'Recreating The Uncreated!'
Benedictum is from San Diego, not exactly a hotbed of metal muscle. Yet the lessons learned from bands like Rainbow and Warrior come to the fore in Benedictum’s sonic blast. All-out wailer Veronica Freeman — who looks as good as she sounds — fronts the machine and even has the temerity to approach Black Sabbath’s “Heaven And Hell” from her own unique perspective.
Elsewhere, she soars Doro-like, railing against “Misogyny,” yet reveling in “Wicca” and “Valkyrie Rising.” The tone is celebratory, pierced through the skin by the screaming antics of lead guitarist Pete Wells. Drummer Blackie Sanchez provides the double-bass boom. Producer/Bassist Jeff Pilson (ex-Dio/Dokken) spills the liquid keyboards of Chris Morgan all over the mix. It all comes together in a splash of vibrant arrival.
Chatting recently with Veronica, I first wondered at what point did Benedictum become her fully-focused upon project? "Actually, that happened in 2005. We were looking for one serious project and I only had the time for one band with the work schedule I have. It was important to me to finally put some effort into recording and seeing what might happen if I focused on one thing and went for it."
Is it true that it's you - and not the plethora of notable Heavy Metalists within the band - that writes these deep, dark songs? "Aahh, well, it is true that I write all the lyrics and melodies but the riffs and the music are all compliments of the fine musicians of BENEDICTUM! I am blessed to be surrounded by such talent and great personalities."
Having now worked with all these respected Metal musicians in such close quarters, I'm wondering if you yourself learnt anything from this band of dark, merry men?! "I have been working with Pete for years, with Blackie for a long time as well, and with Chris for several years, too. I have learned sooooooo much by just watching how each one of them has their own method of creating. They are much more disciplined than I am. As far as working with Jeff Pilson and Craig Goldy - damn, what a blast that was! To work with Jeff is an honor; such a focused and talented person who can wear so many hats at once. You can see the gears turning in his head as he creates. To sum it up, I would say I learned the importance of giving time to your passion. I am still learning that lesson now as I am pulled in so many directions. I choose to re-focus!"
Just where did the name for the band Benedictum come from ... and what were some other not-used choices? "Well we did not pick BENEDICTUM as the name of the band. Let's see, first we were called Regime (that didn’t last long) then Bound. Then, while we were recording the 3-song demo with Jeff Pilson that had 'Benedictum' as one of the tracks, one of Jeff's friends decided he would try and shop the demo. He didn’t like the name Bound, nor did Craig or Jeff - much to our collective dismay. He thought that the name BENEDICTUM would be more fitting for us. So when we did get a deal the label liked that name as well so we kind of had to stick with it. Hey, it was cool when the new Pope was chosen a while later though so “its all good".”
Is it true to say that when yourself, Blackie and Chris were in the Dio tribute band that you quickly had to let it go due to juggling too many bands at the same time? Just how many bands can one actually be in at the same time before only the one makes sense?! "I was working full time (actually about 50 hours a week….) and in two bands at that time, Malady and Evilution (the Dio tribute), so it got pretty hectic. I had to let the tribute band go and we all had other things going on as well so it worked out OK. That was a good time, albeit a stressful one."
Please tell us more about that day at Kings Ransom Studios when your version of 'Mob Rules' was born, with the help of the great Jimmy Bain! And, from what I've heard since, I didn't expect this second Sabbath cover to also be on the final version of the album! Any grand reasoning behind its surprise inclusion? "That was a banner day for sure! What an adventure. We had to record a bonus track in one day on the fly in San Diego at Kings Ransom Studios. We had little money and less time. Jeff had suggested getting ahold of Jimmy Bain since he had just worked with him on another recording project. Jimmy said yes and made the trip down to San Diego with his girlfriend (he was late, of course). We originally were going to do 'Rainbow in the Dark' for we did not want to do 2 Sabbath covers on the same album, and as a backup we did 'The Mob Rules.' - Jimmy had us laughing till we cried, so many stories to tell and that accent - too funny!"
"Anyway, upon hearing the playback after the fact, we were not pleased with the way that 'Rainbow...' came out and we had to go with 'Mob…' instead. The original agreement was that 'The Mob Rules' was only to be on the limited edition digipak version, not on the regular pressing. Next thing you know the album is out and 'Mob' is on everything! I must say we were not too thrilled about that so at least I hope most people like it!"
Your album title 'UnCreation' is an interesting title, but does it truly originate from a more personal standpoint for you and the guys? "Yeah, you are right. 'Uncreation' is really about being able to recreate yourself from the ashes of ruin. At the end of the sound the background lyrics chant "recreate me! recreate me!", and that is what I have had to do several times during my lifetime."
If there was one track on this new album that truly encapsulated Veronica and Benedictum at their musical and lyrical finest, which one would it be? "'Valkyrie Rising'! I think it has the best of us all, plus an exchanging lead between Pete and Craig Goldy. So it has it all in my opinion. I have never done an epic long song like that and we had all wanted to do something along those lines so it was fun for all of us to work together and create it!"
For fun, and taking the titles of a few of your album tracks, please let us know:
'Misogyny' - Do you have a personal hatred for anything in this world or does anything that pisses you off quickly roll off you like water off a duck's back?! "Oh, I wish I was more duckly, ha ha. But intolerance is something I find hard to abide."
'Heaven and Hell' - Do you believe in both ... and based on the way you've lived your life, where will your final elevator be headed: Up or Down?! "Uh, I think my elevator will get stuck!"
'Valkyrie Rising' - If you could witness the rising of anyone from the great beyond - let alone a corpse goddess! - who would it be and what would be the first question you would ask them?! "Probably Jesus because that would answer a lot of questions for a lot of people and impact the world in a major way. The first question I'd ask him is: "For real now - what would Jesus drive"?!"
Being constantly named as being the 'new' Doro must be getting more tiresome with each and every reference. At the end of the day though, does it have any positives attached to it? "Honestly, my dear, I have NOT heard that one very much at all. I get more comparisons to male vocalists, mainly Dio, but I think that is COOL!!!!!!!!! Beyond COOL. That is an honor! I would NEVER get tired of that - are you kidding me?! Anytime I can receive a reference to someone talented that I admire - that's great!"
Kerrang Magazine recently stated about you that '... heavy metal has a new first lady.' So, what were you before their statement?! "If you went by Kerrang! I must've been 'The First Heavy Metal Lady-In-Waiting', right!? Now that I am the new first lady, I'm gonna have to find me a good first husband that spoils me rotten, ha ha!"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop song would you love to cover today if asked ... and why?! "Hmm, being a big fan of Tina Turner's voice, maybe we should cover the theme song she did for the 'Mad Max' movie she was in, 'Beyond Thunderdome.' We could probably heavy that one up quite nicely and make it metal! And maybe Mel (Gibson) could direct the video to it."
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "I love them, too! I just saw 'March of the Penguins' on the last long plane trip I took. I cried…. of course!"
Thanx again for doing this for us today, and we wish you all the best for the future - "Thank you for helping to spread the word on BENEDICTUM. We appreciate the ink and hopefully some of your readers will check us out."
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Benedictum's brand new CD, just answer this easy question: Uncreation is produced by Jeff Pilson (Dokken, Dio, Foreigner) and mixed by Pilson and former Warlock bassist Tommy Henriksen under the ZuZu Recordings Ltd. banner, with a guest appearance by which former Dio axeman on the 9-minute epic “Valkyrie Rising”?
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before May 15th with your answer and the subject title 'BENEDICTUM SIGNED CDs' to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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