The main reason why this album has received so much criticism is not only because this is the first Benediction record to not have Dave Ingram on vocals (who left to join Bolt Thrower for one album), but also because of how much his replacement changed the band’s sound. The new Benediction sound can be described as more of a “death-n-roll” sound (which I strongly despise) than a straight-up death metal sound. But thankfully, the rock n’ roll layer on this album is very slim.
What The Grand Leveller has that most death metal records of its time don’t is a huge variety in song structure and mood. Organized Chaos doesn’t have nearly as much darkness as previous albums, and makes an attempt on implementing various other genres like nu metal and metalcore. I’m not saying that this is 100% true, but I’m definitely hearing some nu metal in this record along with one or two metalcore-styled breakdowns. I’m going to make a comparison with a band that didn’t exist when this album came out: one of the better ways to describe the sound of this album is having the grooviness that DevilDriver has…except Benediction failed at doing so.
I can see how the band is taking advantage of having a new vocalist and using it as an opportunity to change their sound and start doing some experimentation, since they’re practically a whole different band now. Dave Hunt, the new vocalist, is one of the founding members of the progressive grindcore act Anaal Nathrakh (using the name V.I.T.R.I.O.L.). Of course, a member in a band as experimental as Anaal Nathrakh is going to start making some changes when he joins a pure death metal band like Benediction. To be honest, Benediction wasn’t necessarily meant to be progressive, but then again, it’s good for bands to have change and progress. The only problem with that is that when it comes to experimentation, it’s much easier to fuck everything up than make it sound better. That’s why we have progressive bands like Opeth and The Contortionist (just to name a couple) that do their best to make the impossible possible by making whatever experimentations they do sound fantastic. But of course, Benediction’s experimentation went completely in the wrong direction.
Despite all of that, the rock-solid death metal base that Benediction has always had is still there. The headbanging parts have a lot of groove and none of the musicians lack any sort of skill or creativity. The drumming is good as always, the guitars are very deep and crunchy, the bass kills when you have your subs turned up, and the vocals have a good powerful sound. This is a good enough album to make me smile and not skip whenever a song from it pops up when I have all my death metal on shuffle, but it’s not something that I would go “HEY, LISTEN TO THIS AWESOME RECORD!” The Benediction album that makes me do that is The Grand Leveller, which I gave a perfect score in my review of it. So I would pass this album up as being no better than just another record for the ol’ death metal collection. I would give this album 12/20.