The biggest thing for me, it wasn’t the number of people, it was singing the stuff and looking out in the crowd, and they knew all the words. That blew my mind. It’s just one of those things that you never really think about.”

As mentioned, December 2006 found Benedictum on the road with Doro. It was more than anyone had expected for a small band on a small label.

“That was the other thing that blew me away,” says Freeman. “The month before we got that tour I had been saying to Pete that two people I’d love to tour with are Dio and Doro. Four weeks later we got the news that we would be on the Doro tour, and I’m surprised you didn’t hear the scream I let out (laughs). Of course, I thought it was going to be cool to have our own tour bus and stuff because it was our first real tour and I didn’t know any better. I ended up being the only woman on the bus we shared with Winterborn. It was like out of a movie. I got off the plane all excited and exhausted, and there’s this really beautiful bus. I started hauling my stuff over and they’re like ‘Uh, no, the generic yellow one is yours…’(laughs). It was a great experience, though.”
“We could not have been in a better situation, but I was worried at first because there were two female fronted bands and I figured there would be some competition or whatever. It was actually the most wonderful set of circumstances. Doro is such a beautiful and wonderful person. I’d never met her, so to have the opportunity to meet her and feel her energy was amazing. And her crew, we really bonded and we’re friends to this day. They made sure both support bands were taken care of. I had been hearing all kinds of stories about how you get dissed and kicked to the kerb as an opening band, and that didn’t happen. The other advantage is that Doro’s crew is experienced, and they were used to looking after any special needs a woman might have, whether it was a having a little area to get changed or whatever. That sort of thing means a lot if you’re the only girl. There were some clubs that were so small they only had one dressing room, and she always made sure I had a place where I could have some privacy. She was great. They all were.”

These live experiences quite naturally bled into the songwriting for Seasons Of Tragedy. Uncreation sounds cautious and cold by comparison, with each step on the album calculated for maximum effect. The new record is about blowing the doors off the hinges and going for broke, never mind the carnage left in its wake.

Freeman agrees: “The touring changed everything for us as a band. Benedictum came back a different band. The tour started out okay for us, but by mid-tour we were on fire. Doing shows night after night made us really solid, to where we can get together now after not seeing each other for a while and just jam the songs out at rehearsal without a problem. I can see where the level of professionalism in Benedictum has really come up. We have more confidence in ourselves as a unit.”

“But, as for taking the pressure off doing the new album… I can speak for myself and tell you that I was so worried and so negative while we were recording, stressing the entire time. Pete and Jeff, they urged me along a lot. I wasn’t happy with a lot of the stuff I had done, I was worried that my vocals were too different and wondering what people were going to think, and I think I had more meltdowns on this album than on the first one. I pushed myself and Jeff pushed me. I set my target pretty high and I think I fell short a little bit at first because I wanted to be so perfect, to the point where Jeff told me I had to chill out. There were so many times I went into the studio and Jeff told me that I was trying way too hard. He reminded me I was supposed to have fun with the music and just be myself. Once I did that everything came together. The cover of (Accept classic) ‘Balls To The Wall’ is a perfect example. I studied that song, listened to every version of it I could find, and I was trying to channel Udo Dirkschneider or something (laughs). George Lynch was coming in for it and I totally flipped on that, and the first few vocal takes were crap. Jeff told me I had to be Veronica doing the song, not Veronica being Udo doing the song. We set it aside for a few days, and when we came back I was feeling it.”

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